Setting financial goals can give you something to work toward as you try to create a solid financial standing for both now and the future, and while maxing out retirement accounts sounds like a lofty prospect, it will pay off dividends down the road if you manage to pull it off.
TD Ameritrade looked into how feasible consistently maxing out retirement accounts is, and apparently only one in five Americans manage to pull it off, according to its 2019 Retirement Pulse survey.
Breaking down the generational approach to maxing out retirement accounts found baby boomers were the best of the bunch, which makes sense considering they are more likely to have more income and they have probably already made larger purchases in life like a new home.
Over 1/4 of boomers (28%) max out both 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts, according to the survey. It may come as a surprise, but Millennials were in second with 18% maxing 401(k)s and 17% maxing IRAs.
Gen X were in a distant third with only 16% maxing 401(k)s and 9% maxing IRAs, but that could be because of financial pressures of supporting both children and aging parents.
Of course, maxing out retirement accounts is quite a feat considering 2020 limits are set at $19,500, and anyone over 50 can contribute an additional $6,500 through catch-up contributions. You can also contribute $6,000 to an IRA or $7,000 for anyone age 50 or older.
That doesn’t mean you can’t work toward maxing retirement accounts. Here are some things you can do to work toward the financial milestone.
Make Maxing Out Retirement Accounts a Goal
Maxing out retirement accounts is hard, no doubt. Even if that isn’t in the cards right now, you can still make efforts toward it and achieve a comfortable life after leaving the workforce. While it would be great to just have an extra $19,500-plus lying around to throw into these accounts, it’s most likely not the case.
The first thing you may want to consider is using a retirement calculator like this one from CalcXML to help you create a savings goal that can make saving feel a little less abstract. It feels good to achieve something, and seeing an actual number that you are working toward feels good because you’ll see progress.
Maximizing your employer’s 401(k) match should be a top priority when it comes to maxing out retirement accounts. This is free money that your company is offering for your future self, so do whatever needed to get what you are entitled to. Every dollar your employer contributes is one less you have to worry about.
Don’t put your monthly expenses in jeopardy, though, of course. It’s also important to know your own company’s vesting schedule so you don’t lose all or some of your employer match for leaving before you are fully vested.
Another area that can help you max out retirement accounts is to watch your discretionary spending. Tracking spending on entertainment and dining out for even just one month can be a real eye-opener. My wife and I have been using the budgeting tool You Need a Budget to track our expenses and budget for our future, and I was shocked to see how much we were blowing at restaurants and bars.
Finally, you may consider delaying your retirement. Of course, this isn’t an ideal option if you’re approaching your desired retirement age, but even a couple extra years in the workforce can help you really bolster your 401(k) and IRA.
Maxing out retirement accounts seems like quite a feat, but it is possible. Thinking about your future more, or talking to a financial professional, can help you craft a plan that makes it a reality for you and your family down the road.