The Potential Retirement Cap

In his plan for the 2016 budget, the president and his administration are seeking to disrupt the current retirement process.  A number of retirement topics were mentioned such as Social Security, the elimination of a “back door” Roth, and a cap on the amount eligible in a person’s retirement accounts.

For the subject of this post, I will discuss the president’s plan to limit the amount held in retirement accounts for an individual.  Presently, an individual can have an unlimited amount in retirement accounts.  This includes employer-sponsored 401k’s, traditional IRA’s, and Roth IRA’s.  The only limitations currently imposed on retirement accounts are the amount you can contribute.  This includes$5500 ($6500 for people over 50) for IRA’s and $18,000 ($24,000 for people over 50) for 401k plans.  These limitations are currently set so that individuals don’t stash all of their retirement savings in tax-free or tax-deferred retirement accounts.  The government has to make its money somewhere.

The 2016 budget proposal would now not only put a limit on the amount of contributions you can put into a retirement account, but also on the amount held in your various retirement accounts.  The proposed limit: $3,400,000.  For a younger person saving for future retirement, this amount might seem astronomical.  However, I am here to tell you that it is not.  Granted a lot has to happen for this limit to take effect.  It has to be voted on and passed, and then I would assume the government would adjust this number to reflect inflation, roughly 3% a year.  If, and again this is a big if, this law were to be put into place it would impact roughly 10% of 401k plan participants according to Forbes.


Take the proposed limit on retirement accounts: $3,400,000 and adjust it for inflation of 3%.  In 40 years this inflation adjustment amount would be approximately $11,000,000.

Mike is a 25 year old with $20,000 in retirement assets.  This includes an employer-sponsored 401k plan along with a Roth IRA.  Mike will contribute $18,000 a year to his 401k and get an employer match of $3,000.  He puts in $21,000 a year into his 401k.  Additionally, he contributes the maximum $5,500 into his Roth IRA every year.  Mike spreads this amount out evenly over the 12-month year.  When Mike turns 50, he contributes the new limit, $24,000 in an employer-sponsored 401k with a $3,000 match and $6500 in a Roth IRA.  Assuming Mike’s portfolio returns 10% a year, Mike will have over $15,000,000 in his retirement accounts, more than what would be allowed.  He would then have to divert some of those funds to a taxable brokerage account, or be forced to spend it.

Sure, the example of Mike listed above is an outlier.  Many of us can only dream of having so much set aside for retirement.  The fact is that some people DO!  We can agree this would be a good problem to have, but nonetheless a problem.  Are you aggressive enough with your retirement planning that you have to worry about this law possibly being passed?  I am!  And for that reason, my vote is against it.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

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