3 Steps to Maxing Out Your 2023 IRA — Even if You're Nowhere Close

Saving money in an individual retirement account (IRA) could make it so you’re able to retire comfortably. This year, IRAs max out at $6,500 for workers under the age of 50 and $7,500 for workers 50 and over.

If you’re 35 years old and max out your IRA this year at $6,500, a couple of cool things can happen. First, you’re able to not get taxed on $6,500 of earnings. If you fall into the 22% tax bracket based on your income, your $6,500 IRA contribution saves you $1,430 in taxes this year.

Plus, even if you don’t contribute another dollar to your IRA beyond 2023, if you invest your $6,500 contribution over the next 30 years at an average annual 10% return, which is consistent with the stock market’s long-term average, you’ll grow your balance to over $113,000. And while you may want to aim for a larger nest egg than that (considering that you might need that money to last for 20 years or longer), the point is that maxing out your IRA for a single year could go a long way.

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Of course, finding $6,500 for an IRA is easier said than done, especially if you’ve only modestly funded that account so far this year. But if you’re serious about meeting that goal, here are a few steps that could get you there.

1. Automate your contributions

The nice thing about 401(k) plans is that contributions are deducted automatically from workers’ paychecks so they never miss that money, and they never have to think about setting it aside for retirement. But thankfully, you can pretty much do the same thing with an IRA.

While you can’t have IRA contributions deducted from your paycheck, you can set up an automatic transfer to your IRA so that every time a payment from work lands in your checking account, a portion is sent directly into your retirement plan. It’s a good way to force yourself to stay on track.

2. Boost your income with a side job

If you’re an average earner, it may be quite difficult to find $6,500 you don’t need for ongoing expenses. But if you’re able to boost your income with a side hustle, you might have an easier time maxing out your IRA.

Of course, you’ll need to be prepared to put in a decent amount of time at a side hustle if you’re hoping to come up with $6,500 to put into an IRA. But it may also be that you’ve already contributed $3,500 to that account to date. If you’re able to work a side hustle that pays you $1,000 a month from October through December (and yes, such gigs do exist), you’ll have reached your goal by the end of the year.

3. Cut back on spending for the next seven months

One lesser-known IRA rule is that you have up until the following year’s tax-filing deadline to finish funding your account. Since we’re in mid-September, you have seven months to finish maxing out your 2023 IRA by mid-April 2024.

With that in mind, if you’re hoping to fund your IRA solely by reducing your spending over the next seven months, that may not work. If you’ve put in nothing so far, to reach your $6,500 target, you’d need to spend about $929 less monthly. That may not be doable. Even if you only have to come up with half that amount, it’s still a lot of expenses to cut.

But let’s say you’re able to reduce your spending and work a side hustle. With those efforts combined, putting $6,500 into your IRA may be a lot more feasible.

Maxing out your 2023 IRA could do a lot of great things for your finances. But if you’re not able to max it out, don’t sweat it. First of all, you can always regroup in 2024. But also, if you’re able to put $5,000 into your IRA, or $4,000, that’s far better than nothing. Quite the contrary — it’s a big accomplishment.

So while it’s technically not too late to max out your 2023 IRA even if you have a ways to go, you can also give yourself grace if that goal doesn’t end up being attainable.

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