If you want to save as much as possible for retirement, it pays to take full advantage of all the tax-favored accounts that are available to you. You'll have to have quite a bit of savings in order to meet all the maximums for these accounts, but if you're fortunate enough to have that much investment capital available, you can make a huge dent in your tax bill by doing so.
Here's a quick guide for anyone who's striving for the ultimate in retirement saving. By using all of these accounts, you can maximize the tools available to you and dramatically improve your chances of having a comfortable retirement.
Maxing out your IRAs
Contributing the maximum to your IRAs is the easiest thing that a retirement saver can do. Contribution limits for both traditional and Roth IRAs are $5,500 in 2018 if you're younger than 50. If you've reached your 50th birthday, then you get to contribute a total of $6,500, thanks to the $1,000 catch-up contribution that the IRS gives you.
You might not get to pick the type of IRA you want if your income is too high. Roth IRA contributions are completely disallowed with income above certain limits. You can always make a traditional IRA contribution, but in some cases, you won't be able to deduct the contributed amount on your taxes if you have access to a retirement plan at work. Regardless, starting with an IRA is a natural first point on the path toward maxing out your total retirement contributions.
Maxing out your employer-sponsored retirement plan
If you're an employee and your employer offers a 401(k), then higher limits generally apply. In 2018, employees up to age 50 can contribute $18,500 to a full-fledged 401(k), while an additional $6,000 is available if you've hit 50, bringing the total to $24,500.
Not all employer plans are 401(k) plans. For instance, a SIMPLE IRA is easier for an employer to administer than a traditional 401(k), but it comes with lower limits. For 2018, you can contribute $12,500 if you're younger than 50, with a $3,000 additional catch-up contribution if you've hit 50. In many cases, you'll be able to both contribute to an employer-sponsored plan and do IRA contributions.
Getting extra help from your employer with your 401(k)
Some employers add extra amounts to what their workers save in a 401(k). The most common source of those funds is either matching contributions or profit-sharing contributions, and these amounts are typically minimal.
However, those who are either self-employed or are key employees can sometimes get much larger contributions. The combined total for employee and employer 401(k) contributions in 2018 is $55,000 if you're younger than 50 or $61,000 if you're 50 or older. However, you're generally limited to contributions equal to 25% of your net compensation, meaning that you'd need to make well over $200,000 in order to qualify to max out a solo 401(k) or other plan that allows for employer contributions.
Contributing toward healthcare expenses in retirement
Some tax-favored accounts that aren't primarily designed for retirement can still help you achieve your long-term financial goals. For instance, if you have a special health insurance plan with a high deductible amount, then you can open a health savings account that in turn will let you save money on a tax-deductible basis and then withdraw money later on tax-free as long as you use it for qualifying medical expenses.
In 2018, the limits are $3,450 if you have single coverage just for yourself, or $6,850 for coverage that includes your entire family. If you're 55 or older, you can add $1,000 to these limits.
Save everything you can
Obviously, you need to have a lot of extra savings sitting around if you want to max out all of your opportunities to fund tax-favored accounts. However, if you want to take maximum advantage of what the tax man will offer, then putting money in IRAs, 401(k) accounts, HSAs, and other retirement-plan accounts can save you a ton of cash both upfront and in the long run.