Understanding 401(k) Contribution Limits: 2023-2024

By Pam O’Brien · February 01, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Understanding 401(k) Contribution Limits: 2023-2024

Participating in a 401(k) through your employer can be a good way to contribute to and save for your retirement. One important thing to know is that there are limits on how much you can contribute each year and the amount typically changes, as per guidelines from the IRS.

Read on to find out about the 401(k) contribution limit for 2023 and 2024.

Overview of 401(k) Contribution Limits

The IRS reviews and often adjusts annual 401(k) contribution limits. The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) is increasing in 2024.

Changes in Contribution Limits for 2024

In 2024, you can contribute up to $23,000 in your 401(k). If you’re age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $7,500 to your 401(k) plan for a grand total of $30,500 in annual contributions for 2024.

Yearly Contribution Limits Explained

The IRS reviews the annual contribution limits for 401(k)s, typically in the fall of each year, and adjusts them when necessary to account for inflation. The IRS changed the yearly 401(k) contribution limits (also known as elective deferral limits) for 2023 and 2024.

2023 Contribution Limits

For 2023, you can contribute up to $22,500 to your 401(k). Those age 50 and up may contribute additional catch-up contributions of $7,500 — for a total contribution limit of $30,000.

2024 Contribution Limits

For 2024, the IRS is raising the 401(k) contribution limit once again. You may contribute up to $23,000 to your 401(k) in 2024. However, the catch-up contribution limit for older employees is not changing in 2024; instead it will remain at the 2023 level. That means those age 50 and up may contribute an additional $7,500 to their 401(k) for 2024, for a total of $30,500.


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Employer Contributions and Catch-Up Provisions

One of the factors that makes a 401(k) a good vehicle for saving for retirement is that an employer may also contribute to the plan on your behalf.

And for older employees, the opportunity to make catch-up contributions to help save for retirement can be especially helpful.

Understanding Employer Match Limits

Your employer can make matching contributions to your 401(k) in addition to the funds you contribute. Matching funds may be based on the amount you choose to contribute.

For example, your employer might offer matching funds if you contribute 5% or more of your salary, as an incentive to get you to save. It’s a good idea to save at least the minimum amount to receive an employer’s match. If you don’t, you could be giving up free money.

There is an overall limit on how much you and your employer can contribute to your 401(k) plan each year. The combined limit for employer plus employee contributions in 2023 cannot exceed 100% of your income or is $66,000, whichever is lower. The 2024 combined limit is 100% of your income or $69,000, whichever is lower.

Catch-Up Contributions for Older Investors

If you are over the age of 50, your retirement contribution limit increases. The 401(k) catch-up contribution lets you fill in gaps in your retirement savings as you get closer to retirement. In 2023 and 2024, you can make up to $7,500 in catch-up contributions.

Roth 401(k) vs Traditional 401(k) Limits

In addition to traditional 401(k)s, there are other types of employer-sponsored retirement accounts, such as a Roth 401(k). The main difference between a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k) is that contributions to a Roth 401(k) are made after-tax, while contributions to a traditional 401(k) are made with pre-tax dollars. Money grows inside a Roth 401(k) account tax-free and is not subject to income tax when you withdraw it.

Like a traditional 401(k), a Roth 401(k) has contribution limits.

Understanding Roth 401(k) Limits

Employee contribution limits for Roth 401(k)s are $22,500 for 2023, and $23,000 for 2024, the same as traditional 401(k)s. Roth 401(k) catch-up contribution limits for those 50 and up are $7,500 in 2022 and 2023 — also the same as catch-up contribution limits for traditional 401(k)s.

Comparing Traditional 401(k) Limits

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of traditional 401(k) contribution limits for 2023 and 2024.

Traditional 401(k)

2023

2024

Employee contribution limit $22,500 $23,000
Catch-up contribution limit $7,500 $7,500
Combined employee and employer contribution limit $66,000 $69,000

Managing Multiple 401(k) Plans

You may have multiple 401(k) plans, including some with previous employers. In that case, the same yearly contribution limits still apply.

Contribution Limits with Multiple Employers

Even if you have 401(k) plans with multiple employers, you must abide by the same annual contribution limits across all your plans. So, for 2023, the maximum you can contribute to all your 401(k) plans is $22,500, and for 2024, the maximum amount you can contribute is $23,000. You can split these total amounts across the different plans, or contribute them to just one plan.

After-Tax 401(k) Contribution Rules

Some 401(k) plans allow for after-tax contributions. What this means is that as long as you haven’t reached the maximum combined limit of your plan — which is $66,000 in 2023 — you can make after-tax contributions up to the maximum combined limit.

For instance, if you contribute $22,500 to your 401(k) in 2023, and your employer contributes $5,000 through an employer match, you can contribute an additional $38,500 in after-tax dollars, if your plan allows it, to reach the $66,000 maximum.

Excess Contributions and Their Implications

Figuring out how much you want to contribute to your 401(k) can be tricky. And you’re not allowed to go over the contribution limits or you may face penalties.

Handling Over-Contribution

If you contribute too much to your 401(k), you could be charged a 10% fine. You might also owe income tax on the excess amount.

Fortunately, many 401(k) plans have automatic cut-offs in place to help you avoid excess contributions. However, if you change jobs or you have more than one 401(k) plan, you might accidentally contribute too much. If you realize you’ve done this, you have until April 15 to request that the excess contributions be returned to you, along with any earnings those contributions made while they were in your 401(k). You can report excess contributions when you file your taxes using form 1099-R.

Strategies to Avoid Excess Contributions

To avoid making excess 401(k) contributions:

•   Check the maximum contribution limits each year.

•   If you get a raise, reassess your contribution amount to make sure you’re not exceeding it.

•   If you have more than one 401(k) plan, review your contributions across all of your plans to make sure you’re not exceeding the maximum contribution limits.

Maximizing Your 401(k) Contributions

When you have a 401(k), you’ll want to get the most out of it to help you save for retirement. Here’s how.

Ideal Contribution Strategies

To maximize your 401(k):

•   Start contributing to the plan as soon as you can. The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.

•   Contribute at least enough to get the employer match on your 401(k). If you don’t, you are essentially passing up free money.

•   Keep track of all your 401(k) plans to make sure you don‘t exceed the annual contribution limits. And if you have a 401(k) from a previous employer, you might want to do a 401(k) rollover to potentially get more out of the plan.

Balancing 401(k) with Other Retirement Plans

Along with your 401(k), you can open other types of retirement accounts to help you save for your golden years. For instance, consider opening a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, which are both tax-advantaged plans. You can save up to $6,500 in 2023 (and $7,000 in 2024) in a traditional or Roth IRA, plus an extra $1,000 each year if you are over age 50 — and that’s in addition to what you can save in your 401(k).

Having more than one type of retirement plan could potentially help you reach your financial goals faster. Not only can you put away more money for your retirement, an IRA typically gives you more investing options that a 401(k) does, making it more flexible. It can also assist you with diversifying your portfolio to help manage risk and potentially help grow your retirement savings.

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FAQ

What is the maximum 401(k) contribution for 2023?

The maximum 401(k) contribution limit for 2023 is $22,500. Those aged 50 and up may contribute an additional $7,500 in 2023.

Are 401(k) contribution limits changing in 2024?

Yes, 401(k) contribution limits are changing in 2024. The 401(k) contribution limit in 2024 is $23,000. Individuals who are 50 and older can contribute an additional $7,500 to their 401(k) in 2024.

Can I contribute 100% of my salary to a 401(k)?

If you make less than $23,000 annually, you may be able to contribute 100% of your salary to a 401(k). However, your specific 401(k) plan may limit the amount you can contribute.

You should also note that there is an overall limit on how much you and your employer can contribute to your 401(k) plan each year. The combined limit for employer plus employee contribution in 2023 cannot exceed 100% of your income or is $66,000, whichever is lower. The 2024 combined limit is 100% of your income or $69,000, whichever is lower.

Is there a salary cap for 401(k) contributions?

Yes, there are income limit rules for 401(k) contributions. The amount of compensation eligible for 401(k) contributions in 2023 is $330,000. Anything above that amount of compensation is not eligible for contribution. What this means is that while you can contribute up to the maximum employee contribution, which is $22,500 in 2023, your employer can only match up to the income limit.

What happens if I exceed the 401(k) max?

If you contribute too much to your 401(k), you could be charged a 10% penalty. You might also owe income tax on the excess amount. If you realize you’ve exceeded the 401(k) maximum, you have until April 15 to request that the excess contributions be returned to you, along with any earnings the contributions made while they were in your 401(k). You can report excess contributions on form 1099-R when you file your taxes.

How much can I contribute to a 401(k) if I’m 50 years of age or older?

If you are 50 or older, you can contribute up to $30,000 in your 401(k) in 2023, and up to $30,500 in 2024. This includes an additional $7,500 each year in catch-up contributions.


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