Are you ignoring your future retirement needs? That tends to happen when you are younger, retirement is far in the future, and you believe you have plenty of time to save for it. Some people ignore the issue until late in life and then have to scramble at the last minute to fund their retirement. Others even ignore the issue altogether, thinking their Social Security income (assuming they qualify for it) will take care of their retirement needs.
By current 2023 government standards, a single individual with $14,580 or a married couple with $19,720 of annual household income is at the 100% poverty level. If you compare those levels with potential Social Security income, you may find that expecting to retire on just Social Security income may result in a bleak retirement.
You can predict your future Social Security income by visiting the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Estimator. With the Retirement Estimator, you can plug in some basic information to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits. Different life choices can alter the course of your future, so try out different scenarios – such as higher and lower future earnings amounts and various retirement dates – to get a good idea of how these scenarios can change your future benefit amounts. Once you’ve done this, consider what your retirement would be like with only Social Security income.
If you are fortunate enough to have an employer-, union- or government-funded retirement plan, determine how much you can expect to receive when you retire. Add that amount to any Social Security benefits you are entitled to and then consider what retirement would be like with that combined income. If this result portends an austere retirement, know that the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better off you will be.
With unsteady interest rates and an up-and-down stock market, it is much more difficult to grow a retirement plan with earnings than it was 10 or 20 years ago. While current interest rates are higher than they’ve been in the past few years, they barely mirror inflation rates, so there is little or no effective growth. That means one must set aside more of one’s current earnings for retirement to prepare for a comfortable retirement.
Because the government wants you to save and prepare for your own retirement, tax laws offer a variety of tax incentives for retirement savings plans, both for wage earners and for self-employed individuals and their employees. The contribution limits vary each year and the amounts shown in this article are for 2023. These plans include:
- Traditional IRA – This plan allows up to $6,500 (or $7,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of tax-deductible contributions each year. The extra contribution, sometimes referred to as a catch-up contribution, allowed for those age 50 and over will be inflation-adjusted starting with 2024. However, the amount that can be deducted phases out for higher-income taxpayers who also have retirement plans through their employer.
- Roth IRA – This plan also allows up to $6,500 (or $7,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of contributions each year. The catch-up contribution amount will also be inflation adjusted after 2023. Like the Traditional IRA, the amount that can be contributed phases out for higher-income taxpayers; unlike the Traditional IRA, these amounts phase out even for those who do not have an employer-related retirement plan.
- Employer 401(k) Plans – An employer 401(k) plan generally enables employees to contribute up to $22,500 per year, before taxes. In addition, taxpayers who are age 50 and over can contribute an extra $7,500 annually, for a total of $30,000. Starting in 2025, the catch-up amounts will be increased for employees ages 60 through 63, and as of 2024 catch-up contributions by employees with wages over $145,000 will need to be made to a Roth-style plan. Many employers also match a percentage of the employee’s contribution, and this can amount to a significant sum for those who stay in the plan for many years.
- Health Savings Accounts – Although established to help individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans pay medical expenses, these accounts can also be used as supplemental retirement plans if an individual has already maxed out his or her contributions to other types of plans. Annual contributions for these plans can be as much as $3,850 for individuals and $7,750 for families.
- Tax Sheltered Annuities – These retirement accounts are for employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations; they enable employees to make annual tax-deferred contributions of up to $22,500 (or $30,000 for those age 50 and over).
- Self-Employed Retirement Plans – These plans, also referred to as Keogh plans, allow self-employed individuals to contribute 25% of their net business profits to their retirement plans. The contributions are pre-tax (which means that they reduce the individual’s taxable net profits), so the actual amount that can be contributed is 20% of the net profits.
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) – This type of plan allows contributions in the same amounts as allowed for self-employed retirement plans, except that the retirement contributions are held in an IRA account under the control of the employee or self-employed individual. These accounts can be established after the end of the year, and contributions can be made for the prior year.
- Saver’s Credit – In the case of low-income taxpayers, the government provides a tax credit of as much as 50% of the first $2,000 of the individual’s qualified retirement savings contributions. This credit won’t apply after 2025 but is being replaced by a “savings match” where the government will match up to 50% of the first $2,000 contribution to retirement plans and IRAs for lower-income taxpayers.
Each individual’s financial resources, family obligations, health, life expectancy, and retirement expectations will vary greatly, and there is no one-size-fits-all retirement savings strategy for everyone. Purchasing a home and putting children through college are examples of events that can limit an individual’s or family’s ability to make retirement contributions; these events must be accounted for in any retirement planning, as do the continual changes provided by Congress to the retirement plan tax benefits and rules.
If you have questions about any of the retirement vehicles discussed above, please give us a call.