High-Income Individuals Must Save Beyond Contribution Caps

Do you let the government set your goals?

It seems that when it comes to retirement savings, many people do.

Many individuals save 3% of their income for retirement because that's what the government recommends to employers as a "safe harbor" contribution. Yet it's important to know that the contribution level considered "safe" for the employer is not necessarily safe for the employee.

Other people save 6% of their income for retirement because that's what their employer will match. This percentage, however, more likely reflects what's required of the employer to remain competitive and attract qualified employees rather than reflecting the actual needs of their employees. So what does 3% or 6% have to do with your retirement security?

Evaluating Your Yearly Retirement Savings

The amount you should contribute toward your retirement every year is influenced by many factors:

  • Age when you start saving for retirement
  • Amount of debt you have
  • Stability and predictability of your income
  • Future growth in income
  • Current marginal income tax bracket
  • Standard of living, both now and in retirement
  • Total income level (which can be capped)

Limits on Defined Contribution Plans

Congress sets total dollar limits on the amount you can save in tax-deferred qualified retirement plans. For defined contribution plans, in general, these limits in 2013 are:

  • $17,500
  • $5,500 extra "catch-up" contribution if you are age 50 or older
  • $51,000 defined contribution limit for employee and employer total

Here's the kicker: The maximum compensation for defined contributions plans, in general, is $255,000 in 2013. Therefore, if your income is over $255,000, the contribution limits have even less merit as a guideline for adequate retirement savings.

One lesson rings clear: If your income is over $255,000, additional savings and investments beyond the contribution limit of a traditional profit-sharing 401(k) plan may be needed to provide you with a retirement that is in line with your accustomed manner of living.

The time to plan for achieving a comfortable retirement is now.

"A contribution level considered 'safe' for the employer is not necessarily the same for the employee."
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About Bruce J. Berno, CFP®
Bruce J. Berno, CFP® is the founder of Berno Financial Management, Inc. a fee-only comprehensive personal financial planning and investment advisory firm headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since 1993, Berno Financial Management has been helping individuals and families achieve financial peace of mind. For more information about Berno Financial Management, visit http://www.bernofinmgt.com.