TFSA vs RRSP: What’s the Difference?

TFSA vs RRSP: What’s the Difference?

Both TFSAs and RRSPs are accounts that provide Canadian consumers with a chance to save while enjoying investment earnings and unique tax benefits. While a TFSA acts as a more general savings account, an RRSP is used for retirement savings.

Saving is never a bad idea, so here you can learn the difference between these accounts and how they can play a role in securing your financial future.

Keep reading for a more detailed breakdown of a TFSA vs. RRSP so you can make the right financial move for your needs.

What Is the TFSA?

A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a type of registered tax-advantaged savings account to help Canadians earn money on their savings — tax-free. TFSA accounts were created in 2009 by the Canadian government to encourage eligible citizens to contribute to this type of savings account.

Essentially, a TFSA holds qualified investments that can generate capital gains, interest, and dividends, and they’re tax-free. These accounts can be used to build an emergency fund, to save for a down payment on a home, or even to finance a dream vacation.

A TFSA can contain the following types of investments:

•   Cash

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Mutual funds

It’s possible to withdraw the contributions and earnings generated from dividends, interest, and capital gains without having to pay any taxes. Accountholders don’t even have to report withdrawals as income when it’s time to file taxes.

There is a limit to how much someone can contribute to a TFSA on an annual basis. This limit is referred to as a contribution limit, and every year the Canadian government determines what the contribution limit for that year is. If someone doesn’t meet the contribution limit one year, their remaining allowed contributions can be made up for in following years.

To contribute to a TFSA, an individual must be at least 18 years of age and be a Canadian resident with a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN).

💡 Quick Tip: Tired of paying pointless bank fees? When you open a bank account online you often avoid excess charges.

What Is the RRSP?

A Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is, as the name indicates, a type of savings plan specifically designed to help boost retirement savings. To obtain one, a Canadian citizen must register with the Canadian federal government for this financial product and can then start saving.

When someone contributes to an RRSP, their contributions are considered to be tax-advantaged. What this means: The funds they contribute to their RRSP are exempt from being taxed the year they make the contribution (which can reduce the total amount of taxes they need to pay for that year). On top of that, the investment income these contributions generate will grow tax-deferred. This means the account holder won’t pay any taxes on the earnings until they withdraw them.

Unlike a TFSA, there isn’t a minimum age requirement to open and contribute to an RRSP. That being said, certain financial institutions may require their customers to be the age of majority in order to contribute. It’s possible to contribute to an RRSP until the year the account holder turns 71 as long as they are a Canadian resident, earned an income, and filed a tax return.

Keep reading for a TFSA vs. RRSP comparison.

Similarities Between a TFSA and an RRSP

How does a TFSA vs. RRSP compare? There are a few similarities between TFSAs and RRSPs that are worth highlighting. Here are the main ways in which they are the same:

•   Only Canadians citizens can contribute

•   Contributions can help reach savings goals

•   Investments can be held in each account type

•   Both accounts offer tax advantages.

Differences Between a TFSA and RRSP

Next, let’s answer this question: What is the difference between an RRSP and a TFSA? Despite the fact that both an RRSP and a TFSA share similar goals (saving money and earning interest on it) and advantages (tax benefits), they have some key differences to be aware of.

•   Intended use. RRSPs are for retirement savings whereas TFSAs can be used to save for any purpose.

•   Age eligibility. To contribute to a TFSA one must be 18 years old, but there isn’t an age requirement to open an RRSP.

•   Contribution limit. The limits are usually set annually and are different for TFSAs and RRSPs. For 2024, the contribution limit for an RRSP is the lesser of either 18% of earned income reported on an individual’s tax return for the previous year or the contribution limit, which is currently $31,560 in US dollars. The limit for a TFSA, which also can vary annually, was most recently $7,000.

•   Taxation on withdrawals. While RRSP withdrawals are taxable (but subject to certain exceptions), TFSA withdrawals can be made at any time tax-free.

•   Taxation on contributions. Contributions made to a TFSA aren’t tax-deductible, but RRSP contributions are.

•   Plan maturity. An RRSP matures at the end of the calendar year that the account holder turns 71. TFSAs don’t have age limits for account maturity.

•   Spousal contributions. There is no form of spousal TFSA available, but someone can contribute to a spousal RRSP.

How Do I Choose Between a TFSA and RRSP?

Choosing between a TFSA and an RRSP depends on someone’s unique savings goals and tax preferences. That being said, if someone’s main goal is saving for retirement, they’ll likely find that an RRSP is the right fit for them. When someone contributes to an RRSP, they can defer paying taxes during their peak earning years. Once they retire and make withdrawals (which they will need to pay taxes on), they will ideally have a lower income (and be in a lower tax bracket) and smaller tax liabilities at that point in their life.

If someone wants to be able to use their savings for a variety of different purposes (perhaps including a medium-term goal like the amount needed for a down payment on a home), they may find that a TFSA offers them more flexibility.
That said, there’s no reason TFSA savings can’t be used for retirement later on. Contributing to a TFSA is a great option for someone who has already maxed out their RRSP contributions for the year, but who wants to continue saving and enjoying tax benefits.

Recommended: What Tax Bracket Do I Fall Under?

Can I Have Both a TFSA and RRSP?

It is indeed possible to have both an RRSP and TFSA and to contribute to them at the same time. Putting money into both of these financial vehicles can be a great way to save. There are no downsides associated with contributing to both an RRSP and TFSA at the same time if a person can afford to do so.

Can I Have Multiple RRSP and TFSA Accounts?

Yes, it’s possible to have more than one TFSA and RRSP open at the same time, but there’s no real benefit here. The same contribution limits apply.

That means that opening more than one version of the same account or plan only leads to having more accounts to manage and incurring more administration and management fees. Just as you don’t want to pay fees on your checking account and other bank accounts, you probably don’t want to burn through cash on fees here.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Should I Prioritize One Over the Other?

Which type of account someone should prioritize depends on their savings goals. Their preferences regarding the unique tax advantages of each account may also come into play. That being said, if someone is focused on saving for retirement, they’ll likely want to make sure they max out their RRSP contributions first.

The Takeaway

Both RRSP and TFSA accounts are great ways for Canadian citizens to save for financial goals like retiring or financing a wedding. Each account has unique advantages and contribution limits. While an RRSP account is designed to help with stashing away cash for retirement, a TFSA account can be used to save for any type of financial need. Whether you choose one or both of these products, you’ll be on a path towards saving and helping to secure your financial future.

Are you U.S.-based and looking to increase your savings efforts?

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is it better to invest in TFSA or RRSP?

When it comes to TFSA vs. RRSP, there’s no right answer to whether investing in one is better than the other. Someone focused on saving for retirement may want to prioritize an RRSP, while someone who wants to save for other expenses (like a home or wedding) may find a TFSA more appealing.

Should I max out RRSP or TFSA first?

If someone is focused on saving for retirement, they may want to max out their RRSP first. That being said, this is a personal decision that depends on unique financial goals and tax preferences.

When should you contribute to RRSP vs TFSA?

Typically, the contribution deadline for RRSPs is around March 1st. A Canadian citizen can put funds in a TFSA at any point in a calendar year, and if they don’t max out their account, they will usually be able to contribute the remaining amount in the future.


Photo credit: iStock/anilakkus

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SOBK-Q224-1890414-V1

Read more
Is a Backdoor Roth IRA Right for You?

Backdoor Roth IRAs

Want to contribute to a Roth IRA, but have an income that exceeds the limits? There’s another option. It’s called a backdoor Roth IRA, and it’s a way of converting funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth.

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that may provide investors with a tax-free income once they reach retirement. With a Roth IRA, investors save after-tax dollars, and their money generally grows tax-free. Roth IRAs also provide additional flexibility for withdrawals — once the account has been open for five years, contributions can generally be withdrawn without penalty.

But there’s a catch: Investors can only contribute to a Roth IRA if their income falls below a specific limit. If your income is too high for a Roth, you may want to consider a backdoor Roth IRA.

Key Points

•   A backdoor Roth IRA allows high earners to contribute to a Roth IRA by converting funds from a traditional IRA.

•   This strategy involves paying income taxes on pre-tax contributions and earnings at conversion.

•   There are no income limits or caps on the amount that can be converted to a Roth IRA.

•   The process includes opening a traditional IRA, making non-deductible contributions, and then converting these to a Roth IRA.

•   Potential tax implications include moving into a higher tax bracket and owing taxes on pre-tax contributions and earnings.

What Is a Backdoor Roth IRA?

If you aren’t eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA outright because you make too much, you can do so through a technique called a “backdoor Roth IRA.” This strategy involves contributing money to a traditional IRA and then converting it to a Roth IRA.

The government allows individuals to do this as long as, when they convert the account, they pay income tax on any contributions they previously deducted and any profits made. Unlike a standard Roth IRA, there is no income limit for doing the Roth conversion, nor is there a ceiling to how much can be converted.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to open an IRA account? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

How Does a Backdoor IRA Work?

This is how a backdoor IRA typically works: An individual opens a traditional IRA and makes non-deductible contributions. They then convert the account into a Roth IRA. The strategy is generally most helpful to those who earn a higher salary and are otherwise ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Example Scenario

For instance, let’s say a 34-year-old individual whose tax filing status is single and who makes $150,000 a year wants to open a Roth IRA. Their income is too high for them to be eligible for a Roth directly (more on this below), but they can use the “backdoor IRA” strategy. In order to do this, the individual would open a traditional IRA and contribute non-deductible funds to it. They then convert that money to a Roth IRA.

Recommended: Traditional Roth vs. Roth IRA: How to Choose the Right Plan

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Income and Contribution Limits

In general, Roth IRAs have income limits. In 2024, a single person whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $161,000, or a married couple filing jointly with a MAGI more than $240,000, cannot contribute to a Roth IRA. For tax year 2023, a single filer whose MAGI is more than $153,000, or a married couple filing jointly with a MAGI over $228,000, cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.

There are also annual contribution limits for Roth IRAs. In 2024, an individual can contribute up to $7,000 in a Roth IRA (or up to $8,000 if they are 50 or older). For tax year 2023, an individual can contribute up to $6,500 in a Roth IRA (or up to $7,500 if they are 50 or older). Traditional IRAs have the same contribution limits as Roth IRAs.

How to Set Up and Execute a Backdoor Roth

Here’s how to initiate and complete a backdoor Roth IRA.

•   Open a Traditional IRA. You could do this with SoFi Invest®, for instance.

•   Make a non-deductible contribution to the Traditional IRA.

•   Open a Roth IRA, complete any paperwork that may be required for the conversion, and transfer the money into the Roth IRA.

Tax Impact of a Backdoor Roth

If you made non-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA that you then converted to a Roth IRA, you won’t owe taxes on the money because you’ve already paid taxes on it. However, if you made deductible contributions, you will need to pay taxes on the funds.

In addition, if some time elapsed between contributing to the traditional IRA and converting the money to a Roth IRA, and the contribution earned a profit, you will owe taxes on those earnings.

You might also owe state taxes on a Roth IRA conversion. Be sure to check the tax rules in your area.

Another thing to be aware of: A conversion can also move people into a higher tax bracket, so individuals may consider waiting to do a conversion when their income is lower than usual.

And finally, if an investor already has traditional IRAs, it may create a situation where the tax consequences outweigh the benefits. If an individual has money deducted in any IRA account, including SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, the government will assume a Roth conversion represents a portion or ratio of all the balances. For example, say the individual contributed $5,000 to an IRA that didn’t deduct and another $5,000 to an account that did deduct. If they converted $5,000 to a Roth IRA, the government would consider half of that conversion, or $2,500, taxable.

The tax rules involved with converting an IRA can be complicated. You may want to consult a tax professional.

💡 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.

Is a Backdoor Roth Right for Me?

It depends on your situation. Below are some of the benefits and downsides to a backdoor Roth IRA to help you determine if this strategy might be a good option for you.

Benefits

High earners who don’t qualify to contribute under current Roth IRA rules may opt for a backdoor Roth IRA.

As with a typical Roth IRA, a backdoor Roth may also be a good option when an investor expects their taxes to be lower now than in retirement. Investors who hope to avoid required minimum distributions (RMDs) when they reach age 73 might also consider doing a backdoor Roth.

Downsides

If an individual is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, it won’t make sense for them to do a backdoor conversion.

And because a conversion can also move people into a higher tax bracket, you may consider waiting to do a conversion in a year when your income is lower than usual.

For those individuals who already have traditional IRAs, the tax consequences of a backdoor Roth IRA might outweigh the benefits.

Finally, if you plan to use the converted funds within five years, a backdoor Roth may not be the best option. That’s because withdrawals before five years are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.

Is a Backdoor Roth Still Allowed for 2023? For 2024?

Backdoor IRAs are still allowed for tax year 2023. And at this point, they are still allowed for 2024 as well.

There had been some discussion in previous years of possibly eliminating the backdoor Roth IRA, but as of yet, this has not happened.

The Takeaway

A backdoor Roth IRA may be worth considering if tax-free income during retirement is part of an investor’s financial plan, and the individual earns too much to contribute directly to a Roth.

In general, Roth IRAs may be a good option for younger investors who have low tax rates and people with a high income looking to reduce tax bills in retirement.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Help grow your nest egg with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

What are the rules of a backdoor Roth IRA?

The rules of a backdoor Roth IRA include paying taxes on any deductible contributions you make; paying any other taxes you may owe for the conversion, such as state taxes; and waiting five years before withdrawing any earnings from the Roth IRA to avoid paying a penalty.

Is it worth it to do a backdoor Roth IRA?

It depends on your specific situation. A backdoor Roth IRA may be beneficial if you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA. It may also be advantageous for those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in retirement.

What is the 5-year rule for backdoor Roth IRA?

According to the 5-year rule, if you withdraw money from a Roth IRA before the account has been open for at least five years, you are typically subject to a 10% tax on those funds. The five year period begins in the tax year in which you made the backdoor Roth conversion. There are some possible exceptions to this rule, however, including being 59 ½ or older or disabled.

Do you get taxed twice on backdoor Roth?

No. You pay taxes once on a backdoor IRA — when you convert a traditional IRA with deductible contributions and any earnings to a Roth. When you withdraw money from your Roth in retirement, the withdrawals are tax-free because you’ve already paid the taxes.

Can you avoid taxes on a Roth backdoor?

There is no way to avoid paying taxes on a Roth backdoor. However, you may be able to reduce the amount of tax you owe by doing the conversion in a year in which your income is lower.

Can you convert more than $6,000 in a backdoor Roth?

There is no limit to the amount you can convert in a backdoor Roth IRA. The annual contribution limits for IRAs does not apply to conversions. But you may want to split your conversions over several years to help reduce your tax liability.

What time of year should you do a backdoor Roth?

There is no time limit on when you can do a backdoor Roth IRA. However, if you do a backdoor Roth earlier in the year, it could give you more time to come up with any money you need to pay in taxes.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

SOIN0124018

Read more
woman on phone and laptop in office mobile

What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule? Are There Exceptions?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule is one of the rules that governs what an investor can and can’t do with funds in a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA 5-year rule comes into play when a person withdraws funds from the account; rolls a traditional IRA account into a Roth; or inherits a Roth IRA account.

Here’s what you need to know.

Key Points

•   The Roth IRA 5-year rule requires accounts to be open for five years before earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after age 59 ½.

•   Contributions to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time without penalties.

•   Exceptions to the 5-year rule include reaching age 59 ½, disability, and using funds for a first home purchase.

•   Each conversion from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA starts a new 5-year period for tax purposes.

•   Inherited Roth IRAs also adhere to the 5-year rule, affecting the taxation of earnings withdrawals.

What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule pertains to withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA. A quick reminder of how a Roth works: An individual can contribute funds to a Roth IRA, up to annual limits. For 2024, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is $7,000. Investors 50 and older are allowed to contribute an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions. For 2023, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is $6,500 annually. Investors 50 and older can contribute an extra $1,000.

Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn at any time without tax or penalty, for any reason at any age. However, investment earnings on those contributions can only typically be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free once the investor reaches the age of 59 ½ — and as long as the account has been open for at least a five-year period. The five-year period begins on January 1 of the year you made your first contribution to the Roth IRA. Even if you make your contribution at the very end of the year, you can still count that entire year as year one.

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Example of the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule

To illustrate how the 5-year rule works, say an investor opened a Roth IRA in 2022 to save for retirement. The individual contributed $5,000 to a Roth IRA and earned $400 in interest and they now want to withdraw a portion of the money. Since this retirement account is less than five years old, only the $5,000 contribution could be withdrawn without tax or penalty. If part or all of the investment earnings is withdrawn sooner than five years after opening the account, this money may be subject to a 10% penalty.

In 2027, the investor can withdraw earnings tax-free from the Roth IRA because the five-year period will have passed.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to open a new IRA account? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

Exceptions to the 5-Year Rule

There are some exceptions to the Roth IRA 5-year rule, however. According to the IRS, a Roth IRA account holder who takes a withdrawal before the account is five years old may not have to pay the 10% penalty in the following situations:

•   They have reached age 59 ½.

•   They are totally and permanently disabled.

•   They are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner.

•   They are using the distribution (up to $10,000) to buy, build, or rebuild a first home.

•   The distributions are part of a series of substantially equal payments.

•   They have unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of their adjusted gross income for the year.

•   They are paying medical insurance premiums during a period of unemployment.

•   They are using the distribution for qualified higher education expenses.

•   The distribution is due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.

•   They are taking qualified reservist distributions.

5-Year Rule for Roth IRA Conversions

Some investors who have traditional IRAs may consider rolling them over into a Roth IRA. Typically, the money converted from the traditional IRA to a Roth is taxed as income, so it may make sense to talk to a financial or tax professional before making this move.

If this Roth IRA conversion is made, the 5-year rule still applies. The key date is the tax year in which the conversion happened. So, if an investor converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA on September 15, 2022, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2022. If the conversion took place on March 10, 2023, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2023. So, unless the conversion took place on January 1 of a certain year, typically, the 5-year rule doesn’t literally equate to five full calendar years.

If an investor makes multiple conversions from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, perhaps one in 2023 and one in 2024, then each conversion has its own unique five-year window for the rule.

5-Year Rule for Inherited Roth IRA

The 5-year rule also applies to inherited Roth IRAs. Here’s how it works.

When the owner of a Roth IRA dies, the balance of the account may be inherited by beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can withdraw money without penalty, whether the money they take is from the principal (contributions made by the original account holder) or from investment earnings, as long as the original account holder had the Roth IRA for at least five years. If the original account holder had the Roth IRA for fewer than five tax years, however, the earnings portion of the beneficiary withdrawals is subject to taxation until the five-year anniversary is reached.

People who inherit Roth IRAs, unlike the original account holders, must take required minimum distributions (RMDs). They can do so by withdrawing funds by December 31 of the 10th year after the original holder died if they died after 2019 (or the fifth year if the original account holder died before 2020), or have the withdrawals taken out based upon their own life expectancy.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

How to Shorten the 5-Year Waiting Period

To shorten the five-year waiting period, an investor could open a Roth IRA online and make a contribution on the day before income taxes are due and have it applied to the previous year. For example, if one were to make the contribution in April 2023, that contribution could be considered as being made in the 2022 tax year. As long as this doesn’t cause problems with annual contribution caps, the five-year window would effectively expire in 2027 rather than 2028.

If the same investor opens a second Roth IRA — say in 2024 — the five-year window still expires (in this example) in 2027. The initial Roth IRA opened by an investor determines the beginning of the five-year waiting period for all subsequently opened Roth IRAs.

The Takeaway

For Roth IRA account holders, the 5-year rule is key. After the account has been opened for five years, an account holder who is 59 ½ or older can withdraw investment earnings without incurring taxes or penalties. While there are exceptions to this so-called 5-year rule, for anyone who has a Roth IRA account, this is important information to know about.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Do I have to wait 5 years to withdraw from my Roth IRA?

Because of the Roth IRA 5-year rule, you generally have to wait at least five years before withdrawing earnings tax-free from your Roth IRA. You can, however, withdraw contributions you made to your Roth IRA at any time tax-free.

Does the 5-year rule apply to Roth contributions?

No, the Roth IRA rule does not apply to contributions made to your Roth IRA, only to earnings. You can withdraw contributions you made to your IRA tax-free at any time.



Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

SOIN0124023

Read more
woman holding laptop

Retirement Plan Options for the Self-Employed

Being your own boss is great, and the retirement plan options when you’re self-employed — like a SEP-IRA or solo 401(k) — can be surprisingly robust.

Not only do you have more options in terms of self-employed retirement plans than you might think, some of these plans come with higher contribution limits and greater tax benefits than traditional plans. That’s especially true since the passage of the SECURE 2.0 Act, which has favorably adjusted the rules of many retirement plans.

Key Points

•   Self-employed individuals have robust retirement plan options like SEP-IRA and solo 401(k) with high contribution limits and tax benefits.

•   These plans are similar to traditional ones, allowing long-term contributions and investment selections.

•   SEP-IRAs are ideal for business owners with employees, offering simplified contributions that are tax-deductible.

•   Solo 401(k) plans suit owner-only businesses, allowing substantial contributions as both employer and employee.

•   SIMPLE IRAs are designed for small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, enabling both employer and employee contributions.

What Are Self-Employed Retirement Plans?

In some ways, self-employed retirement plans aren’t so different from regular retirement plans. You can set aside money now, select investments within the account, and continue to contribute and invest for the long term.

Similar to traditional retirement plans, you have two main categories most self-employed plans fall into:

•   Tax-deferred retirement accounts (e.g traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRAs and solo 401(k) plans). The amount you can save varies by the type of account. The money you set aside is deductible, and you don’t pay tax on that portion of your income. You do pay taxes on the funds you withdraw in retirement.

•   After-tax retirement accounts (typically designated as Roth IRAs or Roth 401(k) accounts). Here you can also save up to the prescribed annual limit, but the money you save is after-tax income and cannot be deducted. That said, withdrawals in retirement are tax free.

A note about Roth eligibility: Roth IRAs come with income limits. If your income is higher than the prescribed limit, you may not be eligible. Roth 401(k) plans do not come with income restrictions. Details below.

Understanding Beneficiary Rules for Self-Employed Plans

The rules that apply to inherited retirement accounts are extremely complicated. If you’re the beneficiary of an IRA, solo 401(k) or other retirement account, you may want to consult a professional as terms vary widely, and penalties can apply.

Administrative Factors to Consider

When selecting a self-employed retirement plan, it’s important to weigh the set up, administrative, and IRS filing rules. Some plans are easier to establish and maintain than others.

Given that running a plan can add to your overall time and personnel costs, it’s important to do a cost-benefit analysis when choosing a retirement plan when you’re a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner.

💡 Quick Tip: Want to lower your taxable income? Start saving for retirement with a traditional IRA. The money you save each year is tax deductible (and you don’t owe any taxes until you withdraw the funds, usually in retirement).

Types of Self-Employed Retirement Plans

The IRS outlines a number of retirement plans for those who are freelance, self-employed, or who run their own businesses. Here are the basics.

Traditional and Roth IRAs

What they are: One of the most popular types of retirement plans is an IRA — or Individual Retirement Arrangement.

As noted above, there are traditional IRAs, which are tax deferred, as well as Roth IRAs, which are after-tax accounts.

Suited for: While anyone with earned income can open a traditional or Roth IRA, these accounts can also be used specifically as self-employed retirement plans. They are simple to set up; and most financial institutions offer IRAs.

That said, IRAs have the lowest contribution limits of any self-employed plans, and may be better suited to those who are starting out, or who have a side hustle, and can’t contribute large amounts to a retirement account.

Contribution limits. There is no age limit for contributing to a traditional or Roth IRA, but there are contribution limits (and for Roth IRAs there are income limits; see below).

For tax year 2024, you can contribute up to $7,000 annually to either type of IRA, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution allowed for people over 50 years old. (For tax year 2023, you may contribute $6,500 per year, $7,500 with the catch-up provision, until April 15, 2024.)

Note that your total annual combined contributions across all your IRA accounts cannot exceed those limits. So if you’re 35 and contribute $3,000 to a Roth IRA for 2024, you cannot contribute more than $4,000 to a traditional IRA in the same year, for a maximum total annual contribution of $7,000.

Income limits: There are no income limits for contributing to a traditional IRA, but Roth IRAs do come with income restrictions. In 2024, that limit is $146,000 for single people (people earning more than $146,000 but less than $161,000 can contribute a reduced amount). For those individuals who are married and file taxes jointly, the limit is $230,000 to make a full contribution, and between $230,000 to $240,000 for a reduced amount.

Tax benefits: The main difference between a traditional vs. Roth IRA is the tax treatment of the money you save.

•   With a traditional IRA, the contributions you make are tax-deductible when you make them (unless you’re covered by a retirement plan at work, in which case conditions apply). Withdrawals are taxed at ordinary income rates.

•   With a Roth IRA, there are no tax breaks for your contributions, but qualified withdrawals are tax free.

Withdrawal rules: You owe ordinary income tax on withdrawals from a traditional IRA after age 59 ½. You may owe a 10% penalty on early withdrawals, i.e. before age 59 ½. There are exceptions to this rule for medical and educational expenses, as well as other conditions, so be sure to check with a professional or on IRS.gov.

The rules and restrictions for taking withdrawals from a Roth are more complex. Although your contributions to a Roth IRA (i.e. your principal) can be withdrawn at any time, investment earnings on those contributions can only be withdrawn tax-free and without penalty once the investor reaches the age of 59½ — and as long as the account has been open for at least five years (a.k.a. the 5-year rule).

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): You are not required to take minimum distributions from a Roth IRA account. You are required to take minimum distributions from a traditional IRA starting at age 73. RMD rules can be complicated, so you may want to consult a professional to avoid making a mistake and potentially owing a penalty.

Solo 401(k)

What it is: A solo 401(k) is a self-employed retirement plan that the IRS also refers to as a one-participant 401(k) plan. It works a bit like a regular employer-backed 401(k), except that in this instance you’re the employer and the employee. There are contribution rules for each role, but this dual structure enables freelancers and solo business owners to save more than a standard 401(k) would allow.

Suited for: A solo 401(k) covers a business owner who has no employees, or employs only their spouse.

Contribution limits:

•   As the employee: For 2024, you can contribute up to $23,000 or 100% of compensation (whichever is less), with an additional $7,500 in catch-up contributions allowed if you’re over 50, for a total of $30,500.

•   As the employer: You can contribute up to 25% of your net earnings, with separate rules for single-member LLCs or sole proprietors.

Total contributions cannot exceed a total of $69,000, or $76,500 if you’re 50 and over.

You can not use a solo 401(k) if you have any employees, though you can hire your spouse so they can also contribute to the plan (and you can match their contributions as the employer), further reducing your taxable income.

Note that 401(k) contribution limits are per person, not per plan (similar to IRA rules), so if either you or your spouse are enrolled in another 401(k) plan, then the $69,000 limit per person must take into account any contributions to that other 401(k) plan.

Income limits: There is a limit on the amount of compensation that’s allowed for use in determining your contributions. For tax year 2024 it’s $345,000.

Tax benefits: A solo 401(k) has a similar tax setup as a traditional 401(k). Contributions can be deducted, thus reducing your taxable income and potentially the amount of tax you owe for the year you contribute. But you owe ordinary income tax on any withdrawals.

Withdrawal rules: You can take withdrawals from a solo 401(k) without penalty at age 59 ½ or older. Distributions may be allowed before that time in the case of certain “triggering events,” such as a disability (you can find a list of exceptions at IRS.gov), but you may owe a 10% penalty as well as income tax on the withdrawal.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): You are required to take minimum distributions from a solo 401(k) starting at age 73. RMD rules can be complicated, so you may want to consult a professional to avoid making a mistake and potentially owing a penalty.

Simplified Employee Pension (or a SEP-IRA)

What it is: A SEP-IRA, or Simplified Employee Pension plan, is similar to a traditional IRA with a streamlined way for an employer (in this case, you) to make contributions to their own and their employees’ retirement savings. Note that when using a SEP-IRA, the employer makes all contributions; employees do not contribute to the SEP.

Suited for: A key difference in a SEP-IRA vs. other self-employment retirement plans is that it’s designed for those who run a business with employees. Employers have to contribute an equal percentage of salary for every employee (and you are counted as an employee). Again, employees may not contribute to the SEP-IRA.

That means, as the employer, you can not contribute more to your retirement account than to your employees’ accounts (as a percentage, not in absolute dollars). On the plus side, it’s slightly simpler than a solo 401(k) to manage in terms of paperwork and annual reporting.

Contribution limits: For 2024, the SEP-IRA rules and limits are as follows: you can contribute up to $69,000 or 25% of an employee’s total compensation, whichever is less. Be sure to understand employee eligibility rules.

As the employer you can contribute up to 20% of your net compensation.

Note that SEP-IRAs are flexible: Contribution amounts can vary each year, and you can skip a year.

Income limits: For tax year 2024 there is an income cap of $345,000 on the compensation.

Tax benefits: Employer and employees can deduct contributions from their earnings, and withdrawals in retirement are taxed as income.

Withdrawal rules: You can take withdrawals from a SEP-IRA without penalty at age 59 ½ or older. Distributions may be allowed before that time in the case of certain “triggering events,” such as a disability (you can find a list of exceptions at IRS.gov), but you may owe a 10% penalty as well as income tax on the withdrawal.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): You are required to take minimum distributions from a SEP-IRA starting at age 73. RMD rules can be complicated, so you may want to consult a professional to avoid making a mistake and potentially owing a penalty.

New rules under SECURE 2.0: Starting in 2024, SEP-IRA plans can now include a designated Roth option. But not all plan providers offer the Roth option at this time.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

SIMPLE IRA

What it is: A SIMPLE IRA (which stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) is similar to a SEP-IRA except it’s designed for larger businesses. Unlike a SEP plan, individual employees can also contribute to their own retirement as salary deferrals out of their paycheck.

Suited for: Small businesses that typically employ 100 people or less.

Contribution limits for employers: A small business owner who sets up a SIMPLE plan has two options.

•   Matching contributions. The employer can match employee contributions dollar for dollar, up to 3%.

•   Fixed contributions. The employer can contribute a fixed 2% of compensation for each employee.

Employer contributions are required every year (unlike a SEP-IRA plan), and similar to a SEP, contributions are based on a maximum compensation amount of $345,000 for 2024.

Contribution limits for employees: Employees can contribute up to $16,000 to a SIMPLE plan for 2023, and additional $3,500 for those 50 and up.

Tax benefits: Employer and employees can deduct contributions from their earnings, and withdrawals in retirement are taxed as income.

Withdrawal rules: Withdrawals are taxed as income. If you make an early withdrawal before the age of 59 ½ , you’ll likely incur a 10% penalty much like a regular 401(k); do so within the first two years of setting up the SIMPLE account and the penalty jumps to 25%.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): You are required to take minimum distributions from a SEP-IRA starting at age 73. RMD rules can be complicated, so you may want to consult a professional to avoid making a mistake and potentially owing a penalty.

New rules under SECURE 2.0: Starting in 2024, the federal law permits employers that provide a SIMPLE plan to make additional contributions on behalf of employees, as long as the amount doesn’t exceed 10% of compensation or $5,000, whichever is less. This amount will be indexed for inflation.

Under these new rules, student loan payments that employees make can be treated as elective deferrals (contributions) for the purpose of the employer’s matching contributions.

In addition, SIMPLE plans can now include a designated Roth option, but not all plan providers offer the Roth option at this time.

Defined-Benefit Retirement Plan

Another retirement option you’ve probably heard about is the defined-benefit plan, or pension plan. Typically, a defined benefit plan pays out set annual benefits upon retirement, usually based on salary and years of service.

Typically pension plans have been set up and run by very large entities, such as corporations and federal and local governments. But it is possible for a self-employed individual to set up a DB plan.

These plans do allow for very high contributions, but the downside of trying to set up and run your own pension plan is the cost and hassle. Because a pension provides fixed income payments in retirement (i.e. the defined benefit), actuarial oversight is required annually.

The Takeaway

When you’re an entrepreneur, freelance, or otherwise self-employed, it may feel as if you’re out on your own, and your options are limited in terms of retirement plans. But in fact there are a number of options to consider, including various types of IRAs and a solo 401(k).

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.



SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOIN0124019

Read more
401k egg in a nest

How To Make Changes to Your 401(k) Contributions

Whether you just set up your 401(k) plan or you established one long ago, you may want to change the amount of your contributions — or even how they’re invested. Fortunately, it’s usually a fairly straightforward process to change 401(k) contributions.

How often can you change your 401(k) contributions? You may be able to make changes at any time, depending on your plan. After all, the point of a 401(k) plan is to help you save for your retirement. So it’s important to keep an eye on your account and your investments within the account, to make sure that you’re saving and investing according to your goals.

Learn how to maximize your 401(k), change your 401(k) contributions, and save for retirement.

Key Points

•   Adjusting 401(k) contributions can usually be done at any time, depending on the specific plan rules.

•   Employers may match contributions up to a certain percentage, enhancing the value of saving.

•   Changes in financial circumstances or salary increases can justify modifying contribution amounts.

•   Rebalancing investment allocations periodically is crucial to maintain desired risk levels.

•   Automatic contribution increases can be set up to progressively enhance retirement savings.

Purpose of a 401(k)

A 401(k) is a retirement account that a company may offer to its employees. In some cases, enrollment in the employer’s 401(k) is automatic; in other cases it’s not. Be sure to check, so that you can take advantage of this savings opportunity.

Employees may contribute a portion of their paycheck to their 401(k) account, and employers might also contribute to each employee’s account (again, depending on the plan).

The employer’s portion is called the company’s “match” or matching funds. Typically, an employer might match up to a certain percentage of what the employee saves. One common matching plan is when a company matches 50 cents for every dollar saved, up to 6% of the employee’s total contributions. Terms vary, so it’s best to ask your Human Resources representative what the match is.

The money a participant contributes to their 401(k) plan is technically called an “elective salary deferral” because it’s optional, not required, and those deductions are not included in an employee’s taxable income. That’s why 401(k) and similar accounts (like a 403(b) and most IRAs) are often called tax-deferred accounts: You don’t pay taxes on the money you’ve saved until you withdraw the money in retirement.

This tax benefit can be significant. Every dollar you save reduces your taxable income, which may result in a lower tax bill in some cases.

💡 Quick Tip: The advantage of opening an IRA, like a Roth IRA, and a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or traditional IRA is that by the time you retire, you’ll have tax-free income from your Roth, and taxable income from the tax-deferred account. This can help with tax planning.

Can You Change Your 401(k) Contribution at Any Time?

While the opportunity to make changes to some employee benefits, like health insurance, are generally only offered once a year during so-called open enrollment periods, many 401(k) plans allow participants to change the amount of their 401(k) contributions at any point. According to Department of Labor guidelines, an employer must allow plan participants to change investments at least quarterly (sometimes more often, if company stock or other high-risk investments are offered by the plan).

These are some of the reasons you may want to change 401(k) contribution amounts.

The Ability to Save More

You may have gotten a raise, or experienced a change in your financial circumstances, and wish to increase the percentage of your savings. Contributions to these plans are typically expressed as a percentage of your annual salary. For example, if you earn $75,000 per year, and your contribution rate is 10%, you would save a total of $7,500 per year. If you got a raise to $80,000 and now wish to contribute 12%, you would save a total of $9,600 per year.

To Get the Match

As discussed above, some 401(k) plans offer a savings match from the employer. In most cases, the match is a set percentage of the employee’s contribution. If you started your 401(k) at a point when you couldn’t get the full match, you may want to increase your contributions to get the full employer match.

Rebalancing Your Asset Allocation

If you’ve held the account for a while, say a year or more, the original allocation of your investments — i.e. the balance between equities, cash, and fixed income investments — may have shifted. Restoring the original balance of your investments may be a priority, if your strategy and risk tolerance haven’t changed.

Changing Your Asset Allocation

You also might want to shift the asset allocation because your financial strategy has become more aggressive (i.e. tilting toward stocks) or more conservative (tilting toward cash and fixed income).

Setting Up Automatic Increases

Some plans offer participants the option of automatically increasing their contribution rate every year, typically up to a certain percentage (e.g. 15%), and not to exceed the maximum contribution levels. The IRS contribution limit for 401(k) plans for 2024 is $23,000 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,500. For 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 for participants under age 50. Those 50 and older can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,000.

Setting up automatic increases allows you to save more in your 401(k) each year without having to think about it; this can be beneficial for overcoming the inertia common among some savers.

How to Change 401(k) Contributions: 3 Steps

Again, the 401(k) plan provider will be able to advise participants on how often they can make changes to their contributions, and what the process will look like. For employees unsure of who the plan provider is, the company’s human resource department can point them in the right direction.

In some cases, participants can change their contributions directly through their plan provider’s website. Generally, the process of making changes to a 401(k) looks like this:

Step 1:

The employee contacts their 401(k) provider to discuss how to change contributions for their particular 401(k) plan.

Step 2:

The employee considers how much of their paycheck they want to contribute to their 401(k) moving forward, taking their company’s 401(k) match into consideration, and ideally contributing at least that much. The employee might also change their asset allocation, depending on plan rules.

Step 3:

The participant fills out any forms (online or via paperwork) to confirm their new contribution.

Often, these steps can take just a few minutes, using your plan sponsor’s website.

Why Contribute to a 401(k)? 3 Good Reasons

Contributing to a 401(k) plan is an important way to save for retirement. The funds in a 401(k) are invested, generally in mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or target date funds — which can offer the potential for growth over time. Typically there are about eight to 12 investment options in most 401(k) plans.

But perhaps the three best reasons to contribute to a 401(k) plan are the opportunity to save automatically via regular payroll deductions; the potentially lower tax bill; and the ability to get “free money” from your employer match, if it’s offered.

Low-stress Saving

For many people, this type of investment is easy because you can choose how much of your salary to contribute each pay period, and deductions happen automatically. You don’t have to think about your savings, your contributions are taken directly from each paycheck, so it helps to build your nest egg over time.

Lower Taxable Income

Another benefit is the potential for savings during tax season. Since the contributions an employee makes to their 401(k) plan over the course of the year aren’t included in their taxable income, that can lower their overall taxable income. This, in turn, may result in an individual falling into a lower tax bracket and paying less income tax for that year.

And in the future, when they might likely be in a lower tax bracket due to retirement, they’ll pay lower taxes when they withdraw the money from their 401(k) account.

Note: Withdrawing money from a 401(k) account before retirement age may lead to early withdrawal penalties.

Another perk of enrolling in a 401(k) plan is the notion of “free money” from one’s employer. Some companies match a portion of their employees’ contributions — often around 50 cents to $1 for each dollar that an employee contributes.

Typically, an employer might set a maximum matching limit, such as 3% to 6% of the employee’s salary.

This matching contribution is often referred to as free money because the contribution effectively increases an employee’s income without increasing their current tax bill. It’s worth noting that an employer’s match generally vests over the course of three or four years — meaning that the employer-contributed money will accrue in the account, but an employee won’t be able to keep it if they switch jobs, unless they remain with the company for that set period of time.

Setting up Recurring Contributions

When it comes to setting up a 401(k), the process varies by workplace. Some companies offer automatic enrollment to employees, automatically reducing the employee’s wages by a certain amount and diverting that money to the employee’s 401(k) plan, unless the employee chooses not to have their wages contributed.

Or, an employee can choose to enroll, but to contribute a custom amount. This type of contribution is referred to as an elective deferral.

In companies that don’t offer automatic enrollment as an option, employees will need to work with their HR department and retirement plan provider to get their 401(k) set up.

Participants need to decide how much they want to contribute and they may need to choose their investments. They can also opt to take advantage of autopilot settings, and can roll over a 401(k) from a past job into their new one.

💡 Quick Tip: How do you decide if a certain trading platform or app is right for you? Ideally, the investment platform you choose offers the features that you need for your investment goals or strategy, e.g., an easy-to-use interface, data analysis, educational tools.

How Much to Save for Retirement

The Department of Labor (DOL) outlined a few best practices for investing in order to save for retirement.

It estimated that most Americans will need 70% to 90% of their preretirement income saved by retirement, in order to maintain their current standard of living. Doing that math can give plan participants an idea of how much they should be contributing to their 401(k).

Participants might also consider a few basic investment principles, such as diversifying retirement investments to reduce risk and improve return. These investment choices may evolve overtime depending on someone’s age, goals, and financial situation.

The DOL recommends that employees contribute all they can to their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to take advantage of benefits like lower taxes, company contributions, and tax deferrals.

Adding Alternative Investments to a 401(k)

Some savers may find themselves interested in pursuing alternative investments when saving for retirement. An alternative investment takes place outside of the traditional markets of stocks, fixed-income, and cash. This method may appeal to those looking for portfolio diversification. Popular examples of alternative investments are private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities.

Self-directed 401(k)s allow participants to add alternate investments to their 401(k) portfolio. With a self-directed 401(k), the investor chooses a custodian such as a brokerage or investment firm to hold the amount of assets and execute the purchase or sale of investments on the participant’s behalf. If an employer offers a self-directed 401(k), the custodian will likely be the plan administrator.

The Takeaway

For employees looking to change 401(k) contributions, the process is often as simple as reaching out to your plan provider and confirming that you’re allowed to make a change at this time.

Some companies have rules around when and how often employees can make changes to their contributions. Once you have the go-ahead to make the change, and have considered what works best for your current financial situation and your future goals, it’s generally straightforward.

A company-sponsored 401(k) plan offers many benefits, but once you leave your job, many of those benefits — including the employer-matching program — no longer apply. At that point, you may want to consider doing a rollover of your previous 401(k) to an IRA, so you can remain in control of your money.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.


An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
Alternative investments, including funds that invest in alternative investments, are risky and may not be suitable for all investors. Alternative investments often employ leveraging and other speculative practices that increase an investor's risk of loss to include complete loss of investment, often charge high fees, and can be highly illiquid and volatile. Alternative investments may lack diversification, involve complex tax structures and have delays in reporting important tax information. Registered and unregistered alternative investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.
Please note that Interval Funds are illiquid instruments, hence the ability to trade on your timeline may be restricted. Investors should review the fee schedule for Interval Funds via the prospectus.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


SOIN0124069

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender