Twelve thousand dollars is so last year. If that's all you're planning to put in your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account, you might want to check your calendar.

Right after Father Time rang in 2004, Uncle Sam celebrated by increasing contribution limits on retirement savings accounts. In case you were distracted by the fireworks and flowing bubbly, here are this year's limits:

  • 401(k), 403(b), 457 accounts, and SARSEPs: The annual contribution limit in 2004 is $13,000. For those 50 and older, you can make a catch-up contribution of $3,000.

  • SIMPLE plans: The contribution limit is $9,000, and the catch-up contribution (again, for the half-centenarians and beyond) is a cushy $1,500.

  • Traditional and Roth IRAs: For 2004, the limit will stay at $3,000, and the catch-up contribution limit will remain $500.

Is your paycheck already stretched too thin to take out more? Consider the new realities of retirement. Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement pro Robert Brokamp fears that too many of us are operating under old assumptions about retirement. As he told David and Tom Gardner in a recent interview, those who base their savings strategies on how their parents retired are in for a few rude surprises. Sure, we may be living longer than any previous generation, but few companies today offer pensions, and systems such as Social Security just were not built to sustain people for 30 years.

Upping your contributions now will not only secure a sweeter future but also reward you with tax savings today.

If you have money taken out of your paycheck and deposited in a retirement account, and that amount is based on 2003 limits, contact your human resources department and have the amount changed. Take a moment right now and open an IRA (we show you how). If you're behind on your savings, "catch-up contributions" can go a long way to building a more beautiful retirement. If you're 50 and up, go ahead and invest like your age.

Wondering whether you'll be able to live a leisurely life after leaving the working world? Stop wondering if your savings will sustain you in the future and start getting answers. For new strategies for the new retirement order, let The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter accompany you into your golden years. Take afree 30-day trialnow and see how your future looks.