We knew even before the election was over that whatever the outcome was, it would have an effect on our finances. And regardless of who won, some people would fare better than others.
Our retirement savings are not exempt from that, so we took a look into how proposed tax changes from President-elect Biden could affect your 401(k) — and what you can do to make sure you get the most out of it.
Current Retirement Savings Tax Benefits
As the current tax code is written, people saving for retirement in a 401(k)-type plan are able to contribute and watch their savings grow tax-free. When they take out their money in the future, they’ll pay taxes then, and they’re subject to tax benefits based on their income bracket. Higher tax brackets receive higher benefits and vice versa.
For example, someone in the highest income bracket — 37% — will receive $37 in tax breaks for every $100 they contribute. Someone in the 10% bracket will receive $10 worth of tax breaks for every $100 they contribute.
About two thirds of the $200 billion available for workers’ retirement benefits each year goes to the top 20% of earners, according to the Tax Policy Center. And the way the tax code is currently written has often deterred middle-class workers from contributing more to their retirement funds. Biden’s goal with this plan is to address the inequality in retirement benefits.
Biden’s Proposed Changes to Tax Benefits
Under Biden’s Plan, new tax benefits are proposed to be equalized across the income spectrum — with some analysts suspecting the number to be around 26%. This will allow lower-and-middle-income workers to benefit from the tax breaks given when they contribute to their retirement. But it will lower the tax benefits that people in higher tax brackets currently enjoy.
For example, someone who makes $40,000 a year and contributes 10% of their income to retirement savings, currently gets a $480 tax credit. Under Biden’s proposed plan, they would get $1,080 in tax credit.
But someone making $200,000, also contributing 10% of their income, currently gets a tax credit of $6,400. With Biden’s proposal, they would get a lower tax credit of $5,200.
Another proposed change is to provide a tax break for small businesses who provide a 401(k)-type savings program for their employees. So people who haven’t had access to an employer retirement program would be able to save for retirement that way, a problem that has disproportionately affected lower-and-middle class workers.
What You Can Do About Retirement Savings Right Now
It’s important to remember that a proposal is just a proposal until it makes its way through the House of Representatives, the Senate and eventually to the President’s desk for approval. Parts will be added, removed or changed while our government finds a compromise — so don’t get your hopes up (or down) based on this plan.
That being said, it’s important to remain focused on your savings, regardless of the outcome. Keep contributing to your 401(k) as much as your budget will allow. All it takes is a few hundred dollars a month to get you to hundreds of thousands (or millions!) when you retire.
If your budget needs some breathing room to accommodate your retirement contributions, consider cutting unnecessary costs. You’re likely overpaying for your monthly bills and could save nearly $1,000 each year if you made a few switches. An easy place to start is with your car insurance.
A free website called Savvy will help you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826/year.
All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer. Best yet: This is totally free.
If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.
By taking that found money from switching insurance carriers and putting it into your retirement savings, you could make a real impact on your future. And if your employer matches your contribution, that could be an extra $1600+ in your retirement account each year.