What Is a 401(k) Plan?

A 401(k) plan is a US tax-advantaged retirement account established by employers for their employees.

It is a company-sponsored account that employees can contribute to meet their retirement goals. Employers can match some or all of the contributions via automatic payroll withholding.

A 401(k) is known as a defined contribution (DC) plan.

How is a 401(k) taxed?

A 401(k) plan is eligible for tax benefits. What you make in a traditional 401(k) plan are not taxed until you withdraw that money, which is usually after retirement. In a Roth 401(k) plan, withdrawals can be tax-free because they were taxed beforehand.

401(k) FAQs

Employers match their employee contributions using different formulas. An example might be 50 cents or one dollar from the employer per dollar that the employee contributes.

There are two types of 401(k) accounts: a traditional 401(k)s and Roth 401(k)s, which is sometimes called a “designated Roth account.” The two are taxed in different ways.

An employer and an employee can make contributions to the 401(k). In traditional pensions, the employer provides the employee specific amount of money upon retirement.

This depends on you. The rule of thumb is 10% of gross salary for a start.

In 2020, the basic limit on employee contributions are $19,500 per year for workers under age 50. For those ages 50 and up, it is $26,000.

If the employer also contributes, the total contribution for workers under 50 is set at a limit of $57,000, or 100% of employee compensation, whichever is lower. The limit is $63,500 for those 50 and over.

Once your money is in a 401(k), it may be hard to make withdrawals without penalties.

In a traditional 401(k), the earnings are tax-deferred. In the case of Roth 401(k)s, it is tax-free. When you make a withdrawal from a traditional 401(k), the money will be taxed as ordinary income. Roth accounts owners will owe no tax on their withdrawals (because they have already paid income tax).

Both traditional and Roth 401(k) owners must be at least age 59½ years old when they make withdrawals. In addition, the owners must have held their Roth 401(k) account for at least five years. Ask your advisor for details.

What to Expect

At Cross Border Wealth, we offer strategic and tactical asset allocation and provide a range of investment solutions. We cater to your needs and preferences and tailor all our services to your expectations. Wherever in the world you are, we’ve got your back.

Our Approach: How We Partner With Clients

In today’s complex market and regulatory environment, we understand the continued need for innovative investment solutions and implementation expertise.

Holistic Approach to Pension Management

Assist fiduciary committees in better understanding the impact of their decisions on the sponsor’s overall balance sheet.

Risk Management

As liability management becomes a priority for the plan, our liability strategists and proprietary analytics can help plans manage toward end-game solutions.

Financial Markets

GSAM’s global team provides access to expertise across financial markets and instruments.

Regulatory Environment

Our dedicated pension strategists can help plans navigate a changing regulatory environment.

Key Differentiators

Deep bench of expertise

We draw on specialized experts including actuaries, risk managers and strategists. We also engage investment professionals spanning asset classes, including credit and rates teams with, on average, over a decade of experience.1

Strategic insights and knowledge transfer

We address our clients’ key challenges and provide timely insights on a variety of topics relevant to the pension landscape, including real-time viewpoints on market and regulatory changes, liability management perspectives and corporate finance.

Holistic implementation approach

We take a holistic approach to portfolio management and provide tailored investment strategies, with a highly curated investment approach and fiduciary mindset.

Extensive risk management

To directly align our investment process with a client's objectives, we leverage sophisticated analytics and dynamic portfolio monitoring that provide our clients with oversight throughout the investment process.

Our Process


Analyze and

Plan-specific considerations, including:

  • Investment objectives
  • Plan size and funded status
  • Materiality
  • Discount rate methodology
  • Liability sensitivities
  • Derivatives usage


Construct and

Bespoke portfolio solutions through:

  • Custom liability benchmarks
  • Liability-hedging portfolios
  • Capital allocation to external managers, where appropriate


Monitor and

Portfolio solutions, utilizing a proprietary, fully integrated risk management system, including:

  • Liability-hedging program
  • Risk exposures based on evolving market dynamics

Examples of Our Partnership with Clients

Client Description

A large multinational with pension plans in multiple jurisdictions that had taken steps to reduce the overall risk their pension plans posed to the overall organization.

Client Objective

The client was seeking a strategic partner to assist them in developing a more holistic, liability-oriented investment strategy. The client had developed a glide path and had hit a number of funded status triggers, increasing their Liability Driven Investing (LDI) allocation to approximately 60%. The client had several active long-duration fixed income managers and was seeking a completion manager to ensure the total LDI portfolio matched the client’s liability risk exposures.

GSAM Solution

GSAM was hired by the client to serve as an anchor fixed income manager. We maintained a role within the active long-duration roster and completed the LDI portfolio to a customized liability benchmark based on accounting cash flows and discount rate methodology. Since the inception of the mandate, we have served the client as a strategic partner, assisting as they work through various de-risking exercises, rebalancing between the long-duration managers based on desired target allocations, raising cash for benefit payments as needed, and serving as the Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (OCIO) for one of its international pension plans.

Client Description

A leading mobile & telecom multinational with a legacy US pension obligation representing over 50% of the organization’s market capitalization. Prior to mandate, their asset allocation was approximately 60% equities and 40% bonds.

Client Objective

The client had frozen their US pension plan to new entrants and future accruals, and was seeking support as they embarked on a large-scale pension plan restructuring with an increased focus on liability-driven investing. The client needed assistance in developing a more diversified strategic asset allocation for remaining pension plan assets, and structuring a retiree buy-out and a lump sum offer to terminated vested participants.

GSAM Solution

We worked with the client to carve out assets to use in the transaction and ran scenarios to determine the value of held bonds given a tradeoff between (a) maximizing the insurance discount and (b) hedging versus the roll-forward. In addition to managing the annuitized plan pre-transfer, and developing a derivative overlay to mitigate the market risk between the roll-forward index and the amount to be delivered to the insurer, we served as the Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (OCIO) and implemented a modernized LDI program to revamp its growth portfolio.

Client Description

A 401(k) plan looking for a full review of investment options available to its participants. At the time, the plan had approximately $500 million in assets and 19 different investment options.

Client Objective

The client had two main goals:
  1. To ensure they were providing an adequate number of choices across asset classes.
  2. To seek simplification within each asset class.

GSAM Solution

After discussing the goals and objectives with the client’s investment committee, the GSAM team advised the client to replace the growth and value style options in all asset classes with core options. They also recommended that they remove blended options, replace passive core fixed income with an active option, remove intermediate-term and long-term treasury options and move all investments to lower fee share classes. As a result, the client removed nine investment options, added a small cap core strategy, added an actively managed core bond strategy, and moved to lower fee share classes for all investments.

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