# Make Extra “Catch-Up” Contributions to Retirement Accounts: We Quantify the Benefit

After reaching age 50, you can make additional “catch-up” contributions to certain types of tax-advantaged retirement accounts. For the 2021 tax year, this opportunity is available if you’ll be age 50 or older on Friday, December 31, 2021.

Specifically, with an employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b), 457, or SIMPLE plan, you can make extra salary-reduction catch-up contributions to your account—assuming the plan allows catch-up contributions.

If you are self-employed and have set up a 401(k) plan or SIMPLE IRA for yourself, you can also make extra catch-up contributions to your account.

Finally, you can make extra catch-up contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.

These catch-up contributions can carry a hefty punch because they are above and beyond the “regular” annual contribution limits that otherwise apply.

The following table shows maximum allowable catch-up contributions for the 2021 tax year:

Maximum Catch-Up Contribution Amounts for 2021 | ||

401(k), 403(b), and 457 Plans | SIMPLE Plan | Traditional and Roth IRAs |

$6,500 | $3,000 | $1,000 |

If you’re married and both you and your spouse are age 50 or older, the amounts shown above can potentially be doubled, assuming both spouses have accounts set up in their respective names.

But with an employer-sponsored plan, maximum salary-reduction catch-up contributions to your account might be less than the indicated amounts—depending on employee participation levels and the terms of the plan.

**The Question: How Much Are Catch-Up Contributions Worth?**

This is where it gets interesting. While some folks eagerly embrace any chance to contribute more money to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, others might need some encouragement. Those in the latter category may dismiss catch-up contributions as inconsequential unless proven otherwise. Fair enough. So let’s prove otherwise.

**Proof: Make 401(k), 403(b), or 457 Plan Catch-Up Contributions**

Assume you turn 50 during 2021 and contribute an extra $6,500 to your account for this year, and then you do the same for the subsequent 15 years (for a total of 16 years), up to age 65. Here’s how much extra you could accumulate by that age in your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account (rounded to the nearest $1,000), assuming the annual rates of return indicated below:

4% Return | 6% Return | 8% Return |

$142,000 | $167,000 | $197,000 |

These are substantial amounts. Of course, we are talking before-tax numbers here.

**Proof: Make SIMPLE Plan Catch-Up Contributions**

Say you turn 50 during 2021 and contribute an extra $3,000 for this year, and then you do the same for the subsequent 15 years (for a total of 16 years), up to age 65. Here’s how much extra you could accumulate by that age in your SIMPLE plan account (rounded to the nearest $1,000), assuming the annual rates of return indicated below:

4% Return | 6% Return | 8% Return |

$65,000 | $77,000 | $91,000 |

Not bad! Once again, remember that these are before-tax numbers.

**Proof: Make IRA Catch-Up Contributions**

Say you turn 50 during 2021 and contribute an extra $1,000 for this year, and then you do the same for the subsequent 15 years (for a total of 16 years), up to age 65. Here’s how much extra you could accumulate by that age in your IRA (rounded off to the nearest $1,000), assuming the annual rates of return indicated below:

4% Return | 6% Return | 8% Return |

$22,000 | $26,000 | $30,000 |

These are before-tax numbers for traditional IRAs but after-tax numbers for Roth IRAs.