The Pros and Cons of Deferred Compensation

The Pros and Cons of Deferred Compensation

October 19, 2022

As a high-income earner, you’re likely no stranger to deferred compensation plans. This type of retirement plan, typically offered through an employer, is a popular option because it can save professionals a lot of money—in retirement and during the working years. When using a deferred compensation plan, the professional can defer a portion of their income to the plan where it can grow tax-deferred. 

This may sound like a great option. Any opportunity to avoid current-year taxation is good, right? Well, yes and no. Although there are some great advantages of deferred compensation plans, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of deferred compensation plans before you decide if this is the best option.  

The Benefits of Deferred Compensation Plans

For highly paid professionals, deferred compensation plans can be a good way to save for retirement after maxing out contributions elsewhere because deferred compensation plans have no contribution limits. Consider these additional benefits:

Tax Mitigation Strategies

Do you live in a state with high-income tax but are considering retiring to a state with no income tax, like Florida? Deferred compensation plans help you save on your tax bill by allowing you to put more money into your plan and lower your tax bracket while you are working. You will not owe federal income tax on the funds contributed until they are withdrawn in retirement, typically when you are in a lower tax bracket. Additionally, if you are planning on moving to another state without an income tax for retirement, this could also provide some tax savings. 

Retirement Income Bridge

Deferred compensation plans can be used to generate income for a couple or individual as they begin retirement and want to maximize their Social Security income by delaying collecting it until age 70. It can also be used to supplement income in retirement if the market has taken a hit and your portfolio has suffered. 

Deferred Compensation Plan Drawbacks 

While the pros of deferred compensation plans seem like incredibly useful tools for your wealth management strategy, there are some points to consider when using a deferred compensation plan. 

Company Solvency Risks 

This may be the largest risk you can face when using a deferred compensation plan. If a company declares bankruptcy, your deferred compensation plan could be completely or partially dissolved in the bankruptcy. This is because when you participate in a deferred compensation plan, you are considered to be a creditor of the company. Also keep in mind that if you choose a longer-term payout option, this increases the risk that the company may go bankrupt during this time. You should closely examine your company’s plan and consult a trusted wealth manager before participating. 

Lump Sums Could Affect Your Taxes

Most plans do not allow you to access the money earlier than your retirement, however, if you change jobs, you may have to collect the money in one lump sum. Collecting one large lump sum could wreak havoc on your tax mitigation strategy for that tax year.

Lack of Diversification

Deferred compensation should always be coupled with other retirement strategies that don’t involve your company. This is because as an executive, you may have an inordinate amount invested in your employer’s stock. If the company suffers an economic blow, your employer’s stock could lose value and your deferred compensation plan could also be in jeopardy. This could be devastating to your retirement plan.  

We’re Here for You

The specifics of deferred compensation plans can be complex to navigate, but you don’t have to make these financial decisions alone. At Anderson Financial Strategies, our clients lead unique lives and need a specialized touch from a firm that understands the opportunities and challenges they face as they prepare for retirement. Through an honest relationship that prioritizes your needs, you can rely on us to always give you the “why” behind our recommendations and advice.

Your financial plan is long-term, and we are committed to partnering with you throughout your financial journey. Because of our extensive experience working with clients, we know what to look for and what types of strategies will help to shield your wealth management plan from any risks associated with a deferred compensation plan. We want you to feel excited and confident about your future, and we’d love to help make that a reality for you. To learn more about our unique approach to financial planning and see if we would be a good fit to work together, please call us at 855-237-4545.

About Shon

Shon Anderson is president and chief wealth strategist at Anderson Financial Strategies, LLC with over 15 years of experience. As a fiduciary, Shon’s mission is to provide his clients with quality financial expertise along with rapidly responsive service through an honest relationship. He specializes in providing family office-style services to help his clients organize and focus their financial life. Shon graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree in financial services and an MBA in finance. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) certification. His insights have been quoted in leading financial news publications such as CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, Consumer Reports, Forbes,, Investment News, and Kiplinger. Shon serves as an adjunct professor teaching personal finance courses at Wright State University, leads CFP® exam review courses for Keir Educational Resources, and is president of the CFA Society Dayton. Shon and his wife, Jessica, reside in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio, and are blessed with triplet daughters, Elizabeth, Bridgette, and Alexandra, along with their son, Jacob, and dog, Jack. Over the years, Shon has been involved in several volunteer organizations including the Wright State chapter of Delta Tau Delta as an alumni advisor and was a Big Brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. To learn more about Shon, connect with him on LinkedIn.