retirement

Prioritize retirement savings

Retirement » Basics » Prioritize Retirement Savings

Sure, you want to experience a financially comfortable retirement, and you know you've got to save to reach your goals.

But that's not enough. You need to prioritize your "to do" list when it comes to stashing your cash in order to amass as much as possible over your lifetime. You already know to snag free money by contributing enough to your 401(k) plan to receive the full company match. Here are some other important steps:

1. Maximize 401(k) savings

In 2014, individuals can save up to $17,500 in a 401(k). For folks over 50, the limit is $23,000.

If it's not possible to hit the maximum limit, at least you can add to your savings when you get a raise.

Even small savings increases make a huge difference over time. For example, a 30-year-old earning $52,000 per year and contributing 3 percent to a 401(k) plan could potentially earn in excess of $200,000 in additional retirement income by age 65 if the contribution is upped to 5 percent.

2. Snag permanent tax breaks

Look for other savings opportunities with tax perks. One of the best? The Roth IRA, says Ed Slott, author of "Your Complete Retirement Planning Road Map."

Slott loves the Roth because your earnings grow tax-free forever. "You take away the uncertainty of what future tax rates might be," he says.

And unlike other accounts, you never have to take withdrawals, so you can leave them untouched for your heirs.

3. Consider other IRAs

If your income exceeds a certain amount, you may not be eligible to fund a Roth. This applies to single individuals with incomes in 2014 topping out at $129,000 and married couples filing a joint return with incomes above $191,000.

That doesn't mean you have to give up tax-friendly savings. You may be able to fund a traditional deductible IRA. But if you (or a spouse) are already enrolled in an employer retirement plan, you face income restrictions there too.

A nondeductible IRA lets earnings grow tax-deferred, meaning you won't pay taxes on earnings until they're withdrawn. However, you have to file IRS Form 8606 for each year you make nondeductible contributions so that when it's time to take distributions, you won't have to pay taxes twice on those contributions.

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