401k Reminders: Roth, Traditional, Contribution Limits.

June 7, 2021

The circumstances of the past year have resulted in many employees seeking new employment opportunities.  In tandem we have seen an increase in the amount of questions we have been receiving regarding 401(K) plans as folks fill out new-hire paperwork.

When enrolling in a new plan and selecting participation amounts, it is important to consider how the annual contribution limits set by the IRS are calculated. The limits set ($19,500 for 2021) include all plans participated in for the year, not just the current active plan. For example, if an individual puts $10,000 into an employer plan, but then switches employers at some point during the year, they may not contribute more than $9,500 to their new plan since the 2021 maximum is $19,500.  If the employee is over the age of 50, he or she would also qualify for an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution, however plan investors should be aware that both the maximum contribution and catch-up contribution amounts are subject to change annually.  Further information regarding maximums can be found on IRS.gov.

In addition to questions surrounding contributions limits, we have also noticed an increase in inquiries regarding the differences between traditional and ROTH contributions. That said, we are reposting the below article by our Director of Client Operations, Lori Patterson which outlines the major similarities and differences within these employer sponsored retirement plans, and welcome any questions our clients may have regarding their employer benefits:


Traditional v. ROTH IRAs. Originally Posted October 3, 2017. By Lori Patterson:

When people hear these words, anxiety can set in quickly. Unless you are employed in an industry where you work directly with these types of plans and have developed an understanding of them, it’s likely that you too have reservations about choosing one of these plans. The first step to understanding and choosing the right plan for you begins with understanding the plans and the differences between them.

Opting to invest in a traditional 401(k) and/or a Roth 401(k), over time, has proven to be an effective way to save for retirement. One or both of these plans can be beneficial depending on your individual situation and retirement goals. Many employers offer both types of plans which allow employees to better customize their retirement savings plans.

It may also be helpful to define the basic plan. A 401(k) plan, in general, refers to a retirement plan offered by an employer which allows employees to save for retirement by contributing a percentage or portion of their earnings to the plan and then choosing investment options within the plan. Within the 401(k) plan, the following options can be considered.

A traditional 401(k) plan offers the benefit of pre-tax contributions which reduces the impact of taxes on your net earnings, allowing the opportunity for you to save more for retirement. These funds and the earnings/growth will be taxed when they are withdrawn from the plan, ideally at retirement, when your taxable income will likely be lower. Often times, those in a higher tax bracket will choose this option since they expect to have a decreased income and therefore a reduced tax liability when retired.

A Roth 401(k) plan may offer greater benefits at retirement age. Roth contributions are not considered pre-tax or deductible; however, when the funds are withdrawn at retirement, the contributions and the earnings/growth can be withdrawn tax-free. Often times, people who choose this option are earning lower than or equal to the amount they expect to be earning in the future. Lastly, a Roth 401(k) plan can later be rolled into a Roth IRA, in which case the owner would not be required to take distributions at age 70½ as is the traditional IRA owner, allowing the funds to continue to grow tax-free.

There are some cases in which it may be appropriate to contribute to both types of retirement plans and this can be done within the same 401(k) plan if your employer offers a Roth 401(k) option. If so, your plan’s sponsor or administrator is required to track the contributions that you make separately into each plan for future tax consideration. If you choose to contribute to both plans, the total annual contribution rules still apply.

Although it may seem overwhelming and confusing when trying to understand the differences in the types of retirement plans offered, it is worth the effort to make an educated decision and plan as early as possible for retirement in order to help reach your long term goals.

For additional information to help explain the differences between the two plans please visit: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/roth-comparison-chart