Maxing out a 401(k) is a lot harder than maxing out an IRA account. You can contribute up to $22,500 to a 401(k) this year if you’re under age 50, or $30,000 if you’re 50 or older. By contrast, the limits for IRAs are $6,500 for savers under age 50 and $7,500 for those 50 and over.
But even if you can’t max out your 401(k) for the year, you may be in a position to bump up your contribution from where it currently sits. Maybe you’ve been having $300 a month taken out of your paychecks and put into your 401(k). If you realize you can afford to part with $600 in December for your 401(k), then you might as well. That’s extra money you can save and invest.
Plus, if you’re putting money into a traditional 401(k), and not a Roth, then the more you contribute, the more tax savings you reap. Bumping up your contribution for the year by even $300 means not paying the IRS taxes on $300 more of earnings, so it’s worth it for that reason alone.
But if you want to increase your 401(k) contribution for 2023, you’d better move quickly. Wait too long, and you might miss the chance.
Unlike IRAs, 401(k) plans are funded via payroll deductions. At the end of each year, you’ll usually tell your payroll department how much you want to contribute to your 401(k) for the following year. Those contributions will then be deducted from your paychecks off the bat so your 401(k) is funded seamlessly and automatically.
This is actually a good thing, because it helps savers stay on track. But it also means you can’t just snap your fingers and decide to change your 401(k) contribution rate. Rather, you’ll generally need to fill out some paperwork and submit it to your HR or payroll department so they can process that change and run it through their payroll software. And that could take time.
That’s why it’s so important to talk to your payroll department this month if you want to increase your 401(k) contribution before the end of the year. It could take a pay cycle or two for that change to go through.
So let’s say you get paid twice a month — at the midpoint and at the end. If your employer needs two pay cycles to process a change to your 401(k), putting in that change before the end of November is crucial.
With an IRA, you have until the following year’s tax-filing deadline to finish funding your account. But that’s not how 401(k)s work.
If you want contributions to your 401(k) to count for 2023 purposes, then that money needs to be sitting in your account by Dec. 31. If you can afford to boost your savings rate before the end of the year, act now so you don’t miss the chance to invest more cash for retirement.
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