The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, also known as the SECURE Act, was passed by Congress in late December 2019. Here are some of the features in the new legislation that will help you save more for retirement:
Money can continue to grow tax deferred
If you turn 70½ in 2020 or later, you can keep money in a tax-deferred IRA or 401(k) for another 18 months to help the account continue growing before starting to withdraw funds. This retirement benefit is now available thanks to the required minimum distribution age being raised from age 70½ to age 72. Action: Review your retirement account distribution needs and use this extra time to help make your distributions more tax efficient. For example, if you must earn an additional $10,000 before you hit the next highest tax bracket, consider pulling more taxable income out of your retirement account to take advantage of this lower rate. Or use the extra time to consider converting some funds to a Roth IRA.Contribute to a traditional IRA at any age While taxpayers have always been able to contribute to a Roth IRA at any age, age 70½ was the cut-off for making contributions to a traditional IRA. You can now contribute to a traditional IRA at any age provided you have earned income. Action: This is a great opportunity for retirees working part time to consider building their retirement nest egg and lower Social Security taxable income. Certain part-time workers can now contribute to 401(k) plans Most part-time workers have never been eligible to participate in an employer’s 401(k) plan. The law now mandates employers who maintain a 401(k) plan to offer their plan to employees who work more than 1,000 hours in one year, or 500 hours over 3 consecutive years. Action: If interested in participating, contact your employer to determine if and when this option might be added to your company's retirement savings plan.
Use retirement funds to offset the costs of a new birth or adoption
Each parent can withdraw $5,000 out of their retirement account without the 10% penalty. The distribution, however, must still be reported as taxable income. The distribution can be repaid as a rollover contribution to an eligible defined contribution plan or IRA. Action: If considering this alternative, make sure the withdrawal is within one year of the birth or adoption. Also retain records to prove the withdrawal is for a qualified event. This is important because how this new rule is going to be administered is still up in the air.
Watch out for auto enrollment
The government thinks you should be saving more for retirement. So the new law allows businesses to automatically transfer a greater portion of your paycheck into their retirement plan. The maximum contribution that can now be automatically deferred into your employer’s 401(k) plan increases from 10% to 15%. Action: While saving more for retirement is a great idea, this automatic participation does not account for your particular situation. Be aware of this law and independently determine what you can afford to put towards retirement. Make any adjustments if necessary. Remember, you also need to build an emergency fund and pay your bills!
Retirement planning is often put off by most of us. If nothing else, these rule changes are a reminder that now is a great time to look at how you plan for retirement, all while making the best use of tax benefits along the way.