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Increased Maximums for 401(k) Retirement Plans are on the Way

While it’s ideal to save 10 to 15 percent of your income for retirement, don’t worry if you can’t contribute at that level yet, advised Kyle McBrien, a certified financial planner with Betterment, a financial services firm. “It’s OK to start small,” he said. Aim to increase your contribution gradually each year.

Even if you can contribute the maximum amount, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should, according to Mr. McBrien. If you haven’t built up an adequate rainy-day fund for unexpected expenses or a job loss, that should take priority before you contribute to your 401(k) beyond your employer’s match.

“Replenish your emergency fund first,” he advised.

Besides retirement, you may have other goals to save for, noted Craig Copeland, director of wealth benefits research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute. This could include saving for your children’s education in a 529 college fund or contributing to a health savings account — a special account that can cover short-term medical needs or be invested for retirement.

“If you do have dollars to save,” he suggested, “think about where they should go.”

Here are some questions and answers about saving in a 401(k):

Not yet. Under the Secure 2.0 Act, a law passed late last year, savers earning $145,000 or more who make 401(k) catch-up contributions would have had to make them as pretax Roth contributions starting in 2024. But this summer, the I.R.S. delayed that provision for two years, after employers and plan administrators said they needed more time to prepare. (Not every 401(k) plan offers a Roth option.) So for next year and for 2025, at least, extra contributions for those 50 and older may be made pretax to a traditional 401(k), even for high earners.

The annual open enrollment period, when employees choose their benefits for the new year, is underway at many workplaces. But while health insurance choices are typically fixed for the full year unless you have a big change in your life, many employers let you tweak your retirement contributions at any time. (Check with your employer to be sure.) Note that after you make a change, it may take a paycheck cycle or two for it to take effect, said Mr. McBrien at Betterment.

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