Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why limit on IRA contribution is less than 401k contribution?

It’s interesting that limit on 401k contribution is 16,500 and limit on IRA contribution is 5,000. What could be the reason behind this?

Seems like 401k should be better for employees. After all policy makers want employees to prosper and they make most of their policies so the average people would benefit from it. After all it their job. It should be the logical reason why law makers did it this way. But is it really the case?  

A few employers match upto 6% for 401k contribution.  I don’t see any other advantage of 401k over regular IRA.

Employee has to choose from very limited funds available in 401k plans. One can choose whatever he/she prefer in IRA, but it is not the case with 401k.
Why are there very limited choices in 401k plans?
Would employer benefit from a financial institute whose funds are allowed in 401k plan? I don’t know! Would financial institute benefit from it? Most of the funds available in 401k plan come with expense ratios and no matter how that fund perform, financial institute who offered that plan would make money from that expense ratio. So financial institute would definitely benefit from it!

If financial institute is going to be benefited from it, why policy makers did it? Did/do policy makers get benefit from it? I don’t know if financial institutes pay policy makers or not. May be this is one of the reasons why politicians get financial help from financial institutions for their campaign during election!

Wasn’t the purpose of introducing 401k plan was to help employees? Then how did financial institutions and policy makers are benefiting from it regardless employee get benefit or not!?

Sometimes I wish that limit on regular IRA contribution would be higher so that I can contribute it more and choose whatever fund I like!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big student debts and student debt forgiveness program

If you are working in an industry/position where you are eligible for student debt forgiveness program, all tax deferred accounts become even more important to you.

A lot of student debt repayment plans are income based. All the money you put towards tax differed accounts, are excluded from your adjusted income and your installment amount for student debt is based on your adjusted income. So it should be a good strategy to pay minimum towards your student debt in this situation.

Annual payments for a student debt are 15% of Annual Gross Income.

Let’s understand this with an example:

Let’s say you have massive student debt and 60,000 annual income.

Scenario A: were you are not putting anything into tax differed accounts.
If you don’t put anything into your tax deferred accounts, your annual payment for student debt would be 9,000. By not putting anything into tax differed accounts, you would pay 90,000 towards your student debt over ten years after which your dent is going to be forgiven.

Scenario B: where you are maximizing your tax differed accounts.
401k contribution: 16,500
HSA contribution: 1,200
Total contribution = 17,700
So your annual gross income would be: salary – total contribution = 60,000 - 17,700 = 42,300.
In this scenario your annual payment for student debt would be 6,349.
By doing so you will pay 63,490 over ten year period.

Comparison between two scenarios:
Difference between scenario A and scenario B = 27,000
That’s correct. You will save 27,000 if you maximize just 401k and HSA accounts.

Accounts like 401k, traditional IRA and HSA accounts are most common tax differed accounts.


What is 401k?
401k is pre-tax retirement account offered by employer.

Lets see how does pre-tax retirement account work:
Let’s say you are making $50k a year. For the sake of simple calculation, lets assume that $50k is your adjusted gross income. You will fall under 25% tax bracket if filing single. Your total federal income tax for this year would be 8,625. This is 17.25% of your income.
Now assume that you contribute 16,500 to your 401k. In this case your taxable income will be 50,000-16,500 = 33,500. You total federal income tax for this year would be 4,600. This is 13.73% of your income.

So I person making 50,000 deciding to contribute 16,500 to 401k will pay 4,025 or less for this year in federal income tax.

401k Contribution limit:
Contribution limit for 401k for the year 2011 is 16,500 a year.
Contribution limit for the year 2011 is 17,000 a year.
The employer match in 401k does not count toward this limit.