No. of Recommendations: 0
I think that there are too many variables. Assumptions would need to be made concerning returns from the 401k (which are of course reduced by fees) vs investing outside, as well as the changing tax structure over the next fifty years or so. To simplify you could assume returns outside the 401k would be 1.5% higher than those in the 401k (1.5% approximates the annual management fee of mutual funds) and assume that tax rates are stable (I can't say what will hapen with tax rates exactly but I assure you that they will change.) Don't fall into the trap of comparing account values in 40 years since the non-401k account should have a stepped up basis and unrealized gains will probably be taxed at a lower basis while the 401k account will effectively have a basis of 0 and will all be taxed. You would probably want to assume a draw down period of a couple of decades with continued tax deferred accrual in the 401k since taking a lump sum distribution at say 65 is unrealistic. I don't think a meaningful calculation is possible.

Given the long potential period of tax deferral I would tend to opt for the 401k unless the investment choices were too bad. Of course, if you are pretty sure that the Foolish 4 will have a 20+% return/year long term, you will want to invest independently.
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