Table of Contents
- How Much Can I Contribute to My 401(k) in 2023?
- Maximum 401(k) Contribution Limits: 2007-2023
- These Contribution Limits Apply to 401(k), 403(b), 457, 401(a) Plans and Thrift Savings Plan
- Maximize Your 401(k) Contributions If You Can
- Maximize Your 401(k) Through Fixed Contributions
- Maximize Your 401(k) With Percentage-Based Contributions
- What If I Contribute Too Much to My 401(k)?
- IRA or 401(k)/TSP? – Which Is Better for Retirement Planning?
- Managing Your 401(k) With Your Other Investments
Update: The IRS announced the 2023 401(k) contribution limits. The employee elective deferral limit increased to $22,500, and the catch-up contributions increased to $7,500 for those who are aged 50 and older.
Investing in your 401(k) plan or other retirement account is one of the easiest and best ways to prepare for retirement. These accounts offer a valuable tax advantage for investors, but there are some limitations. Each year the IRS releases updated 401(k) plan contribution limits. You must pay a tax penalty if you exceed the IRS limit for your age group.
How Much Can I Contribute to My 401(k) in 2023?
The maximum an employee can contribute to their 401(k) plans in 2023 is $22,500. This is a $2,000 increase from the 2022 tax year.
There is also a maximum catch-up contribution of $7,500 that is only available to participants who are at least 50 years old. This is an increase of $1,000 from the 2022 limit of $6,500.
The IRS also increased the 2023 total contribution limit by $5,000 to $66,000. This limit includes employee contributions, matching contributions, bonuses and other deferred compensation. If you are at least 50 years old, you can add your catch-up contributions to this total, bringing the 2023 maximum to $73,500.
Let’s look at all these numbers in more detail and discuss what they mean for investors.
Maximum 401(k) Contribution Limits: 2007-2023
The following chart lists the maximum 401(k) plan contribution limits and contribution limits from previous years.
Employee Contributions apply to persons under the age of 50.
Catch-up Contributions apply to people aged 50 and older.
Total Contribution Limit is the maximum you can apply to your 401(k) plan in any given year if you are under the age of 50. This includes all possible contributions, including employee contributions, employer contributions, profit-sharing and any other allowable contributions.
The final column is the total contribution limit from all sources for those aged 50 or older.
|Year||Employee Contributions||Catch-Up Contributions (Age 50+)||Total Contribution Limit||Total Contribution Limit With Catch-Up|
These Contribution Limits Apply to 401(k), 403(b), 457, 401(a) Plans and Thrift Savings Plan
These contribution limits apply to the 401(k) plan, as well as to several retirement plans that are written into the tax code, such as the Thrift Savings Plan, Roth and Traditional versions of the 401(k) plan and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans. These limits also apply to Individual 401(k) Plans, also known as the Solo 401(k), which is a small business retirement plan).
Look into your specific plan, as there may be slight differences in employer contribution rules, profit sharing or other plan-specific topics.
Maximize Your 401(k) Contributions If You Can
If you can maximize your 401(k) contributions, you will be well on your way to setting up a solid retirement fund. There are two easy ways to determine how much to contribute to maximize your 401(k) account this year.
Maximize Your 401(k) Through Fixed Contributions
If your company allows contributions of a flat dollar amount per month or per check, then you can contribute that amount from your paycheck. If you are under age 50, you could contribute up to $1,875 per month or $937.50 per check if you are paid bimonthly.
If you are 50 or over, you can contribute up to $2,500 per month or $1,250 per check if you are paid twice a month.
Remember, these are the numbers to max out your contributions. You can contribute less than that if that works better for your budget.
Maximize Your 401(k) With Percentage-Based Contributions
If your company doesn’t allow you to make a flat-rate contribution, you need to do some math.
Divide the maximum you can contribute ($22,500 or $30,000, if you are over 50) by your total salary. This gives you the percentage you should contribute every paycheck.
For example, if you earn $100,000 per year and can contribute up to $22,500 to your 401(k), you will need to contribute 22.5% of your salary ($22,500 / $100,000 = 22.5%) to maximize your contribution.
If you cannot afford to contribute the maximum, try to at least contribute up to your employer’s match, if your employer makes matching contributions.
Employer matches are free money you can put toward your future. Don’t leave these dollars on the table. You should be able to change your 401(k) contribution amount, your tax withholding and other payroll deductions through your human resources department.
What If I Contribute Too Much to My 401(k)?
If you exceed the annual contribution limit, you must withdraw the excess by April 15 of the following year or face a 10% early distribution tax, according to the IRS.
You may also need to report the withdrawal as income and face other penalties, which may include retirement plan disqualification.
Luckily, many HR offices and 401(k) plans have systems that prevent over-contributions or automatically refund the overage. You shouldn’t owe extra penalties in these cases.
However, those systems only work if you remain employed by the same company for the entire year. Pay special attention to the annual 401(k) contribution limitations if you change jobs during the year.
If you do happen to contribute too much, work with your HR department or 401(k) plan administrator to correct the issue as soon as you notice it. You may also want to consult with a tax professional to determine if there will be any long-term ramifications or if you will owe any additional taxes or penalties.
IRA or 401(k)/TSP? – Which Is Better for Retirement Planning?
Employees with access to 401(k) plan may also be able to contribute to another type of retirement plan, the Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA).
Where Should You Invest First – IRA or 401(k)?
Should you contribute to your 401(k) plan at the expense of contributing to a Roth or traditional IRA? I covered this topic in a previous article, Where Should You Invest First – IRA or 401(k)/TSP?
First, make sure you’re contributing enough to your 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan to maximize employer-matching contributions. Then, try to max out a Roth IRA if you are eligible to contribute to one.
This ensures you take advantage of the free money through your employer’s matching contributions while providing you the best of both worlds regarding current and future taxes. Tax flexibility is an important retirement planning tool.
If your company doesn’t offer 401(k) matching contributions, you may consider contributing to a Roth IRA first, and then contributing to your 401(k).
Why Contribute to an IRA?
For the most part, IRAs have similar tax rules as 401(k) plans, but they have different contribution limits.
IRAs also have a few important benefits. They are more flexible, as you control how and where you invest your money, giving you more freedom and control over your investment types–and, more importantly, investment costs.
Roth IRAs also don’t have required minimum distributions (RMDs), which exist in all 401(k) plans, including the Roth 401(k).
If you can afford to maximize both investments, read up on how to invest after maxing out your retirement accounts. You may have options, such as investing through a health savings account, a taxable investment account, peer-to-peer loans, real estate and more.
Managing Your 401(k) With Your Other Investments
Many people manage their investments on their own, without the help of a professional. This includes managing the investments within their 401(k) plans and any outside investments, such as IRAs, taxable investment accounts, etc.
Tools to Help Manage Your 401(k) Plan
There are several online tools to help you get the most out of your defined-contribution plans such as the 401(k), 401(a), 403(b), 457 and Thrift Savings Plan.
Personal Capital is one option. You can learn more in our Personal Capital Review, or visit their site for more information.
Blooom is another online 401(k) robo-advisor. Blooom oversees your 401(k) account and analyzes investing opportunities that you may not be aware of.
Blooom can help investors analyze their investment fees; improve their diversification and find the right mix of stocks, bonds and other investments.
More About Robo-Advisors: Robo-advisors are automated platforms that use algorithms to guide your investment choices or manage your portfolio on your behalf. Learn more about them in our article, Best Robo-Advisors for Military Members.
About the comments on this site:
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Leonard Elbon says
Catch up contributions do not count toward the 56,000 dollar contribution limit for 401k’s but does the catch up contribution count toward the 100% of compensation limit (for a profit sharing 401K)?’
Example: S corp Salary = 30,000 with an employee contribution of 24,500- (18,500 employee contribution plus a catch up contribution of 6,000).
Can I do an employer profit sharing contribution of 7,500 or am I limited to 5,500 (30,000 – 24,500) which would be 100% of salary.
I’ve set up a hypothetical retirement plan to aid in my retirement. I’d like you to look it over if you’ve got the time. Here’s a little bit about me:
I am 28 years old and I currently make $46,000/year before taxes. I am putting $200/month into a 457 account. I live with my wife (working on Bachelors degree; not working), and Grandmother-in-law (around $1200/month in Social Security.) We are planning on buying a house between $120,000-$150,000 in June, and relocating to a job that will pay $55,000/year before taxes. Am I crazy for saving this much? Here’s the plan I’ve put together:
Current age: 28
Retirement age: 62
GOAL: Avoid “pay cut” at retirement.
TRS PENSION – assuming average income of $70,000/year at time of retirement.
After 35 years of service, TRS pension yields $4,829/month ($57,948/year)
-Each additional year of service adds $134/month, or $1,608/year.
-In order to not take a pay cut from TRS in retirement without investment assistance, I would have to work 44 YEARS and retire at the age of 72. NO THANK YOU!
457 INVESTMENTS (SUPPLEMENTAL INCOME)
1.) Assume 7% average rate of return. Withdraw after 33 years with current plan.
2.) Withdraw for 20 years; assume 4% return. (Kick the bucket at 82.)
3.) Current principal: $1,300.
A. Contribute $104/month, yielding $170,941. Withdraw $12,094/year, make $70,042/year. (SUCCESS)
B. Contribute $200/month, yielding $294,370. Withdraw $22,466/year, make $80,414/year.
C. Contribute $300/month, yielding $470,254. Withdraw $33,271/year, make $91,219/year.
D. Contribute $400/month, yielding $622,965. Withdraw $44,075/year, make $102,023/year.
Please let me know what you think.
I might also want to mention that we are having a baby in 6 weeks. That’s a pretty huge factor!
Thank you in advance for the help.
Ryan Guina says
Frank, it sounds like you are on the right path with your savings and investments. I don’t think you are saving too much. The more you save at a younger age, the longer you have for compound interest to work its magic and the less you have to save in your later years. Front-loading is almost always a good idea when it comes to investing. The only things I would recommend are making sure you have some money set aside for emergencies, and for your upcoming home purchase. Being a homeowner almost always comes with hidden or unexpected expenses. So having some savings set aside can help you be better prepared for those unknown expenses.
Congratulations on your upcoming child, and best wishes with your savings and investments!
This website makes no sense. The annual maximum contribution is $18.5k and the over 50 catch up is $6k. So how does that equal $55k. You know it’s really much better to get the fundamental right than to get fancy!
Ma, the $18,500 contribution limit and $6,000 catch-up contribution limit refer to the employee’s total contribution limit. This is the amount of salary the employee is legally eligible to defer from their payroll.
The $55,000 annual limit refers to the total contribution limit through all sources of funding a 401k. This can include certain pay, bonuses, employer-matching contributions, etc. The most common additional method of funding a 401k is through employer matching contributions.
For example, if an employer offers matching contributions and the employee maxes out their individual contribution limit of $18,500, the matching contributions would take that employee’s total 401k contributions for the year above $18,500. The amount of additional money an employee can defer through 401k contributions and deferrals varies based on many factors, including the employee’s salary, company policies, matching contribution limits, IRS rules, and the employee’s ability to make additional contributions. The upper limit of $55,000 exists to prevent too much income from being tax deferred.
Even though the 2018 total 401k contribution limit is $55,000, most employees never come close to maxing out the $55,000 annual limit for various reasons. But it can be done.
The $55,000 total contribution limit or $61,000 total contribution limit with catch-up is achievable if your company allows you to contribute to your 401k on an after-tax basis and you have significant earned income to fund your 401k beyond the $18,500 or $24,500 (age 50 or older).
Not all companies allow after-tax contributions once you reach the $18,500 ($24,500 age 50 or older) but your HR department can verify.
Also, if you are self-employed and have a solo 401k you can contribute $18,500 ($24,500 if age 50 or older) as an employee and up to $36,500 as an employer (for a total of $55,000 or $61,000 if 50 or older) based on your net income.
I hope this helps—
Our company 401k plan will not be implemented until Q4 of this year. Will employees be able to accelerate the payments and fully fund for the year?
Ryan Guina says
JoAnn, your 401k contributions must be made from your paycheck. So you can elect to put up to 100% of your pay (or close to it) into your 401k each pay period. But you won’t be able to save money throughout the year and write a check to fund your 401k. All contributions must be made directly from your paycheck. So if you want to fully fund your 401k, you will want to save cash in your savings account, and contribute most of your paycheck to your 401k during Q4. You would have to live off savings for those months while you contribute to your 401k. When the new year rolls around, you can change your contributions to a more reasonable percentage of your pay. Hope this helps.
Hello – I work for a small Tech company with about 15 employees and it looks like most employees don’t contribute to the company sponsored 401(k) plans (Roth and Traditional). As a result, the 4 or 5 of us contributing (mainly the ones with the highest incomes), have received checks for excess contributions, although in my case, my contribution was 35% below the employee contribution limit set by the IRS.
Can you explain why this is happening, for the explanations from the plan managing company (we outsource that) are a bit confusing (something about avoiding company executives to elect a plan not accessible or not as rewarding to lowest paid employees.)
Ryan Guina says
Hi Stephan, it sounds like your company ran into he Highly Compensated Employee rule. This is something I’ve read about, but not an expert on. Here is an IRS article that discusses the rule, and one from Personal Capital that also discusses it.
Right now the best I can recommend is reading more about this topic to verify this is indeed what happened. Then try to work with your HR department and management to try and find a way to prevent this from happening again. Best of luck!
Greetings! Sorry for asking a question on an older article, but your responses are awesome… so I thought that I would give it a shot. I have about $50K in a traditional 401K that I started not too long ago and my employer now offers a Roth 401K as a plan option. I have the option of contributing to one or the other, or both. It looks as though I can move my $$ from the traditional 401K into the Roth 401K if I choose, but I would expect that I would be required to immediately pay the associated taxes on the $50K. I have about 25 years left to save and am wondering whether it would be best to continue with the traditional 401K or move everything over to the Roth 401K now while it’s still early-ish or split my contributions. What are the benefits or downside to splitting my contribitions. I have other investments in Real Estate… but now that I am in a more traditional work environment, I want to take the best approach to maximize my retirement savings. Thanks for any help you can provide!
Ryan Guina says
Ron, this is a great question, but one that is specific to your situation, and probably deserves a better answer than I can give you in a paragraph or two on a blog post. The best thing to do would be to meet with a financial planner and have an assessment done on your current financial situation, your long term goals, and have him or her help you build a plan to get there.
To answer your questions: yes, if you transfer your traditional 401k into a Roth IRA, you would have to pay taxes on those funds. I can’t tell you if it is worth it or not, because I don’t know your entire financial situation, or whether you have the cash to pay the taxes now (you generally don’t want to pay taxes out of the invested funds because that taxes money out of a tax-sheltered environment).
Should you invest in the Roth or Traditional going forward? Again, this is a long-term planning issue that a financial planner can help you answer. I’m a big fan of investing in Roth accounts because you never have to pay taxes on those funds again. But some people prefer to invest in a Traditional 401k due to the tax breaks they get now. Again, this is where a financial planner will come in handy. I recommend meeting with a fee-only financial planner if you are more of a DIY investor. They can help you make sense of everything and make sure you are on the right path. Here are tips for interviewing and hiring a financial planner. I hope this helps!
Elizabeth Hawkins says
Thanks so much for this article. I will turn 50 at the end of 2015. I always max out my Roth 401k contribution. Can I distribute the increased contribution amount of $24k throughout 2015 or do I have to do a catchup contribution once I turn 50? Also, can I contribute the increased Roth IRA amount any time during 2015 or do I have to wait until my birthday? I would really appreciate the clarification.
I have a Traditional 401k at work I contribute to and a Roth401k that I contribute to. Both of these plans are through my employer. In addition to both of these accounts I want to contribute to a roth IRA with my online broker. Is that permissible ? I really want to sock away as much as I can for retirement.
Ryan Guina says
Absolutely, Matt. You can contribute to a Roth IRA in addition to an employer sponsored retirement plan (as long as your income allows you to contribute to a Roth IRA). Best of luck with your retirement investing!
If I am contributing $17,000 (the maximum) to the Fed Govt’s TSP, can I also contribute to a Roth IRA outside of the TSP? Or does the $17,000 maximum include any outside contributions like a Roth IRA? [Note: I am over 50 and also interested in beginning the allowable make-up contributions to the TSP.]
Tom, the Thrift Savings Plan (and 401k, 503b, and related employer sponsored retirement plans) are separate from IRAs. You should still be able to contribute the max amount to your IRA, provided you meet the income requirements. We cover this topic in the following article: how many retirement accounts can you have?
I have seen conflicting information in 401K articles to a question I have. Perhaps someone can set me straight. My employer is quite generous as to 401K / retirement benefits. I will turn 50 this year. My question concerns the catch up provision and the “total contribution limit”. I plan to contribute the max individual contribution of $17K in 2012. My employer contribution when added to my individual contribution will bring my total contribution to $50K. My question is does the catch up provision act to increase the total contribution limit from $50,000 to $55,500 for individuals 50 and older. The chart in this article suggests not but I have seen other charts that suggest that the total contribution limit is increased to reflect the allowed catch up. Any clarity on this point is much appreciated.
If you max out a 403b can you participate in the new 401k pension plan at work. The employer decided to go from a defined pension the the 401k style.
Thanks wm. l. pekar
I recommend double checking with your plan administrator or a financial planner. I believe your annual contributions are limited to a fixed amount across all employer sponsored retirement plans, but I am not 100% certain in this instance.
There is no limit per se but new rules were passed in 2010 that require employers to offer diverse options (minimum of 3) in retirement plans.
what is the percentage limit on employer securities in a 401 (k) plan?
I am eligible for the catch up and evenly divided my contributions to take full advantage of the catch up. My employer matches up to a certain percentage but when I reached the base $16,500.00 limit before reaching the catch up, my employer’s match contributions stopped and I was told it won’t contribute anything more once the base amount is reached. therefore I lost out on over $1,000 in company match. Is this normal?
DENNIS GREEN says
Mark: your employer is being unfair.
im our Plan administrator, and this seems to me like your plan admin isnt doing a good job. The reason we have this Plan at our firm is to attract, and retain quality staff. I view this as our best benefit, and it sounds to me that either your plan admin isnt informed, or someone is trying to skimp on the plan. In the end, it sounds like they will have at least one unhappy camper on their hands.
you may have to ask your CFO or some other better informed corporate officer about this.
I have a questions I’m hoping someone can answer. My company offers a match on contributions but you are only allowed to contribute a % based on salary. I get ******* because a large part of my income is from bonuses and commissions since I am in sales. My questions is can my company structure the 401K plan this way?
Todd, Yes, a 401k plan is voluntary for the company and they can structure their 401k plan as they see fit. You can contact your HR department and ask if you are able to contribute a portion of your bonuses toward your 401k plan (some companies allow this).
Generally a good idea to max out contributions if possible. The only caveat I have is to consider more than target retirment/401K funds. Just look at their performance over the last 3 years compared to regular 401K funds.
doctor S: My money is spread around a few different places. I need to work on consolidating my retirement accounts this year! I agree about the Roth. So long as the government doesn’t change rules about the money you already have in there, a Roth is probably the best deal you will find. 🙂
doctor S says
I just hope your money is with my company! I reccomend the roths just b/c U wont have to worry about it later, but thats just my opinion.
Jeff Rose says
Generally speaking, your correct in your thoughts in starting an IRA. I say “generally” because as Ryan says, I don’t know enough about your situation. Without a match in your 403b, opening an IRA will allow you to invest in many more options that the limited offering in your 403b’s. Also, the 403b realm is changing and by what I’ve seen thus far, not for the better. I could elaborate, but don’t want to put anybody to sleep 🙂
Definitely suggest meeting with your planner to see if the IRA makes sense and whether you should go the Traditional or Roth direction.
Kristen: Pensions are awesome, and extremely rare these days. It’s a great thing you have one!
I think you should invest additional funds for retirement because your pension + social security probably will not be enough to cover your retirement needs. I don’t know enough about your situation to recommend investing in an IRA over your 403b, so speaking with your financial advisor is your best bet.
Interesting post Ryan. My company as a non-profit has a 403b, but they don’t match our contributions. However, lest anyone think I work for a stingy company, they have a pension plan that they pay into for each employee.
I haven’t been doing any retirement investing in the past year. (I know … Shame on me!) I’m going to talk with my financial planner about starting an IRA. I’m thinking it would make more sense for me to invest in an IRA than the 403b, since there’s no matching money there. Any thoughts?