2017 vs 2018 401k, 403b, 457 and TSP Contribution Limits and Catch-up Amounts

[Updated with the latest 2018 contribution limits] The IRS has released updated employer sponsored retirement plan limits, which covers 401(k), 403(b), 457 and Government Thrift Savings (TSP) plans. The annual contribution limit, which is indexed to inflation increased by $500 in 2018. This means the maximum amount employees will be able to contribute on a pre-tax basis in 2018 will still be $18,500 (vs $18,000 in 2017). The catch-up pre-tax contribution limit available to employees over 50 remained unchanged at $6,000. Details are in the table below.

The maximum limit for defined contribution plan deferrals from all sources (employer and employee combined) is $54,000 for 2017 vs $55,00 in 2018, per participant. This means employers who contribute to these plans (e.g via matching contributions) can contribute up to $1000 more in 2018. See details and additional explanations below the table.

Year
Contribution Limit
Maximum Employer Contribution
Max. for ALL Contributions (excl. Catch-up)
Additional Catch-up Amount (age > 50)
2019
$19,000
$37,000
$56,000
$6,000
2018
$18,500
$36,500
$55,000
$6,000
2017
$18,000
$36,000
$54,000
$6,000
2016
$18,000
$35,000
$53,000
$6,000
2015
$18,000
$35,000
$53,000
$6,000
2014
$17,500
$34,500
$52,000
$5,500
2013
$17,500
$33,500
$51,000
$5,500
2012
$17,000
$33,000
$50,000
$5,500
2011
$16,500
$32,500
$49,000
$5,500

Your 401k maximum contribution limit is the combined total maximum contribution that you can make each year to ALL 401k plans in which you participate, including standard 401k plans and Roth 401k plans— and is the lower of: (1) the maximum percentage contribution limit allowed under each of your employers’ plans, or (2) the dollar limits shown in the table above. For example, if your employer’s 401k plan allows you to contribute up to a maximum of 10% of your salary, and you earn $50,000, your maximum contribution limit is $5,000, not the annual contribution limit (e.g $18,000 in 2016) that applies only to higher-paid employees.

Maximum Employer Contributions. Matching 401K or 403b contributions made by your employer are NOT counted toward your own annual 401k contribution limits (elective deferrals). Even if you contribute the maximum amount each year, your employer’s matching contributions are in addition to these 401k limits.  Your employer’s 401K maximum contribution limit is shown in the table above (e.g in 2014 is $34,500 ($52,000 –  $17,500) or 100% of your salary, whichever is the smaller amount. Though most employers rarely give anywhere near the maximum, with most generally matching 3% to 6% of employee contributions.

Additional total limits. In addition to the limit on elective deferrals shown in the table above, annual contributions to all of your accounts may not exceed 100% of your compensation. Further, the compensation limitation that can be taken into account when determining employer and employee contributions is shown in the table below. 

YearAnnual Comp LimitHighly Compensated Employee ThresholdKey Employee in Top-Heavy Plan
2018$275,000$120,000$175,000
2017$270,000$120,000$175,000
2016$265,000$120,000$170,000
2015$265,000$120,000
2014$260,000$115,000

Catch-up contributions. If you are age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year, you are permitted to make additional, “catch-up”, elective deferral contributions. These catch-up contributions are not subject to the annual general limits that apply to 401k plans. The catch-up contribution you can make for a year cannot exceed the lesser of the annual catch-up contribution limit, or the excess of your compensation over the elective deferrals that are not catch-up contributions.

____________

[2013 contribution limits update] The IRS has released 2013 employee sponsored retirement plan –  401k, 403b, and Government Thrift Savings Plans – limits and employees will be able to contribute an additional $500 per year, up to $17,500,  on a pre-tax basis next year. This was the second consecutive year of increases to contribution limits.  The catch-up contribution limit available to employees over 50, remained unchanged at $5,500.

The maximum limit for defined contribution plan deferrals from all sources (employer and employee combined) increased to $51,000 per participant from $50,000 in 2012.

____________________

[Updated for 2012 contribution limits] The IRS has now released the official 2012 401k, 403b and other retirement plan contribution limits, which reflect a $500 increase over the 2011 standard contribution limit. This is a result of higher inflation and the latest cost of living adjustment (COLA) figures. The 2012 contribution limit is the first increase in three years. Each year in October these limits are adjusted according to a formula based on the inflation rate (linked to COLA) in the third quarter vs. the previous year’s quarter.

What this means for your 401k, 403b and other retirement plans: The maximum amount an employee can contribute to a 401k in 2012 will increase to $17,000 and for individuals over the age of 50, their catch-up contribution will remain unchanged at $5,500 (see table). The Federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan and other retirement-savings plans – like 403(b) and 457(b) plans – are subject to the same limits.

According to a recent survey of more than 550,000 401k accounts, very few Americans are actually saving the maximum allowable per year. Only 7% of workers with a 401(k) plan came within $500 of contributing the maximum allowed by the IRS or their plan limit and that on average, retirement plan participants contribute 6.8% percent of their salaries on a pre-tax basis.

2012 Maximum Employee and Employer 401K Contribution Limits and Catch-up Amounts

Contribution deadlines: Remember, unlike IRA plans where you have until April 15th (tax filing deadline) of the subsequent year to make contributions, you must make all your 401K or 403b contributions within the calendar year. Some employers do offer extensions, but rarely is this the case.

————
[Previous Update – Oct 2009] Many workers have failed to take advantage of higher limits in 401K plans over the last few years. Not surprising given the stock market crash of the year past, which meant that the last thing people probably wanted to look at and deal with was their 401K retirement accounts. However, investing via your employer sponsored 401K or Individual retirement plan (IRA) is still your best form of automatic long term investing thanks to the tax deductions, employer matches and the benefits of compounding. Even fractionally increasing your 401K contributions can lead to significantly higher retirement savings down the road.

More on the 401K limits and contribution rules

The 401k contribution limit jumped up to $16,500 as of January 1st, 2009 (which is unchanged in 2010). That’s a $1000 (6.5%) jump from the $15,500 limit in 2008.

Catch up Contribution Limits for those 50+ has also increased

If you are age 50 or older and your employer allows it, you are also be eligible to make “catch-up 401k contributions” in addition to your regular 401k limits. These catch up contribution limits have also increased to a total of $5,500 which brings the 2009/2010 maximum 401K contribution limit to $22,000 for those over 50. For all those people who feel that they do not have enough of a retirement nest egg, this higher contribution gives them a great tax free opportunity to catch up.

Next Steps

With the stock market in recovery, investing now could be the best decision for many to restart investing in their retirement accounts, or to increase your contribution you normally need to contact your payroll/benefits department or your 401K administrator (like Vanguard, Fidelity etc), and make sure you have the right asset allocation for your age. If you cannot afford to contribute up to the maximum, then try to at least contribute up to your available employer match.

After no change in 2010 401K , thanks to near zero real inflation, it is likely that in 2011 we will only see marginal increase again. However some new retirement legislation like 401K/IRA to Roth IRA rollovers are still available in 2011 and could be beneficial for many looking to implement smart tax strategies in a rising tax environment and possible expiration of bush tax cuts.

87 thoughts on “2017 vs 2018 401k, 403b, 457 and TSP Contribution Limits and Catch-up Amounts

  1. Sam Grills

    Lead paragraph posted max value of $6,000 and table posted max value of $6,500 are not consistent for catch-up:
    2017 vs 2018 401k, 403b, 457 and TSP Contribution Limits and Catch-up Amounts
    [Updated with the latest 2018 contribution limits] The IRS has released updated employer sponsored retirement plan limits, which covers 401(k), 403(b), 457 and Government Thrift Savings (TSP) plans. The annual contribution limit, which is indexed to inflation increased by $500 in 2018. This means the maximum amount employees will be able to contribute on a pre-tax basis in 2018 will still be $18,500 (vs $18,000 in 2017). The catch-up pre-tax contribution limit available to employees over 50 remained unchanged at $6,000. Details are in the table below.

    Year

    Contribution Limit

    Maximum Employer Contribution

    Max. for ALL Contributions (excl. Catch-up)

    Additional Catch-up Amount (age > 50)

    Year

    Contribution Limit

    Maximum Employer Contribution

    Max. for ALL Contributions (excl. Catch-up)

    Additional Catch-up Amount (age > 50)

    2018
    $18,500

    $36,500

    $55,000

    $6,500

    Reply
    1. Andys2i Post author

      Thanks for “catching” this. It should be $6,000 – unchanged from last year.

      Reply
  2. gracine barone

    If I didn’t take advantage of the “catch up” opportunities for my 403=B when I turned 55 but want to catch up now that I am 65, can I put the “lost” years worth of catch up into my account starting now? For example, 10 years at 5,500. = 55,000…… can I use some of that 55,000 to deposit into my 403-B for the next 3 years? I plan on working another 3 years.

    Reply
    1. Linda Behner

      Sorry, catch-up contributions for your 403(b) are limited to the current year and must be made by Dec. 31st. You cannot make up for lost time, so to speak. You can for 2017 contribute a maximum of $18,000 + $6,000 for over age 50 as long as your are working.

      You can also contribute to a Traditional deductible, Traditional non-deductible Individual Retirement Account (IRA), for a maximum of $5500 + $1000 catch-up for over age 50 as long as you have earned income until you are age 70 1/2. Deductible IRAs are subject to income limits. Non-deductible Traditional IRAs are not. ROTH IRAs have the same contribution limits and are also subject to income limits and phase-outs. However, ROTH IRAs can be contributed to as long as you have earned income even after age 70 1/2. At age 70 1/2 Traditional IRAs are subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) but ROTH IRA accounts are not.

      Reply
  3. Jim

    Our company matches regular deferrals but not the catch up provision. They consider the first 18k as the non catch up deferral and then they balance the catch up. This method ends up shorting me on the company match since I hit the 18k in September. Is this normal to treat it this way or can you designate a certain percentage as deferral and the balance as catch up?

    Reply
  4. Don

    Hello – I have a few questions –

    If I turn 50 before April 15th this year – Can I contribute more toward my 2016 ROTH IRA? Also are their allowances for my 2016 deferred 457 plan?

    As far as 2017 – since I turn 50 this year – can I immediately contribute more toward my ROTH IRA or my Deferred 457 plan now or do I have to wait until my actual 50th birthday before I can contribute the additional amounts?

    Reply
    1. Linda Behner

      To contribute the additional $1000 catch-up for IRAs, you must have been age 50 by Dec. 31st. of the year you wish to make the contribution to. So for 2016, no catch-up.

      Reply
      1. Liz

        Hi Don,

        I am assuming you are a government employees because you are contributing to 457. Although I am not yet 50 but I am contributing to 401k (18K max) and 457 (18K max) = 36K/year.

        Reply
  5. Tina

    I am over 50 and I’m a federal employee.
    This year, I planned my TSP contributions to be $24,000 in my 403B and $6500 in my ROTH (Total $30,500). My contributions were changed without notice to me. Looks like TSP is stopping at $24,000 combined. Is this right? I have called TSP and they were unsure. Can I put the difference in other accounts (403B and ROTH) that I have?

    Reply
    1. John

      $18,000 (limit) +$6,000 (catch up) =$24,000. You’re limited out of personal contributions.

      Reply
      1. Linda Behner

        Do not confuse contributions to a TSP/403(b), either traditional pre-tax or Roth post-tax, with contributions to IRAs, either traditional pre-tax, traditional post-tax, or Roth post-tax. One has nothing to do with the other. TSP/403(b)/401(k) annual limits are in the “employer sponsored” category. Traditional deductible IRAs, Traditional non-deductible IRAs, and ROTH IRAs are in the “Individual” category.

        Your TSP and ROTH IRA are not related and the amounts are not combined for limitations. Your TSP limit for 2017 is $18,000 + $6000 catch-up for age 50 and older. Your employer should have no knowledge of your ROTH IRA contributions. Your ROTH IRA limit is $5500 + $1000 catch-up for age 50 and older.

        Contributions to your TSP are not limited by your Adjusted Gross Income.

        The ability to contribute to ROTH IRAs are subject to phase-out depending on you Adjusted Gross Income. For single filers, phase-out begins at an AGI or $118,000. Those with an AGI of $133,000 or higher are not eligible to contribute to a ROTH IRA. The limits for Married, filing jointly, phase-out begins at $186,000. Those with an AGI of $196,000 or higher are not eligible.

        Reply
  6. Andy (Author)

    Yes. Contribution limits are annual. Just one question though – the limit for 2016 is $18K, so I assume the $24K includes employer contributions or maybe part of a SEP IRA plan?

    Reply
      1. Linda Behner

        The 401(k), 403(b), TSP, employee contribution limits in 2017 are $18,000 plus a catch-up of $6,000 if the employee is over age 50. The employee + employer match combined limit for a Defined Contribution plan is $54,000. Congratulations if your employer contributes enough match to reach this limit.

        Reply
  7. Kurt

    Match-eligible participants can receive 50% of their contribution amount, up to the first 6% of eligible pay, with a maximum match of $1,000 in 2014. How much should I contribute to get $1000?
    How to calculate this?

    Reply
    1. John

      For your employer to match contribute the full $1,000, you would have to contribute at least $2,000. This assumes you are making over $33,333.33.

      Reply
  8. Linda

    I am currently enrolled in a employer sponsored 401K and am doing catch up since I’m currently 68. If I plan to retire this year before year end..can I still put the maximum of 24,000 (2015) in my 401K before I retire, or do I have to pro-rate what I contribute based on the portion of the year I plan to work?
    Thanks

    Reply
  9. Robert

    Hi,
    I am contributing the max of 15% of my paycheck, I will reach the max allowable by goverment in July, what happens then? The plan stops witholding? That would be good except I will lose the 5% match by company for the rest of the year!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Andy (Author)

      It depends on your company. At a lot of companies the plan administration leaves it to the employee to check contributions. If you over contribute you will have to pay it back at tax time and may face a penalty for over contribution.

      Yes the match is only for the maximum allowed amount. So you lose it once you hit the max.

      Reply
      1. Mike

        Your match to 401k on last contribution occurs prorated to that contribution against the 5%. If your last contribution to reach limit was 5% of salary vs. the normal 15%, you would get your full match to 401k. Less than 5% means less match to 401k. The difference to the 5% for that pay plus 5% match for the remainder of year accrues to a catch up account each pay. That accrued money goes into 401K early in Q1 of following year. My firm does it around Feb 10. If not there on that date, I don’t know what happens to the match.

        Reply
  10. Lynn

    If I just got a new part time job making 28,000 is there any reason why I can’t save the maximum $17,500 in my employers 403b? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Andy

      For 2012 and 2013, the IRS has published guidelines that specify a total of employer and employee contributions in a 403b plan cannot exceed the lesser of $50,000 for 2012 and $51,000 for 2013 or 100% of includible compensation, plus any age 50 catch-up contributions.

      But the 100% of employee’s includible compensation is based on comp for your most recent year of service. So this year you should be able to contribute the full $17,500 – assuming you stay employed.

      Reply
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  14. Dave S.

    I am 59, I have not made any catch up contributions to my 401K. Am I limited to the $5500 each year now or can I contribute more since I did not in previous years?

    Reply
    1. Andy (Author)

      You can make catch-up contributions of $1,000 since you are over 50 (to an annual total maximum of $6,500). Unfortunately, though you cannot make retroactive contributions for years you missed out on, since April 15 of the following tax year is the cut-off date.

      Reply
      1. Teressa

        If you are over the age of 50 you can contribute $24,000 ($18,000 in Salary Deferrals and $6,000 catch up) in an Employer Sponsored 401(k) Plan. The only limits that could be Imposed are if you are a Highly Compensated employee and the plan as a whole can not pass ADP/ACP discrimination testing. If that were the case part or your excess deferrals that are to be returned can be re-characterized as catch up. So you would still get the $6,000 in catch up and whatever the deferral amount that is not returned to pass testing.

        I think Andy misunderstood and his answer applies to IRA contributions and not am Employer sponsored 401(k) Plan. Would that be the case Andy?

        Reply
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  19. maureen

    With a defined contribution plan (Safe Harbor and profit sharing) and a matching 401k plan, all contributions in total will exceed the $49,000 limit. In the total amount calculated to reach the $49,000 limit, does the catch-up $5,500 that I put in above the 16,500 count in the $49,000 upper limit? As such, the last payment of the year, the profit sharing piece from the company, has to be limited to the remaining gap to reach the $49,000. But i and the company are questioning if my catch up $5,500 is including in that $49,000, therefore the profit sharing has to be lower then the determined amount for employees. (difference is paid out in another form.)

    Reply
  20. Wendy

    We have a 403b where I work and when we retire we are paid for 100 sick days if we have 100 days accrued. One of the accountants wants to have our contract changed to state that we can either accept this as a cash payment (which is what they do now) or we can opt to have this deposited into our 403b to save on the taxes. From what I am reading in your post, I am thinking that this money could only be deposited up to the maximum employee contribution for the year as this is our own accrued money and not the school districts contribution (also, they do not contribute to our 403b only the employees do).

    Reply
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  23. Janet Riessman

    Question: I just started at a job and plan to contribute the max to my 403(b) account. I am currently 49 years old, but turn 50 in August. Am I allowed to take advantage of the Age 50 Catch Up Contribution beginning now (Feb), as when I file my 2011 taxes I will be 50, or literally can I not contribute until I turn 50 in August? If the latter is the case, I assume I can contribute that extra $5500 in the months between my 50th birthday and the end of the calendar year ($1375 extra per month Sept-Dec)…?

    Many thanks!

    Reply
    1. andys2i

      Janet – According to the IRS, you can only make catch-up contributions when you are at age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year. So as you were 49, at the end of 2011 you won’t be able to make catch-up contributions for that tax year (even though you have till April 2012 to make contributions). But this year (2012) you will be eligible to make the full – $5,500 – catch-up contribution amount.

      Reply
  24. anthony

    can both my wife and i contribute to 401k’s for the maximum amount (at diferent companies) of f approx $17,000? I’m over 50… so i can invest the extra catch up amount….

    or can I contribute to my hospital’s 401k + catch up and can she invest in a ira or roth ira at the same time? are there any maximum amounts for couples?

    Reply
  25. RJ

    Assume you are covered by a defined-benefit plan and you contribute a certain amount for this plan. If, in addition, you have a 401(K) and 457(B) plan in effect, what is the total amount you are allowed to contribute to all of these three plans. Is there an overall annual limit applicable to these three plans together?

    Reply
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  27. Jay Wilcox

    What is the maximum contribution a Missouri city may make to its employees’ 401K plans?

    Reply
    1. andys2i

      Great question and I updated the post with the information. Your employer’s 401K maximum contribution limit is is $49,000 or 100% of your salary, whichever is the smaller amount. Though most employers rarely give anywhere near the maximum, with most employers matching 3% to 6% of employee contributions. Technically, this means that your employer could contribute up to $32,500, if they wanted to, and it would not count against your $16,500 personal contribution maximum .

      Reply
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    1. Andy

      Answer: Very little. Both are offered by your employer, both may or may not feature employer matching contributions, both take contributions pre-tax up to a specified yearly limit, both are called “defined contribution” plans (versus “defined benefit” like pensions), and both are great ways to save for retirement. The differences between the two types of plans have been greatly minimized with the passing of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Remember, the names of these plans are derived from the section of the United States Internal Revenue Code under which they are defined. The three main ones are the 401(k), the 403(b), the 401(a) and the 457. So, it’s not necessarily the case that the plans are different, they’re just specified in different sections. That being the case, the main difference is that the 401(k) is offered by for-profit businesses whereas the 403(b) is offered by not-for-profit businesses. [The 401(a) and the 457 cover employees of state and local governments and some other tax-exempt organizations.] For all intents and purposes to the employee, there are very few other differences (you can get your money out earlier than 59.5 under certain circumstances) but there is proposed legislation to bring the two plans even closer together. If you’re deciding between two jobs (even if it’s your current job versus your potential new job), one that offers a 401(k) and another that offers a 403(b), rest assured that they’re basically the same so it should not affect your decision

      Reply
  29. mike

    What is the maximum amount that an employer is allowed to contribute to an employee’s retirement plan – for a non-profit corporation, if that makes a difference.

    Reply
  30. Olly

    Can you contribute the limit 16,500 to 401k and then contribute to your 403b at another job up to 16,500? which total 33,000 a year for retirement.

    Reply
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  35. c nguyen

    Hi , I am 40 yo now, and I am making more than 250K. I currently work for a small company which provide 401K. I do contribute maximum amount of $16,500. I also own a side bussiness and I did contribute a maximum amount of $11,500 this year into Sep IRA. I know that is only $27,000 total can be save for this year retirement. I used to have an accountant and I did have profit sharing plan which i can contribute about $40,000 a year. Can you help me, Is there any thing else I can set up to maximize my contribution for retirement. thank you

    Reply
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  38. dev lucas

    hi,

    I was in a training program making 50k per year. I worked from Jan 2010 to June 2010 and then started a job which pays very highly, because my training is now complete so salary is no longer a stipend but a huge check everymonth compared to what I made earlier.

    My training program did not offer any retirement savings. So far I do not have any retirement savings. Since 2010 is already gone can I still open retirement account for tax benefit in 2010 or not?

    When I asked HR division in my company they told me that I can open one for 2011 but not for 2010. Someone who is good in this area told me that I can open independent personal IRA with any of the companies like charlesschwab, fidelity etc for 2010?

    I would like to what you all suggest?

    thanks

    DL

    Reply
      1. dev lucas

        Thanks much andys2i, I really appreciate your help. I read the article you mentioned. Based on that I understand that I can contribute $5000 and my non earning wife also can contribute (hopefully…!) $5000 in IRA for 2010 before April 2011.

        I am planning to do this as pre tax dollars so I can save some money in taxes. My question is between me and my wife do I have option to invest more in pretax money as employee did not provide 401k plan, or do I have to content with max 10000 for us as a couple.

        thanks again for your quick reply.

        DL

        Reply
  39. Jim

    I work for a small company where highly compensated employees apparently cannot contribute the maximum to the 401k plan because of lack of participation by other employees. I am over 59 and would normally make catch-up contributions but apparently cannot because of the current 401k rules. Does anyone know of a publication (IRS or otherwise) which clearly explains the rules regarding highly compensated employees in small company 401k plans and the rules for contributing to these plans if you are over the age of 59. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have searhed in vain on the IRS web site and have called them only to be placed on hold over 1/2 hour several times.

    Reply
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  44. Chris

    DC,

    Would need more information, but the IRS establishes maximum contributions but allows individual employer plans to establish their own rules on contribution limits and percentages. If your employer plan is allowing you contribute 15% and you are within the contribution maximums outlined by the IRS then you should be fine.

    Reply
  45. Alicia

    Hi, If I have already contributed to my ROTH IRA (maximum amount), can I also contribute to my employers 401(k) plan? (new to me this year).
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. andys2i

      Yes. Your Roth IRA limit is 5,000 (assuming you qualify based on income limits). Your 401K contribution is $16,500 or up to 15% of your income (modified AGI). You can and should contribute to both.

      Reply
      1. Joe Black

        andys2i wrote:

        “…to ensure that your Roth IRA contributions are deductible at year end.”

        Roth IRA contributions are deductible?

        Reply
  46. John Walker

    Ehh, the table says 2012 is depends on info released in 2011…so no CJ, it shouldn’t be 2010

    Reply
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  48. DC

    If my employer limits my 401K contribution to 12%, but I’ve only been contributing 7% and I am eligible for the catchup contributions, can I use the catchup contribution percentage to bring my total to 12% of annual salary plus $5500? Their website allowed me to increase my catchup percentage to 15%, but I am wondering if the IRS puts the contributions in separate buckets and I will get in trouble even though I don’t exceed the maximum combined total.

    Reply
    1. Chris / 401k limits

      As above…. Would need more information, but the IRS establishes maximum contributions but allows individual employer plans to establish their own rules on contribution limits and percentages. If your employer plan is allowing you contribute 15% and you are within the contribution maximums outlined by the IRS then you should be fine.

      Basically, contribute as much as your plan will let you…. usually they will not let you exceed the IRS maximums.

      Reply
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  60. Qwoter

    >401k and IRA catch up contributions are usually the best tool utilized by people nearing their retired status, who didn’t save early for their retirement.

    Reply

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