Contribution Plan


A contribution plan is a retirement plan for working class where the employee, and employer contributes a specific amount to the scheme. The invested money gets accumulated as the contributions progress. The returns on this plan are used for fulfilling individual's retirement goals.

      Fig 1: Laying out ideas for Contribution Plan

Define Contribution Plan

When an individual or employer contributes a fixed amount to the retirement plan, it is said to be a contribution plan. The contributions are invested in mutual funds, bonds or even stocks. These funds are used to fund the retirement goals of the individual.

Contribution Plan Explained

In a contribution plan, the contributions made by an individual or employer are not fixed. The amount of contribution depends on the individual's or employer's preference. Additionally, the funds accumulated in the plan are tax-deferred until they are withdrawn. This means that the contributions made by the individual or employer are not taxed in the same year.

Types of Contribution Plan

  • 401(k) plans − In this plan, the employer pays a fixed amount instead of the employee. The employee can also contribute to a certain limit of the plan. The funds are invested in alternate avenues.

Fig 2: Investing for Retirement

  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) − This retirement plan allows individuals to save for their future on a tax-deferred basis. The contributions to IRA are not taxed in the same year, and the funds are invested in different avenues.

  • Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plans − These are created for self-employed individuals or small business owners. In this plan, the employer contributes a certain part of the employee's salary to the plan for the employee.

  • Investing in a defined Contribution Plan − The individual can choose the contribution plan according to his wish and create an account with a financial institution that offers the plan. Once the account is opened, the individual or employer must start making contributions regularly. The contributions can be made through payroll deductions or a lump sum contribution.

Pros and Cons of the Contribution Plan

Contribution plans, also defined as contribution plans, are retirement savings plans where employee and employer contributions to an account are invested in accumulating a fund for retirement.


  • Tax Benefits − These plans provide tax benefits to employers and employees. These Contributions help reduce tax as it is made on a pre-tax basis.

  • Portability − Contribution plans are generally more portable than traditional pension plans, as the account balance can be transferred to another employer or rolled over into an IRA upon leaving the job.

  • Investment Options − Contribution plans usually offer a wider range of investment options. Employees have many options which will help them plan their future strategies.


  • Market Risk − The investment returns on a contribution plan are related to the market status, which means that the account balance can change based on the performance of the investments.

  • Lack of Guarantees − Unlike traditional pension plans, contributions do not guarantee retirement income. This means the employee manages their account balance to ensure they have enough money to retire.

  • Responsibility − Employees are responsible for their retirement savings, but most need to learn how to manage their future savings. They must hire someone or learn the disciplines required to make the best decisions.

Drawbacks of the Contribution Plan

One of the drawbacks of a contribution plan is that the retirement benefit is uncertain. Unlike a traditional pension plan, which guarantees a certain retirement income based on a formula that considers the employee's years of service and salary, a contribution plan depends on the amount contributed and the investment returns earned on those contributions.

Fig 3: Ups and downs in the retirement benefits

This means that the retirement benefit can fluctuate depending on the performance of the employee's selected investment options.

Another drawback of a contribution plan is that the employee bears the investment risk. Unlike a traditional pension plan, which the employer manages, a contribution plan requires employees to select and manage their investment options. This is difficult for employees who do not have the financial knowledge to make such investments. Additionally, investment options can have varying degrees of risk, which means that the employee must choose between potentially higher returns and potentially higher losses.

Contribution plans remain popular despite these drawbacks and restrictions because they offer employers and employees more flexibility.

Restrictions of Contribution Plan

Contributions to a contribution plan are typically tax-deductible, meaning they reduce the income subject to taxation.

Another restriction of contribution plans is the early withdrawal penalty. If funds are withdrawn from a 401(k) or IRA before time, a 10% penalty is added to income taxes. This penalty discourages people from using retirement funds for non-retirement expenses.

Examples of Contribution Plans

Despite these restrictions, contribution plans remain a popular retirement savings tool. Many employers commonly offer the 401(k) plan. In this plan, employees can make pre-tax contributions, and employers may contribute on behalf of their employees. Another example is an IRA, which individuals can open and allows for tax-deductible contributions.


Contribution plans are a useful retirement savings tool, but they come with restrictions limiting their flexibility and potential benefits. Individuals need to understand these restrictions and plan accordingly when saving for retirement. By doing so, they can maximize the potential benefits of contribution plans and ensure a comfortable retirement.


Q1. What is a contribution plan?

Ans. A contribution plan is a retirement savings plan where the employer or employee contributes to a retirement account.

Q2. What are some examples of contribution plans?

Ans. 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and IRAs are examples of contribution plans.

Q3. How much can I contribute to a contribution plan?

Ans. The contribution limits vary depending on the type of plan. It is variable and depends on the market value.

Q4. Are contributions to contribution plans tax-deductible?

Ans. Contributions to these plans help in tax reduction and reduce taxable income.

Q5. What is the early withdrawal penalty for contribution plans?

Ans. If funds are withdrawn from a 401(k) or IRA before the said age, then a 10% penalty is charged along with the income taxes.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started