Investing enough for retirement is a major challenge, especially since you'll need a large nest egg to help supplement your Social Security benefit. The good news is, the government wants to help -- and it does that by providing substantial tax savings if you contribute to certain types of investment accounts.
In particular, there are three accounts you should know about and consider investing in -- if you're eligible for them -- so you can supercharge your retirement savings with a little help from Uncle Sam.
A 401(k) is a good option if your employer offers one. If you have access to a workplace 401(k), you can contribute up to $19,500 in both 2021 and 2021. If you're in the 22% tax bracket, maxing out your account in either year could come with tax savings of up to $4,290. And if you're 50 or over, you'll also be eligible to make a catch-up contribution of up to $6,500 in 2020 and 2021, bringing your maximum tax savings up to $5,720.
In addition to the tax benefits, your employer may also match part of your contributions depending on company policy. If your employer offers a match, that's free money -- and you should make certain to contribute enough to your account to max it out.
After you've maximized your match, you may decide to contribute more to your 401(k) because it's a convenient and simple account to use since contributions are taken directly out of your paychecks. However, most 401(k)s offer more limited investment options than other kinds of tax-advantaged accounts, so you may want to think about putting some of your money into another type of account such as an IRA.
IRAs can be opened by anyone, so this is a great tax-advantaged account for those who don't have access to a workplace retirement plan. You can open an IRA with any brokerage firm or with many other kinds of financial institutions, and you'll usually have a much wider choice of investment options than with a 401(k).
The maximum deductible contribution to an IRA in 2020 and 2021 is $6,000. If you're in the 22% tax bracket and max out your account this year, you'd save up to $1,320 in taxes. If you're 50 or over, you can also make a catch-up contribution to an IRA of up to $1,000, bringing your maximum tax savings up to $1,540. Just be aware that eligibility to make deductible contributions phases out if your income is high and either you or your spouse has access to a workplace retirement plan.
It's also worth noting that the IRA contribution limit is an aggregate one between traditional and Roth IRAs. While traditional IRAs provide an upfront tax break, Roth IRAs are contributed to with after-tax dollars; you get your tax-savings from tax-free withdrawals as a retiree. Contributing to a Roth can mean you don't have to worry about taxes as a senior, so if you feel your tax rate will likely be higher later in life you may wish to consider this option instead of a traditional IRA.
HSAs are meant to help people with high-deductible health plans save to cover their healthcare costs with pre-tax dollars. You'll be eligible to contribute to one only if you have a qualifying high-deductible plan. But if you're eligible, the tax breaks can be amazing. You can invest with pre-tax money, grow your money tax free, and make tax-free withdrawals as long as the money is used for qualifying medical expenses.
The reason HSAs are a good account to help you save for retirement is that you don't actually have to spend the money on any specific timeline once you've made your contributions. You can invest and let it grow as long as you like. Then, when you retire, you can withdraw from it to pay for your medical needs as a senior to take advantage of the triple tax breaks. You also have the option to take money out for any reason with no penalties after the age of 65, but you'll be taxed on the withdrawals at your ordinary rate, so you'll miss out on one of the tax benefits of this account if you exercise that option.
If you're eligible, you can contribute up to $3,550 in 2020 if you have individual health insurance coverage only or $7,100 if you have a family plan. These limits are rising to $3,600 in 2021 for individual coverage and $7,200 for family plans. If you're in the 22% tax bracket with a family plan and max out contributions in 2021, you could save up to $1,548 in taxes. You're also eligible for catch-up contributions of $1,000 after age 55, bringing your maximum tax savings to $1,804 in 2021 if you have a family plan.
By contributing to any one of these accounts -- or all three of them -- you can take full advantage of government subsidies to help you save for retirement. This can make a big difference in the amount you'll end up with in your later years.