Don’t Discount Taxable Investment Accounts
While you don’t get any tax benefits for saving in a regular brokerage account, it can also be a big part of your retirement strategy. In addition to the ability to save as much as you want with no limits, you can withdraw at any time with no extra penalties. Taxes apply to investment profits, but that may be worthwhile if you plan to retire early.
Quality brokerage accounts today don’t charge any monthly fees with no minimum balance requirements. Since last year, many allow you to trade stocks and ETFs with no commissions.
If you maximize your tax-advantaged retirement accounts or just want to diversify with an account that doesn’t use age-limits for withdrawals, this is the place to go next.
Solo 401 Contribution Limits
The total solo 401 contribution limit is up to $58,000 in 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. There is a catch-up contribution of an extra $6,500 for those 50 or older.
To understand solo 401 contribution rules, you want to think of yourself as two people: an employer and an employee . Within that overall $58,000 contribution limit in 2021 and $61,000 in 2022, your contributions are subject to additional limits in each role:
As the employee, you can contribute up to $19,500 in 2021 and $20,500 in 2022, or 100% of compensation, whichever is less. Those 50 or older get to contribute an additional $6,500 here.
As the employer, you can make an additional profit-sharing contribution of up to 25% of your compensation or net self-employment income, which is your net profit less half your self-employment tax and the plan contributions you made for yourself. The limit on compensation that can be used to factor your contribution is $290,000 in 2021 and $305,000 in 2022.
Keep in mind that if youre side-gigging, employee 401 limits apply by person, rather than by plan. That means if youre also participating in a 401 at your day job, the limit applies to contributions across all plans, not each individual plan.
What Are The Benefits Of A Solo 401
Unlike other options, a Solo 401 account holder can choose between a traditional option and a Roth option. The traditional option allows you to deduct the amount you pay in from your income for that year, giving you an immediate tax break. With the Roth option, the income taxes on that money is paid immediately and you owe no taxes when you withdraw the funds.
The Solo 401 has far higher annual contribution limits than a plain-vanilla IRA, although that is also true for the SEP IRA and the Keogh plan.
The Solo 401 allows you to take loans from your account before you retire. This is not an option with many other retirement plans.
Finally, the Solo 401 is relatively straightforward in terms of paperwork, as it is designed for one-person shops, not corporations.
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Average 401k Account Balance Ages 25
- Median: $10,402
- Average: $26,839
For Americans between 25 and 34, the median savings rise to $10,402. Again, half are below that number, and half are above. But the mathematical average for that range is $26,839.
If you’re in this age range, it’s important to start saving for retirement now. That said, you might want to rebalance your retirement plan several times along the way.
For example, it’s great to maximize your retirement contributions, but building up an emergency fund, paying down high-interest debt, and considering buying a home to build real estate equity are other things you can do to get further ahead.
For more ways to improve your retirement savings, see the 9 key factors and tips down below.
Do You Need To Deduct 401 Contributions On Your Tax Return
You do not need to deduct 401 contributions on your tax return. In fact, there is no way for you to deduct that money.
When employers report your earnings at the end of the year, they account for the fact that you made 401 contributions. To give you an example, lets say you have a salary of $50,000 and you contribute $5,000 into a 401 account. Only $45,000 of your salary is taxable income. Your employer will report that $45,000 on your W-2. So if you try to deduct the $5,000 when you file your taxes, you will be double-counting your contributions, which is incorrect.
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You May Be Auto Enrolled In A 401
An increasing number of companies are enrolling employees automatically into their 401 plans, allowing workers to opt out if they choose. According to research by the Plan Sponsor Council of America, 69% of companies used auto enrollment and 69% of defined contribution plans offered an “auto escalation” feature in 2019. Often the initial contribution rate for auto enrollment will start at 3% of the worker’s pay. Auto escalation increases the default contribution rate over time, such as by 1% per year, until the employee is contributing a certain amount, typically 10% of their salary annually.
Workers may opt out, or they may choose to set a higher rate of savings. But beware: Employees who rely solely on the default rates may not end up with a sufficient nest egg, as most experts recommend saving a minimum of 12% and up to 15% of your pay a year.
Things To Consider When Opening A Solo 401k
If you’re considering opening a solo 401k, there are a few things to consider when it comes to plan features.
There are five key areas that you need to decide before you open your solo 401k:
Everyone who opens a solo 401k will have different requirements. However, I would recommend you open a solo 401k plan with the most options and flexibility. While you can always amend your plan documents, it can be a hassle and can cost you money . As such, it makes sense to create a solo 401k plan with the most options up front.
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Start Your Own Retirement Plan
When youre an employee, you can only use a 401 plan if your employer establishes a plan and youre eligible to contribute. All too often, thats not the case. But you still have options.
Ask for a 401: Your employer might be willing to set up a 401 they just havent done it yet. Start the conversation by asking why there isnt one, why you want one, and that there are potential tax benefits for employers. Explain that valuable employees like yourself would be even more valuable with excellent benefits. Offer to do some of the legwork required to get the plan up and running. In some cases, especially with small organizations, your employer simply doesnt have time to set up a plan. Cost is another factor companies and small nonprofits might be hesitant to pay plan costs . If cost is the primary concern, discuss less-expensive options like SIMPLE plans. Only time will tell if itll actually happen, but it never hurts to ask.
IRAs: If you dont have a 401, you may still be able to save in an individual retirement account , and you might even receive tax benefits similar to a 401. Unfortunately, the IRS sets maximum annual limits much lower for IRAs. Still, something is better than nothing. Evaluate traditional IRAs for potential pre-tax saving, and Roth IRAs for possible tax-free withdrawals . Another drawback of IRAs ) is that you may need to qualify to make contributions or receive a deduction. Speak with a tax expert before you do anything.
Drawbacks To A Solo 401
A solo 401 may not be right for small businesses that plan to expand and hire employees in the near-term, since doing so would likely result in plan ineligibility. In addition, calculating profit-sharing contributions for sole proprietorships and partnerships tends to be complex because it requires modified net profits. The formula for this calculation is available in IRS Publication 560.
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Make Sure You Actually Contributed
Before you go through the hassle and process of calling the HR department at your old employer, or searching through databases, its a good idea to verify that you contributed to the plan.
If you are unsure if you contributed to a 401 plan, you can check your previous year tax return and old W-2. Any contribution will be in Box 12 of the W-2.
ERISA, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, sets minimum standards for retirement plans, and protects retirement savings from abuse or mismanagement.
Among other things, employees are required to make annual reports
Contribute To Your 401 Early
When you are a young adult, there are probably a lot of aspects regarding your career that you cant help but think about, like salary, benefits, location, and upward mobility. These are all relevant issues to weigh when considering job offers, but you should also consider a companys 401 plan.
Many employers will offer to match your 401 contributions by a certain amount, and each organization will have its own matching formula.
Often, an employers 401 match is stated as a percentage of your contribution up to a maximum amount of your salary. One of the most common matches is a dollar-for-dollar match of up to 3% of an employees salary.
Lets take a look at the impact an employers match can have.
Suppose you are offered a $40,000 salary at a company you are interested in. The employer offers to match 50% of your contributions up to 5% of your salary. For every $1 you contribute to the 401, your employer will throw in an additional $.50. The organization will then match you for every dollar contributed until you reach the 5% salary cap. In this case, 5% of your salary is $2,000. To get the most out of the employer match, you would contribute the full $2,000 and get a $1,000 match. You can contribute more than 5% of your salary if you wish however, your employer wont match any contributions beyond that.
- With a 50% match, your savings would grow to $464,286.
- With a 100% match, your savings would grow to $619,048.
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Managing 401 Plans For A Small Business
Setting up a 401 can be complicated, but you dont have to do it alone. Look for a provider with an excellent track record that can help you get started, manage your plan, and even share ideas and guidance to maximize the value to you and your employees. Doing so can go a long way in ensuring an ongoing, positive benefit for years to come.
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The Boring Glory Of Index Funds
Your best bet is to buy something called an index fund and keep it forever. Index funds buy every stock or bond in a particular category or market. The advantage is that you know youll be capturing all of the returns available in, say, big American stocks or bonds in emerging markets.
And yes, buying index funds is boring: You usually wont see enormous day-to-day swings in prices the same way you may if you owned Apple stock. But those big swings come with powerful feelings of greed, fear and regret, and those feelings may cause you to buy or sell your investments at the worst possible time. So best to avoid the emotional tumult by touching your investments
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Starting A 401 Without A Job
If you dont currently have a job, you may have some challenges. 401 plans are employer-sponsored plans, meaning only an employer can establish one. If you dont have your own organization and you dont have a job, you may want to evaluate contributing to an IRA instead. However, those accounts may require earned income during the year to contribute, so its not as simple as you might hope. That said, a spousal IRA may allow certain couples to contribute to a retirement account with no job.
How To Start A 401
Setting up a 401 plan can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Most people outsource at least some portion of the process. In particular, they use a template legal document to establish the 401 plan, which is substantially less expensive than hiring attorneys to draft original documents. Unless your retirement plan is especially complicated or youre trying to get fancy , youll probably use preconfigured programs from 401 vendors. These programs are often called volume submitter or prototype plans, and theyre an excellent choice for most companies and nonprofits.
Here are the crucial pieces of any 401 plan. While this list seems extensive, in some cases, a single company provides several of these services.
The plan document is a legal document that details the rules of your 401 plan. It defines specific terms, and provides a roadmap for any questions that come up when administering the plan. The plan document is a long legal document that most people never see. Instead, employees receive a shorter version of the document, known as the Summary Plan Description , when they enroll in the plan. For reference, heres a sample of a plan document.
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Crank Up The Investments Available
- Contribute more Put a higher percentage of your income into your existing retirement plan. Since it lowers your taxable income, it may be cheaper than you think.
- Try other tax-deferred options Consider opening an individual retirement account if youve reached the maximum contribution level in your employer-sponsored plan.
- Consider getting taxed up front Money placed in a Roth IRA is taxed now, but qualified Roth earnings are never taxed. This can save you more money in the long run.
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Matching Contributions And Vesting
Some employers grant 401 matching contributions that vest over time. Under a vesting schedule, you gradually take ownership of your employers matching contributions over the course of several years. If you remain with the company for the entire vesting period, you are said to be fully vested in your 401 account.
Employers impose a vesting schedule to incentivize employees to remain with the company.
For example, imagine that 50% of your employers matching contributions vest after youve worked for the company for two years, and you become fully vested after three years. If you were to leave the company and take a new job after two years, you would pass up owning half of the matching contributions pledged by your employer.
Keep in mind, however, that you always maintain full ownership of contributions you have made to your 401. Vesting only involves the employers matching contributions.
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Average 401k Account Balance Ages 45
- Median: $46,363
- Average: $135,777
If you’re between 45 and 54, the median savings for your age group are $46,363, and the average savings are $135,777. Many people start becoming more concerned about retirement in this age bracket, but it’s not too late to change your retirement plan if you need to.
If your savings are below your goals, start by looking carefully at your budget to find more places to save. By adding to your savings more aggressively, you’ll be able to make up some of that lost ground.
Remember that there are limits regarding the amount you can contribute to a 401k each year, but people age 50 and older can make extra catch-up contributions, essentially raising your contribution limits.
You can also save in other ways, such as through private brokerage accounts, a personal emergency fund, home equity, or private investments. Don’t miss our 9 factors and tips below for improving your retirement plan.
What Other Options Do I Have
If you work for a nonprofit or other tax-exempt organization, a 403 plan is another great pretax investment option that works a lot like a 401.
Federal employees can save for retirement through the Thrift Savings Plan . TSPs usually come with matching contributions and allow you to make after-tax contributions with the added plus of tax-free withdrawals when you retire. You can also choose how to split your TSP contribution among several investment options.
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How To Start A 401 In Your 20s
A 401 is an employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows you to save for retirement in a tax-advantaged way, often referred to as a defined-contribution plan. Generally, you can contribute a portion of your salary by having your employer withhold it from your paycheck automatically. In addition to your own contributions, your employer will likely match your contribution.
Starting a 401 early is one of the most powerful steps you can take to prepare yourself for retirement. Thats because the earlier you start, the longer you have for compound interest to work in your favor and grow your savings to a sizable balance.
The estimated average 401 balance of Americans was $92,148 in 2018, according to the most recent data from Vanguard, one of the largest 401 administrators in the country. For those below 25, though, its just $4,236 as they start their careers, and $21,970 for those ages 25 through 34. Alternative data from 401 administrator Fidelity, however, suggests that the average account balance for those ages 20 to 29 is $10,500a contribution rate of 7%.
No matter the averages, learn how to start saving early and in a way that works best for you.