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<<My basic attitude is that any money you can sock away long term tax sheltered, and as pre-tax money, is a good deal. It adds up, and with a 401(k) you can shelter more money annually than you can with just an IRA. And, when you leave the company, you can roll the $ into a self-directed IRA and use one of the Foolish screens to take that sizable base and really make it grow.

There are always exceptions, but I think this is the position from which to begin.>>

It's a good premise from which to start. I believe there are many instances wherein a contribution to a tax-sheltered vehicle does NOT make sense. Despite that, they all depend on an individual religiously investing money into an alternative that otherwise would have gone into the tax-sheltered vehicle. Because that investment is an after-tax vehicle too easy to use for an "emergency," too often money gets withdrawn, which entirely defeats the purpose of that alternative. We can't do that in a tax-deferred vehicle as readily, which makes that a much more disciplined approach to gain the benefits of compounding.

After-tax alternatives are great if the money isn't withdrawn and the contributions continue as planned. Otherwise they can be the greatest mistake an undisciplined person can make.

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