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What to do with 401K money the first 1.5 years of employment?

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  • What to do with 401K money the first 1.5 years of employment?

    I will be finishing my fellowship this summer and starting with a surgical private practice. Employed model, W2. Retirement consists of 401K with safe harbor profit sharing and cash balance. Problem is I can't contribute to 401k until the january or july after 1 year from starting. So during first 1.5 years (part of 2022 and all of 2023) I will have no 401k contributions at all (except profit sharing/cash balance portion that employer would contribute).
    If I join september 2022, I will not be able to contribute until January 2024 to the 401K, and will be missing out on contributions for about 16 months.
    Trying to find something to do with that money to put it to good use. I think we can swing about 6k per month in savings, so over 16 months that would be 96k. We will probably already have about 25-30k cash in a emergency savings account at that time so all 96k (let's say 100k for simplicity) would go towards wealth building ideally.

    Options include:
    1) pay off 18k in student loans (APR in the 3s)
    2) front load/superfund child's 529 (currently 1 year old, and hoping to have some rapid growth to use it for some private school tuition starting 5-6 years from now if possible)
    3) keep some in cash in savings account as a deposit for a house which we would probably want to buy 1 to 1.5 years after starting (rent until then); alternatively use doctor loan with 0% down and do something else with the money
    4) max out HSA (7300)
    5) backdoor roth IRA contribution for wife and I (12k)
    6) taxable investment account

    7 and beyond) any other suggestions? I am sure there are things I am not thinking of.

    Appreciate the insight!


  • #2
    I was in a similar spot coming out of training, had a 1 year waiting period (July-July) until I could contribute to new employers plan. Heres what I did:

    -I was able to increase my contributions in the final 6 months of fellowship, so that I had maxed it out for the year by the time I graduated in July. Obviously youll have to budget the lower take home pay accordingly. The university I trained at didnt offer a match but I was still making contributions.

    -Was unable to contribute to the new employer plan for the next 12 months until the following July

    -Once able to contribute, I set the contributions so that it would be maxed out in that 6 months from July-December

    -Once the new year came around, I readjusted the contributions to be set so that it would be maxed out over the course of the year. Its been this way since.

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    • #3
      Invest vs pay down debt is personal choice. I'm very aggressive and risk tolerant.

      With mortgage rates at historic lows, I would put as little money down as possible.

      I personally would do 5 and 6. They're all viable options though.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Nysoz View Post
        Invest vs pay down debt is personal choice. I'm very aggressive and risk tolerant.

        With mortgage rates at historic lows, I would put as little money down as possible.

        I personally would do 5 and 6. They're all viable options though.
        This.

        Except I would do #4 as well, before you do #5 and #6.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bovie View Post

          This.

          Except I would do #4 as well, before you do #5 and #6.
          Agree, don't miss out on the HSA for sure

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          • #6
            HSA and backdoor Roth being given priority should go without saying.

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            • #7
              Thanks everyone for the responses. Since my initial post the first job fell through but somehow was fortunate enough to find another one with almost double the pay.
              Lost the HSA option but now will be able to invest into the 401k from the get go.
              i guess the question now is how do I minimize the tax burden with so little % being able to go into sheltered accounts (essentially only 401k).
              I can still backdoor Roth. My plan doesn’t allow mega conversions.
              I can contribute to 529 and my state allows deduction of full contribution from state taxes.
              any other thoughts or is the next step taxable accounts?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by R8nium View Post
                Thanks everyone for the responses. Since my initial post the first job fell through but somehow was fortunate enough to find another one with almost double the pay.
                Lost the HSA option but now will be able to invest into the 401k from the get go.
                i guess the question now is how do I minimize the tax burden with so little % being able to go into sheltered accounts (essentially only 401k).
                I can still backdoor Roth. My plan doesn’t allow mega conversions.
                I can contribute to 529 and my state allows deduction of full contribution from state taxes.
                any other thoughts or is the next step taxable accounts?
                Sometimes the only option is a taxable account. Look on the bright side of having a large taxable account, you have no restrictions on the money as far as when you withdraw it, etc.

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                • #9
                  Unless you have a 457 plan then taxable is next

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                  • #10
                    A large taxable account is a beautiful thing.

                    No more silly emergency fund, complete freedom over withdrawals, etc.

                    You will be very pleased in a couple decades.

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