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401(k) Contribution Deadlines


Contributing to your a 401(k) is one of the most common and simplest ways to save for retirement. If your workplace offers you a 401(k), you can have money taken out each month, so you don’t even have to think about saving for retirement. There are some rules and regulations you’ll need to be aware of, though, including  deadlines for getting all your contributions in each year. Here’s what you need to know.

If you need help planning for retirement, consider working with a financial advisor.

What Is the 401(k) Contribution Deadline?

The 401(k) contribution deadline is simple enough—it’s Dec. 31 of each year. Many tax timelines, including the IRS rules that govern 401(k), run on the calendar year, so your 401(k) contributions run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

This is important because 401(k) plans have an annual contribution limit and if you intend to max out your 401(k) contributions each year, you have to do it before the deadline. The limit on employee elective deferrals for traditional and safe harbor 401(k) plans is $22,500 in 2023, up from $20,500 in 2022. If you’re 50 or older, you can add $7,500 to that—up from $6,500 in 2022—for your catch-up contribution.

What If I Miss the Deadline?

401k contribution deadline

If you meant to max out your 401(k) and didn’t do it before the end of the calendar year, there’s unfortunately not much that can be done. But that doesn’t mean you should give up and spend that money on a European vacation—here are two concrete steps you can take to correct your mistake.

  1. Invest the money in another tax-advantaged retirement account. Even if you missed the chance to put that money in a 401(k), that doesn’t mean you can’t still put it towards retirement. Consider setting up an individual retirement account (IRA) and investing the money there. Like 401(k)s, IRAs have tax advantages. 401(k) contributions come out of pretax money and are taxed when you withdraw it, and traditional IRAs are treated the same way, while Roth IRAs are funded with taxed money but withdrawals aren’t taxed. IRAs also have annual contribution limits, but the deadline is tax day rather than the end of the year, so you have a few extra months to make your moves. In 2023, the maximum contribution is $6,500—$7,500 if you’re 50 or older.
  2. Plan ahead for next time. While you may have missed the boat this time, you can be proactive and make sure that doesn’t happen next time. Talk to your employer about how to set up automatic contributions to your 401(k) plan so that you aren’t scrambling at the end of the year. If that’s not an option, make sure to note the deadline and contribution limits for 2023. That way on New Year’s Eve, you can sip champagne knowing you’re on top of your retirement savings.

Bottom Line

The deadline for contributing to your 401(k) is Dec. 31. If you want to max out your 401(k) contributions for the year, make sure you do so before then. If you do miss the date, consider putting that money in an IRA instead.

Tips for Boosting Your Retirement Savings

401k contribution deadline
  • If you need help planning for retirement, consider speaking to a financial advisor. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • While Social Security likely won’t be enough to fund your entire retirement, it isn’t nothing. Use SmartAsset’s free Social Security calculator to get a sense of what you could have coming to you.

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