Posted by Elliot Kravitz, ATP

How Much Should You Contribute to Your 401(k)

How Much Should You Contribute to Your 401(k)

According to experts, the best amount to contribute in your 401(k) is between 10 and 20% of your gross salary. It does not matter the destination account; it is essential to contribute as much as possible to ensure a happy retirement.

This, however, is a general rule as the actual amount to save is a factor of the particular situation. For instance, someone above 55 years old without any retirement savings should consider saving over 20% of the gross salary towards retirement. For someone around age 30 with $150,000 in a retirement account, the contribution amount can reduce for you to pay your mortgage or loan. 

It might appear overwhelming to save around 10 or 20% of your salary every year. The good news is that one does not have to do it at once. You can contribute it at a different time in the year. 

Here are other factors one should consider when determining the value to contribute to your 401(k)


Building the Emergency Fund 

It is essential to save as much as possible for retirement. However, you cannot save all your funds for retirement as you need money for other things like rent, food, and your emergency account. 

An emergency fund is like a cushion to keep you from an unexpected or embarrassing financial situation like the loss of your job, an accident, a car breaking down, a sudden medical emergency, etc. With a substantial emergency fund, getting through a tough time will be easy.


Contribute to the Employer’s Match 

With your emergency funds built up to take care of your awkward financial situation, the next step is to consider your 401(k) contributions. 

The first step is to determine the employer's matching program with your 401(k). Using the employer match, the employer will match your chosen 401(k) contributions to a particular percentage of your gross salary. For instance, if your employer gives a 100% match for the first 5% that you contribute. It means that 5% of your gross salary will go to your 401(k). Your employer will also contribute the same 5% of your salary to the 401(k). In the end, you will have a total of 10% of your gross salary.

With an employer match, you can increase your contributions which makes it essential to take the opportunity. 


Invest in Roth IRAs and IRAs

Earlier, we advised that the ideal to save is 10 to 20% of the yearly gross salary towards retirement. This can be directed to the 401(k) even though there are other options one should consider once the 401(k) is covered. 

For people that earned below $124,000, they qualified for a Roth IRA in 2020. One can open this retirement savings account at any financial institution. It will be funded with an after-tax dollar. As a result, every amount you contribute will not bring down your taxable income. Every eligible withdrawal made after one gets to 59½ is tax-free. When preparing for retirement, one is better off having both taxable and non-taxable income. 

Young people just entering the professional world should consider Roth IRAs. Anyone just finishing college will likely be in a lower tax bracket compared to the bracket at retirement. As a result, you will save a lot if you pay the income tax now, compared to paying at the point of retirement.

One can also use a traditional IRA as an investment where one will invest using the pre-tax dollar, which will reduce the taxable income like 401(k). there are people with IRA because on leaving a previous employer, their 401(k) funds were moved using an IRA rollover into an IRA account. 


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Elliot Kravitz, ATP
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