As the Obama administration moves to encourage American workers to put away more money for their retirement, a Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. executive is recommending some cautionary tips to workers and their advisors.
Tom Foster, Hartford’s national retirement spokesperson, points out these new rules:
- The Internal Revenue Service will change tax forms to allow refunds to be automatically deposited into retirement accounts. Whether the money is directed at an individual retirement account or a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), employers and their employees need to be sure not to exceed the annual contribution limits for these plans. In 2009, the limit on contributions by individuals to 401(k) plans is $16,500, and the limit on contributions to IRAs is $5,000, with certain exceptions.
- The administration also says it will change rules that forbid most workers from putting pay for unused sick and vacation days into their retirement plans. This may prove to be a boon for some workers’ retirement savings, but applying these new rules can be complicated for employers. Employers will have to determine how much time they can credit to a retirement account based on each employee’s contributions, again being careful not to exceed current limits. It may be helpful if the Federal government waived or relaxed some of the limitations, Foster suggests.
– The administration is making it easier for small businesses to automatically enroll employees into 401(k) programs, a feature that is especially beneficial to younger workers. That means instead of making 401(k) plans a benefit that a worker must opt into, small businesses can enroll employees at the date they’re hired, unless the worker opts out. Foster calls automatic enrollment the “wave of the future” and says it actually helps many employers by taking away burdens for nondiscrimination testing and making it easier for highly compensated employers to accumulate retirement assets.