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For retirement, you should max all your plans: $2K/yr to Roth IRA if you qualify otherwise to conventional IRA and $10.5K to 401K pretax plus whatever you can up to the usual 15 to 25% of gross max aftertax.

Aftertax 401K contributions are somewhat easier to remove from the account for purposes other than retirement. However, they cannot be rolled over to an IRA when you leave your employer.

If you retire early, you will be able to remove funds from your IRA penalty free by setting up an SEPP payout program. So don't worry about that. It is usually to your benefit to max all these contributions and then develop additional taxable investments.

If you anticipate significant preretirement expenses like downpayment on a house, educating your children, etc., these are less well handled from retirement accounts. There are some provisions now, but usually you are better up to set up other plans in addition to your retirement plan for these purposes.

The best allocation of your investment $$ will become clearer if you workout an approximate lifetime financial plan, set some priorities, and then review them periodically. Your plan will never be exact, but having a plan as a basis for your decisions is better than not planning and shotgunning those decisions.

Save, save, save whatever you can.
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