A 401(k) is certainly one of the most popular avenues of building up retirement savings. A regular contribution of a certain percentage of one’s check each month can result in the employer’s matching contributions. While it’s an easy way to save since people rarely miss the funds that are automatically filtered into their retirement accounts, a 401(k) alone might not be quite enough to sustain you throughout your golden years. For that reason, I thought I would provide three ways to further boost your retirement bankroll.
1. Use a Health Savings Account (HAS)
This is a little-known way to stash extra money for retirement. You’re eligible for this type of account if you have a high-deductible health plan, defined by a deductible of at least $1,300 for singles and $2,600 for family coverage, and out-of-pocket maximums of $6,550 and $13,100, respectively.
If you meet the above requirements, you can contribute up to $3,350 (single) or $6,750 (family) to a HSA for the 2016 tax year, and unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), you can roll over any unused balance from year to year. An added benefit is the fact you can invest your account in a variety of funds and let it multiply over the years.
Like an IRA, amounts in your HAS are not taxed until distributed, and if your money is used for qualifying healthcare costs, the withdrawals are completely tax-free. Even better is the fact your contributions are deductible on your tax return, and withdrawals can be made after age 65 with no penalty.
The downside to a HAS account is the 20% penalty you’ll face if you need to use the money in your account before retirement for a non-healthcare reason. Also, the age when you can start using your money penalty-free is 65, more than five years past the IRA retirement age of 59 ½. In spite of those drawbacks, however, a HAS can still be a valuable retirement-savings tool for certain situations.
2. There is a “backdoor” method to contributing to a Roth IRA if you’re ineligible.
A Roth IRA has several benefits, one of the most attractive being that your eventual retirements in retirement will be completely free. Other perks include no minimum withdrawal requirements and the ability to take out your original contributions at any time.
But only people that fall into certain income limits are allowed to contribute to a Roth IRA (married joint filers can make a full contribution if their AGI is less than $184,000, or a partial contribution if less than $194,000; single and head of household filers have thresholds of $117,000 and $132,000, respectively).
Fortunately, there is a way around these rules, even if your income exceeds the above limits. Since 2010, anyone is eligible to convert traditional IRA assets to a Roth, regardless of income or filing status. If you received a tax deduction on the original contributions, you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount you convert, but if you contribute to a traditional IRA and convert quickly, this shouldn’t be an issue. For more details about a traditional IRA vs. a Roth, read this previous blog.
3. You could qualify for free money from the government for saving
Many people probably don’t realize there’s a tax credit that’s specifically designed for low- to moderate-income households. Known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit or “Saver’s Credit,” it was designed to encourage people to save for requirement and will give people up to $1,000 just for contribution to a qualifying retirement account.
Depending on your income and filing status, the Saver’s Credit is worth 10%, 20%, or 50% of your first $2,000 in retirement savings contributions for the year. If you file a joint tax return with your spouse, each of you can take this credit.
The credit can be applied to IRA contributions, or for contributions to your employer’s plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plan. It can also be used with less-common retirement plans, such as a SEP or SIMPLE IRA. For more specifics about the credit and income limits to qualify, click here.
The bottom line: Saving for retirement is hard work. It takes diligence and discipline. Hopefully one or more of the above strategies will help you on your journey to adequately fund your golden years. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to consult a financial expert that can walk you through the steps in more detail.
Source: The Motley Fool