Maximize your contributions

  • Different retirement accounts have different contribution limits.
  • People age 50 and over are allowed to contribute more.
  • Making maximum contributions can make a huge impact over time.
  • After-tax contributions can supplement savings.

Near retirement

If you are nearing retirement, now is the time to contribute as much as possible — ideally the maximum allowed — to your IRA and/or workplace retirement plan. Saving now can still significantly increase your retirement savings.

Retirement account contribution limits

If you participate in a workplace plan — such as a 401(k) — consider contributing at least enough to qualify for the maximum employer matching contribution. It's essentially free money, so you don't want to miss out on it. If you own a small business, you may also be able to contribute. Accounts like SIMPLE IRAs or SEP IRAs are designed for small business owners.

Overview of maximum contribution limits for 2013 **
Traditional and Roth IRAs (combined) $5,500
SIMPLE IRAs and SIMPLE 401(k) $12,000
401(k), 403(b), 457(b), Roth 401(k) and Roth 403(b) $17,500

** Note that employer matching or profit-sharing contributions do not count against these limits. Some 401(k) plans also allow for after-tax deferrals that do not count against the $17,500 limit.

† If you participate in one or more governmental 457(b) plans, you can contribute a combined total of $17,500 to such plans. You do not need to combine this deferral limit with other plan types. Deferrals to all other employer plans (SIMPLE, 401(k) and 403(b)) must be combined.

To make it even easier for you to put more money toward retirement, the government allows people age 50 and over to make additional catch-up contributions every year.

Maximizing your contributions can pay off

Is it worth making maximum contributions? Absolutely. Let's say that you contribute $1,200 to an IRA every year over a 10-year period (2013-2022)1. With an annual, compounded return of 6%, your savings would total $16,766. On the other hand, if you contribute $5,500 to an IRA annually, and keep the other factors the same, you would end up with $76,844. That's over four times as much money, representing an increase of $60,078. The numbers are even more impressive for workplace plans, such as the 401(k) and 403(b), which have higher contribution limits.

Maximizing your IRA - 10 years
Maximizing your IRA - 10 Years
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This chart assumes that contribution limits remain the same over time.

Making non-deductible IRA or Roth IRA contributions

You can make maximum contributions to both an employer plan such as a 401(k) and an IRA in the same year, assuming you have earned income and you otherwise qualify. Although you may not qualify to deduct your IRA contribution from your taxes — and nondeductible contributions require special administrative steps — your savings will still grow tax-deferred. Still, it's generally only a good idea to fund a non-deductible IRA if your income is too high to allow you to make a Roth IRA contribution. That's because distributions from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free (rather than just tax-deferred).

Many people will need more than an employer plan and IRA savings to live in retirement

To the extent that you can afford to save additional after-tax dollars after you have maxed out your tax-advantaged options, you can do so in other types of investments. An Ameriprise financial advisor can help you determine what types of savings or investments are appropriate for your situation.

1 Assumes that investor is under age 50 or is not making catch-up contributions during the 10-year contribution period.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.