I'm not sure I completely follow, so i'll just make a few clarifying statements:
- A 401(k) plan is an employer sponsored retirement plan where employees can elect to not "claim" their earnings today by deferring them until they reach at least 59.5 years old. This saves on your tax bill today and allows for investment appreciation over time without the inhibition of taxes on capital gains, interest income, and dividends within the account. When funds are eventually taken out of the 401(k) they are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
- A 401(k) is not likely an option for you as a stay at home parent, but an IRA or spousal IRA would be. Tax deductible contributions to these types of accounts would be treated the same as in the explanation above for 401(k).
This being said, your statement "...if something happens" leads me to believe that your incentive for savings is for a potential emergency. If the "something" you're talking about is retirement, then an IRA or 401(k) would be a good planning tool. But if you'd like to prepare for unknown circumstances that are not retirement related, then a simple savings, individual, or joint account would work well.
As always, my caveat for responses is that you should consult your investment and/or tax advisor before doing anything.
Adam C. Harding, CFP®
For informational purposes only. Not to be considered investment advice.