IRS Announces Higher 2020 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits For 401(k)s And More

Personal finance

How much can you save for retirement in 2020? The Treasury Department has announced inflation-adjusted figures for retirement account savings for 2020: 401(k) contribution limits are up; traditional IRA contribution limits stay the same; almost all the other numbers are up.

The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) or similar workplace retirement plan goes up from $19,000 in 2019 to $19,500 in 2020. The 401(k) catch-up contribution limit—if you’re 50 or older in 2020— is now $6,500 for workplace plans. But the amount you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account stays the same for 2020: $6,000, with a $1,000 catch-up limit if you’re 50 or older.

So, super-savers age 50-plus can sock away $33,000 in these tax-advantaged accounts for 2020. If your employer allows aftertax contributions or you’re self-employed, you can save even more. The overall defined contribution plan limit moves up to $57,000, from $56,000.

Sounds unreachable? During 2018, 13% of employees with retirement plans at work saved the then maximum of $18,500/$24,500, according to Vanguard’s How America Saves. In plans offering catch-up contributions, 15% of those age 50 or older took advantage of the extra savings opportunity. High earners are really saving: 6 out of 10 folks earning $150,000+ contributed the maximum allowed, including catch-ups.

Want to join in? We outline the numbers below; see IRS Notice 2019-59 for technical guidance.

401(k)s. The annual contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, is $19,500 for 2020—a $500 boost over 2019. Note, you can make changes to your 401(k) election at any time during the year, not just during open enrollment season when most employers send you a reminder to update your elections for the next plan year.

The 401(k) Catch-Up. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 or older in these plans is $6,500 for 2020. That’s the first increase since 2015 when the limit rose to $6,000. Even if you don’t turn 50 until December 31, 2020, you can make the additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for the year.

SEP IRAs and Solo 401(k)s. For the self-employed and small business owners, the amount they can save in a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) goes up from $56,000 in 2019 to $57,000 in 2020. That’s based on the amount they can contribute as an employer, as a percentage of their salary; the compensation limit used in the savings calculation also goes up from $280,000 in 2019 to $285,000 in 2020.

Aftertax 401(k) contributions. If your employer allows aftertax contributions to your 401(k), you also get the advantage of the $57,000 limit for 2020. It’s an overall cap, including your $19,500 (pretax or Roth in any combination) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions).

The SIMPLE. The limit on SIMPLE retirement accounts goes up from $13,000 in 2019 to $13,500 in 2020. The SIMPLE catch-up limit is still $3,000.

Defined Benefit Plans. The limitation on the annual benefit of a defined benefit plan goes up from $225,000 in 2019 to $230,000 in 2020. These are powerful pension plans (an individual version of the kind that used to be more common in the corporate world before 401(k)s took over) for high-earning self-employed folks.

Individual Retirement Accounts. The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (pretax or Roth or a combination) remains at $6,000 for 2020, the same as in 2019. The catch-up contribution limit, which is not subject to inflation adjustments, remains at $1,000. (Remember that 2020 IRA contributions can be made until April 15, 2021.)

Deductible IRA Phase-Outs. You can earn a little more in 2020 and get to deduct your contributions to a traditional pretax IRA. Note, even if you earn too much to get a deduction for contributing to an IRA, you can still contribute; it’s just nondeductible.

In 2020, the deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between 65,000 and $75,000, up from $64,000 and $74,000 in 2019. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $104,000 to $124,000 for 2020, up from $103,000 to $123,000.

For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020, up from $193,000 and $203,000 in 2019.

Roth IRA Phase-Outs. The inflation adjustment helps Roth IRA savers too. In 2020, the AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $196,000 to $206,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $193,000 to $203,000 in 2019. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $124,000 to $139,000, up from $122,000 to $137,000 in 2019.

If you earn too much to open a Roth IRA, you can open a nondeductible IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA as Congress lifted any income restrictions for Roth IRA conversions. To learn more about the backdoor Roth, see Congress Blesses Roth IRAs For Everyone, Even The Well-Paid.

Saver’s Credit. The income limit for the saver’s credit for low- and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly for 2020, up from $64,000; $48,750 for heads of household, up from $48,000; and $32,500 for singles and married filing separately, up from $32,000. See Grab The Saver’s Credit for details on how it can pay off.

QLACs. The dollar limit on the amount of your IRA or 401(k) you can invest in a qualified longevity annuity contract is increased to $135,000 from $130,000. See Make Your Retirement Money Last For Life for how QLACs work.

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