Catch-Up Contributions, Explained

By Laurel Tincher · April 02, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Catch-Up Contributions, Explained

Catch-up contributions allow individuals 50 and older to contribute additional money to their workplace retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s, as well as to individual retirement accounts (IRAs).

Catch-up contributions are designed to help those approaching retirement age save more money for their retirement as they draw closer to that time.

Learn how catch-up contributions work, the eligibility requirements, and how you might be able to take advantage of these contributions to help reach your retirement savings goals.

What Is a Catch-Up Contribution?

A catch-up contribution is an additional contribution individuals 50 and older can make to a retirement savings plan beyond the standard allowable limits. In addition to 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs, catch-up contributions can also be made to Thrift Savings Accounts, 457 plans, and SIMPLE IRAs.

Catch-up contributions were created as a provision of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) of 2001. They were originally planned to end in 2010. However, catch-up contributions became permanent with the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

The idea behind catch-up contributions is to help older individuals who may not have been able to save for retirement earlier in their careers, or those who experienced financial setbacks, to “catch up.” The additional contributions could increase their retirement savings and improve their financial readiness for their golden years.

While employer-sponsored retirement plans are not required to allow plan participants to make catch-up contributions, most do. In fact, nearly all workplace retirement plans offer catch-up contributions, according to a 2023 report by Vanguard.

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Catch-Up Contribution Limits: 2023-2024

Each year, the IRS evaluates and modifies contribution limits for retirement plans, primarily taking the effects of inflation into account. The standard annual contribution limit for a 401(k) in 2023 is $22,500, and $23,000 for 2024. For a traditional or Roth IRA, the standard contribution limit is $6,500 in 2023, and for 2024 the limit is $7,000.

Catch-up contributions can be made on top of those amounts. Here are the catch-up contribution limits for 2023 and 2024 for some retirement savings plans.

Plan 2023 Catch-Up Limit 2024 Catch-Up Limit
IRA (traditional or Roth) $1,000 $1,000
401(k) $7,500 $7,500
403(b) $7,500 $7,500
SIMPLE IRA $3,500 $3,500
457 $7,500 $7,500
Thrift Savings Account $7,500 $7,500

This means that you can make an additional $7,500 in catch-up contributions to your 401(k) for a grand total of up to $30,000 in 2023 and $30,500 in 2024. And with traditional and Roth IRA catch-up contributions of $1,000 for both years, you can contribute up to $7,500 in 2023 and $8,000 in 2024 to your IRA.

Catch-Up Contribution Requirements

In order to take advantage of catch-up contributions, individuals need to be age 50 or older — or turn 50 by the end of the calendar year. If eligible, they can make catch-up contributions each year after that if they choose to — up to the annual contribution limit.

Certain retirement plans may have other allowances for catch-up eligibility. For instance, with a 403(b), in addition to the catch-up contributions for participants based on age, employees with at least 15 years of service may be able to make additional contributions, depending on the rules of their employer’s plan.

To maximize the advantages of catch-up contributions, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the rules of your plan as part of your retirement planning strategy.

Benefits of Catch-Up Contributions

There are a number of benefits to making catch-up contributions to eligible retirement plans.

•   Increased retirement savings: By helping to make up for earlier periods of lower contributions to your retirement savings plan, catch-up contributions allow you to increase your savings and potentially grow your nest egg in the years closest to retirement.

•   Possible tax benefits: Making catch-up contributions may help lower your taxable income for the year you make them. That’s because contributions to 401(k)s and traditional IRAs are made with pre-tax dollars, giving you a right-now deduction. And contributions beyond the standard limits could lower your taxable income for the year even more. (Of course, you will pay tax on the money when you withdraw it in retirement, but you may be in a lower tax bracket by then.)

•   Additional security: Making catch-up contributions may give you an extra financial cushion as you approach retirement age. And those contributions may add up in a way that could surprise you. For instance, if you contribute an additional $7,500 to your retirement account from age 50 to 65, assuming an annualized rate of return of 7%, you could end up with more than $200,000 extra in your account.

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

How to Make Catch-Up Contributions

To make catch-up contributions to an employer-sponsored plan, contact your plan’s administrator or log into your account online. The process is typically incorporated into a retirement savings plan’s structure, and you should be able to easily indicate the amount you want to contribute as a catch-up.

To make IRA catch-up contributions, contact your IRA custodian (typically the institution where you opened the IRA) to start the process. In general, you have until the due date for your taxes (for example, April 15, 2024 for your 2023 taxes) to make catch-up contributions.

Finally, keep tabs on all your retirement plan contributions, including catch-ups, to make sure you aren’t exceeding the annual limits.

The Takeaway

For those 50 and up, catch-up contributions can be an important way to help build retirement savings. They can be an especially useful tool for individuals who weren’t able to save as much for retirement when they were younger. By contributing additional money to their 401(k) or IRA now, they can work toward a goal of a comfortable and secure retirement.

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Do you get employer match on catch-up contributions?

It depends on whether your plan allows employer matching for catch-up contributions. Not all plans do. Even if your employer does match catch-up contributions, they might set a limit on the total amount they will match overall. Check with your plan administrator to find out what the rules are.

Are catch-up contributions worth it?

Catch-up contributions can be beneficial to older workers by helping them potentially build a bigger retirement nest egg. These contributions may be especially helpful for those who haven’t been able to save as much for retirement earlier in their lifetime. Making catch-up contributions might also provide them with tax benefits by lowering their taxable income so that they could possibly save even more money.

How are catch-up contributions taxed?

For retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, catch-up contributions are typically tax deductible, lowering an individual’s taxable income in the year they contribute. However, catch-up contributions to Roth IRAs are made with after-tax dollars. That means you pay taxes on the money you contribute now, but your withdrawals are generally tax-free in retirement.

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