How to Catch Up on Retirement Contributions Post-COVID


In addition to everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic may have put a real dent in your retirement savings progress. If that’s the case, don’t panic. There are tactics that can help you get past this setback. But what’s most appropriate will vary, depending on your age, situation, and whether you can start making catch-up contributions yet.

How did you get here? There are lots of ways that Americans may have got off the retirement savings track for a time. Maybe your place of work closed its doors. Or you temporarily left the workforce1 to home school your children. Perhaps your employer paused matching contributions2. Or you needed to take a coronavirus-related distribution3 to cover your costs. Or maybe you just paused your retirement contributions because everything seemed so uncertain during the crisis.

4 Ways COVID-19 May Have Affected Retirement Savings

 Work closed

 School closed

 Retirement account distributions

Paused contributions

Regardless, it was probably the right move at the time, and you did what you had to do. But things are starting to change now. With the economy rebounding, it’s a good time to get your retirement back on track. Let’s look at your options at various ages.

 

If You’re Under 50

Possible Ways to Catch Up Before Age 50
  • Figure out how much to save.
  • Consider additional investment accounts.
  • Contribute the max in workplace plans or at least to employer match

If you’re in your 40s or younger, you likely have many years of saving (and investing) for retirement still ahead of you. A financial advisor or retirement calculator can help you figure out how much income you’ll need in retirement. That, in turn, can give you an idea of how much you need to save now.

In this age bracket, a major way to boost your retirement savings is to set aside as much as you can in a retirement plan. For a 401(k), the 2021 max you can contribute for your age group is $19,500*.

If you’ve fallen behind or you just want to store up more, you may also be able to put up to $6,000 in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) this year. Check with a financial advisor to see if you qualify to save with one of these plans.

What’s a good amount if you can’t afford to contribute up to the max? If your employer matches retirement account contributions, contribute up to the match to expand your savings rate. For example, imagine your employer matches up to five percent of your income. If you contribute only four percent, you’re leaving money on the table.

 

If You’re 50 or More

Possible Ways to Catch Up Over Age 50
  • Increase contributions
  • Take advantage of catchup amounts in workplace plan or IRAs.

You may wonder why you can’t just make catch-up contributions to make up for lost time. Once you hit the half-century mark, you probably can.

At age 50, you may be able to increase your retirement contributions even more. For 2021, the maximum 401(k) catch-up amount is $6,500. That means you’re allowed to put up to $26,000 in total into a 401(k) this year*.

For traditional or Roth IRAs, you may make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 per year for 2021. This can allow you to contribute up to $7,000 in total to an IRA*.

These rules start in the calendar year in which you turn 50. So if your 50th birthday falls before Dec. 31, 2021, you may make catch-up contributions all year.

 

If You’re 60 or Older

Possible Ways to Catch Up Over Age 60
  • Still make catchup contributions
  • Work longer
  • Delay Social Security

If you’re more than 60 and don’t have enough saved for retirement, you still have options. Of course, you can still take advantage of the catch-up contributions that you were allowed to start at age 50. But there are a few more strategies to try.

First, working a few more years may improve your retirement outlook. Every year you’re still employed allows you to deposit more in your retirement accounts.

And you can also delay your Social Security benefits. The later in life you start, the larger your benefits will be when you do start collecting and for the rest of your life. For example, people born from 1943 to 1954 reach full retirement age at 66. If you’re in this range and delay your benefits until age 67, you’ll receive 108 percent of your regular monthly benefit. If you start at 70, you’ll receive 132 percent4.

The pandemic has been tough for everyone in a multitude of ways. But getting your retirement savings back on track may help give you more confidence for your future.


Need to make up for lost time? We can help you get your plan on track.

*Contribution and catch-up contribution limits are for 2021. Limits are updated annually by the IRS. Current amounts can be found at irs.gov .

1Pew Research Center, U.S. labor market inches back from the COVID-19 shock, but recovery is far from complete, April, 2021.
2Plan Sponsor Council of America, COVID Impact on 401(k) Plans, November 2020.
3IRS, Coronavirus Relief for Retirement Plans and IRAs, April 2021.
4Social Security Administration, Retirement Benefits, May 2021.

Please consult your tax advisor for more detailed information regarding the Roth IRA or for advice regarding your individual situation.

Taxes are deferred until withdrawal if the requirements are met. A 10% penalty may be imposed for withdrawal prior to reaching age 59½.

You could lose money by investing in a mutual fund, even if through your employer's plan or an IRA. An investment in a mutual fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency.

This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.