Start Earning More For A Better Financial Future
The answer to How much should I have in my 401k? is an important one but its not the only way to ensure your financial future.
We are going to let you in on a little secret. It is one that has helped thousands of people live their Rich Life:
Theres a limit to how much you can save, but theres no limit to how much money you can earn.
Many people dont understand this and because of that, theyre content with contributing very little to their retirement accounts. When they actually retire, theyre surprised when their nest egg is a lot smaller than they thought and they have to get a job as a Walmart greeter to pay for their condo.
If you realize that your earning potential is LIMITLESS, you can truly get started working toward living a Rich Life today.
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We want to help you get started on one of these tactics today: Starting a side hustle.
Thats why we want to offer you my Ultimate Guide to Making Money.
Using This Simple 401 Calculator
Our 401 Growth Calculator is a simple and easy way to estimate the long-term growth of your 401 retirement account by the time you want to retire. Knowing how much your current 401 account may accumulate in the future can help you determine if you should adjust your annual 401 contributions to help reach your retirement goals. After answering a brief series of questions, you will get your results, including your estimated accumulated plan balance at retirement, total out-of-pocket costs, and a summary table and bar graph illustrating your retirement plan accumulation over time.
How Much Money Should You Have In Your 401k
At IWT, we talk about 401ks a lot.
And, thats with good reason. If you want to be rich, the 401k is one of the most powerful investment tools at your disposal, especially for retirement planning. It is also one of the most misunderstood money-maximizing vehicles, starting with how much you should have in your 401k.
That is a solid question, but it doesnt have a simple answer. To answer that burning question How much should I have in my 401k? we need more details. How much to invest in 401k investments will depend on your age and a few other considerations.
Lets start at the beginning.
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Average Current Retirement Savings Balance
Unfortunately, many people are woefully under-prepared for retirement from a financial standpoint.
Here are some statistics on the median current retirement savings balances of Americans based on their age.
Workers save more for retirement as they get older and pay off other debts like student loans and a home mortgage.
At a minimum, many experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income for retirement. Dave Ramseys Baby Steps recommend saving at least 15% into retirement accounts after getting out of debt and building an emergency fund.
You can use a retirement calculator like NewRetirement to review your personal progress and project how long your nest egg will last. This tool is free but paid plans are available too.
Read our NewRetirement review to learn more about this interactive retirement planner.
Contact The 401 Plan Administrator
If your employer is no longer around, try getting in touch with the plan administrator, which may be listed on an old statement.
If youre unable to find an old statement, you still may be able to find the administrator by searching for the retirement plans tax return, known as Form 5500.
You can find a 5500s by the searching the name of your former employer at www.efast.dol.gov.
If you locate a Form 5500 for an old plan, it should have the contact information on it.
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Do I Have A 401k I Dont Know About
If you think that you may have enrolled in a 401K plan with a previous employer, but youre not quite sure, there are a few ways to find out if you did.
The easiest way is to contact the HR department of your former employer and ask them whether you ever contributed to a 401K while in their employment. Youll need to give them your personal details along with the dates that you worked for them, so keep this information to hand.
If your old employer has since gone bust or you cant remember which companies youve worked for in the past, check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits website. Youll be able to see whether youve been listed on their database by your old employer as someone with unclaimed retirement plan funds.
If you havent been listed on the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits database, there are a couple more options to explore. Visit NAUPA or missingmoney.comwhere you can search by state based on where youve lived or worked to find out whether any unclaimed assets belong to you.
More on 501 k Retirement Plan
Why Employers Offer 401s
In 1978, when the law authorizing the creation of the 401 was passed, employers commonly attracted and retained talent by offering a secure retirement through a pension . The 401 created an entirely new system, with more flexibility for both employer and employee. One of the ways it did so was by giving employers the option to match employee contributions.
Matching is a very transparent process: for every dollar you put into your 401, your employer also puts in a dollar, up to a certain amount or percentage of your income. Theres no mystery here. If your employer promises to match all 401 contributions up to 5% of your income, and you contribute that amount every month, your employer will match you dollar for dollar, every month. Its a win-win situation. You are doubling your money, and your employer is building a happy workforce.
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Too Complicated Get Some Help
If this process seems like a lot of work, youâre not alone. Locating your old 401 accounts and finding the proper place to transfer them to can get confusing.
What If Your Employer Goes Out Of Business
Under federal law, your employer must keep your 401 funds separate from their business assets.
This means that even if your employer abruptly shuts their doors overnight, your money is protected. It cannot be used to pay off your companys loans, cover employee payroll, or for any other purpose.
If your company shut down abruptly, it is possible that a portion of money will be at risk. If your money has been withheld, but has not yet been sent to the 401 plan to be invested, the company could in theory, access those funds.
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Search Databases For Unclaimed Assets
If you still cant find information on your lost 401 plans, you can also try searching one of the publicly available databases for unclaimed assets. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a good place to start. By entering your Social Security number, you can quickly see if there are any unclaimed retirement funds that belong to you. The money may still be held in the employers plan, or the company may have opened a special IRA account in your name to hold the funds.
You can also search using the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators site, which will help you track down unclaimed money you may be owed, not limited to retirement assets. Be sure to check in each state you have lived or worked. The site processes tens of millions of requests each year and has helped return more than $3 billion in unclaimed assets annually.
Check Every Corner Of Your 401
Once you gain access to your account online or review your statement, check how your money is invested.
Most 401 administrators automatically invest your money into a target-date fund. Target date funds are portfolios of various mutual funds and investments tailored to your estimated retirement date. Using your age, the percentage mix of these investments changes to match your risk tolerance as you near retirement.
If you don’t want to hold your money in a target-date fund, you have the option to change investments.
However, if your plan hasn’t automatically allocated your money, it may be waiting to be invested. In this case, your money will be sitting in your account, not growing in a glorified savings account.
Itâs a rare occurrence, but checking your 401 balance will help catch any funds not adequately invested.
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How Do I Find My Old 401
If youre not sure where your old 401 is, there are three places it could likely be. Heres where to find your old 401:
Right where you left it, in the old account set up by your employer.
In a new account set up by the 401 plan administrator.
In the hands of your states unclaimed property division.
Heres how to start your search:
How To Maximize Your 401 Retirement Savings
A workplace 401 account can be a powerful tool to help build your retirement savings. To maximize your 401 benefits, follow these tips:
1. Set your contribution level to take full advantage of your employers 401 match. If your company matches a certain percentage of your contributions, set your contribution level to take maximum advantage of the match. Otherwise, youre leaving money on the table.
2. Start contributing to your 401 immediately.
3. Take advantage of target-date funds. If youre overwhelmed by the investment options offered by your 401 plan, choose a target-date fund aligned with your anticipated year of retirement. Target date funds are optimized for your retirement timeline, making them great options for beginners or more hands-off investors.
4. Increase your 401 contribution percentage regularly. Each year, increase your 401 contribution rate by at least one additional percentage point. Gradual small increases have a minor impact on your take-home pay and a major impact on your retirement nest egg over time. In addition, if you receive any raises or bonuses, dedicate at least a portion of them to your savings.
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Contribution Limits For Highly Compensated Employees
Some 401 plans have extra contribution limits on employees who are highly compensated. plan and you are a high earner, these limits may not apply to you.)
Highly compensated employees can contribute no more than 2% more of their salary to their 401 than the average non-highly compensated employee contribution. That means if the average non-HCE employee is contributing 5% of their salary, an HCE can contribute a maximum of 7% of their salary. In addition to the federal limit, your company may have specific caps established to remain compliant.
The IRS determines you are a HCE if:
Either you owned 5% or more of a company last year and are participating in its 401 plan this year.
Or you earned $130,000 or more in 2020 from a company with a 401 plan youre participating in this year.
Unlike most other 401 limit guidelines, HCE classifications are based on your status from the previous year. For the 2022 plan year, the employee compensation threshold is $135,000.
If HCE contribution rates exceed non-HCE contribution rates by more than 2%, companies workplace retirement plans may lose their tax-advantaged status. As a HCE, you may be prevented from contributing to your 401 to the employee contribution max due to low 401 participation rates. You should still be able to make catch-up contributions on top of your HCE cap if you are eligible, though.
How Much Does A 401 Cost Small Business Employers
LAST REVIEWED Jul 18 202220 MIN READ
401 plan costs can be broken into three general categories: startup costs, employer contributions , and plan administration fees
Well review how plan costs can differand provide industry benchmarks for 401 service fees and other expenses
Comparing plan costs vs. industry averages can help you understand if you are overpaying
Think that 401 plans are an expensive benefit reserved exclusively for large businesses with deep pockets? Think again. While this may have been a reality in the past, many companies including small businessesarent aware that 401 plans can be affordable and attainable.
These days, 401 providers can use technology to cut costs. Additionally, there are tax credits that help cover startup costs for new plans. Finally, offering a 401 can provide businesses with tax deductions, which helps reduce the overall costs of the plan.
Given the options available, its a good idea to examine if a 401 plan might now be an option for your business.
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Government And Military Pension Resource
Depending on your role in the military, some pensions are available to both veterans and their survivors. Be sure to refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information.
- Department of Veteran Affairs: If you or your deceased spouse is a veteran, you can find information on your pension at the VAs pension website.
- State government websites: If you were an employee of your state or local government, be sure to check your states government website to search for information regarding your pension.
Dont Rely Only On Social Security
Based on Personal Capitals recent retirement survey, we found that a quarter of Americans expect Social Security to be their primary source of income during retirement. With half of Americans planning to retire at 65 or younger, its crucial to save in other investment vehicles, such as a 401k, in order to maintain your desired lifestyle in retirement.
We recommend not relying on Social Security it may not fully be there when you retire!
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So How Much Should You Invest In Your 401k
Okay. So, while investing is highly personal and financial goals should be personalized, you are here so we can teach you to be rich. We have some advice to get you started.
How much you should actually be investing each month depends on a system we call the Ladder of Personal Finance. Check out this video, or read about the Ladder below:
1. Your employers 401k match. Each month you should be contributing as much as you need to in order to get the most out of your companys 401k match. That means if your company offers a 5% match, you should be contributing AT LEAST 5% of your monthly income to your 401k each month.
Weve already discussed the importance of this dont throw away free money and the returns from that free money.
2. Whether youre in debt. Once youve committed yourself to contributing at least the employer match for your 401k, you need to make sure you dont have any debt. Remember, if you have employee matching, you are effectively earning a 100% return on every penny you invest in your 401k that is significantly more than the interest you would save by paying down your debt.
If you dont, great! If you do, thats okay. You can check out my system on eliminating debt fast to help you.
General Pros And Cons Of A 401
- Few investment optionsGenerally speaking, 401s have few investment options because they normally originate from employers, they are limited to what is offered through employers’ 401 plans, as compared to a typical, taxable brokerage account.
- High feesCompared to other forms of retirement savings, 401 plans charge higher fees, sometimes as a percentage of funds. This is mainly due to administration costs. Plan participants have little or no control over this, except to choose low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds to compensate.
- Illiquid 401 funds can only be withdrawn without penalty in rare cases before 59 ½. This includes all contributions and any earnings over time.
- Vesting periodsEmployers may utilize vesting periods, meaning that employer contributions don’t fully belong to employees until after a set point in time. For instance, if an employee were to part ways with their employer and a 401 plan that they were 50% vested in, they can only take half of the value of the assets contributed by their employer.
- Waiting periodsSome employers don’t allow participation in their 401s until after a waiting period is over, usually to reduce employee turnover. 6 month waiting periods are fairly common, while a one-year waiting period is the longest waiting period permitted by law.
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Rolling 401 Assets Into An Ira
When you retire or leave your job for any reason, you have the right to roll over your 401 assets to an IRA. You have a number of direct rollover options:
Rolling your traditional 401 to a traditional IRA. You can roll your traditional 401 assets into a new or existing traditional IRA. To initiate the rollover, you complete the forms required by both the IRA provider you choose and your 401 plan administrator. The money is moved directly, either electronically or by check. No taxes are due on the assets you move, and any new earnings accumulate tax deferred.
Rolling your Roth 401 to a Roth IRA. You can roll your Roth 401 assets into a new or existing Roth IRA with a custodian of your choice. You complete the forms required by the IRA provider and your 401 plan administrator, and the money is moved directly either electronically or by check. No taxes are due when the money is moved and any new earnings accumulate tax deferred. Earnings are eligible for tax-free withdrawal once the IRA has been open at least five years and you are at least 59½.
Rolling your traditional 401 to a Roth IRA. If your traditional 401 plan permits direct rollovers to a Roth IRA, you can roll over assets in your traditional 401 to a new or existing Roth IRA. Keep in mind youll have to pay taxes on the rollover amount you convert.