The SECURE Act 2.0 passed this week after being discussed in Washington for nearly two years. The Act could not make it through Congress on its own, but it was stuffed into the Omnibus Spending Bill that was required to avoid an imminent government shutdown. I’ll save that rant for another day and focus on some of the dozens and dozens of changes to retirement planning in the Secure Act 2.0 which will affect you.
First, some background: The original SECURE Act was passed in December 2019. This legislation was the largest change to retirement planning in recent decades. It included increasing the age of RMDs from 70 to 72 and eliminating the Stretch IRA for beneficiaries.
The SECURE Act 2.0 goes even further and has a large number of changes to help improve retirement readiness for Americans. We are not going to cover all of these changes, but focus on a few key areas that are likely to apply to my clients.
Required Minimum Distributions
The SECURE Act 2.0 will gradually increase the age of RMDs from 72 to 75. Next year, the age to start RMDs will be 73, and then this will increase to age 75 in 2033. So, if you were born before 1950, your RMD age will remain 72 and you have already started RMDs. If you were born between 1951-1959, your RMD age is 73. And if you were born in 1960 or later, RMDs will begin in the year you turn 75.
I’m happy to see RMDs pushed out further to allow people to grow their IRAs for longer. For investors, this will extend the window of years when it makes most sense to do Roth Conversions. People are living longer and we should be pushing out the age of RMDs and starting retirement.
Washington loves Roth IRAs. Anyone who thinks Washington doesn’t like Roths should consider the incredible expansion to Roths in SECURE Act 2.0. Roths are here to stay.
First, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRA plans will be amended to include Roth Accounts. This brings them up to par with 401(k) plans which have offered a Roth option for several years now. What does this mean? Roth contributions are after-tax and grow tax-free for retirement. You will be able to now open a Roth SEP or a Roth SIMPLE. Do you have a W-2 job and also self-employment income? You can do a 401(k) at work and also a Roth SEP for your self-employment.
2.0 also eliminates the RMD requirement from Roth 401(k)s. This was an odd requirement, and could easily be avoided by rolling a Roth 401(k) to a Roth IRA. But it still caught some people by surprise, so I am glad they eliminated this.
Starting in 2023, Employers may now make matching contributions into Roth 401(k) sub-accounts for employees. These additional contributions will be added to the employee’s taxable income. So, this may not make sense for everyone.
Forced Roth for Catch-Up Contributions
In 2024, high wage earners will be forced into using a Roth sub-account for catch-up contributions. If you are over age 50, you can make catch-up contributions. If you made over $145,000 in the previous year, your catch-up contributions must go into a Roth 401(k) starting in 2024. You will no longer be able to make Traditional (“deductible”) contributions with catch-up amounts. Oh, and if your company does not currently offer a Roth option, everyone over 50 will be prohibited from making any catch-up contributions.
This one will be a mess and is one of the only negative impacts we will see from SECURE Act 2.0. It will take many months for 401(k) providers and employers to update their systems and figure out how to implement these new changes.
Lots of Roth changes, but what isn’t here? The SECURE Act 2.0 didn’t eliminate the Backdoor Roth IRA. Many in Congress have been wanting to kill the Backdoor Roth, but it lives on. There are no new restrictions on Roth Conversions of any sort. Why so much love for Roths? Washington wants your tax money now, not in 30 years.
529 Plan to Roth
What if you fund a 529 College Savings plan for your child and they don’t use all the money? Currently, you can change the 529 plan to another beneficiary. But if you don’t have another beneficiary, withdrawing the money could result in taxable gains and a 10% penalty. The SECURE Act 2.0 is creating a third option: you can rollover $35,000 from a 529 plan to a Roth IRA for the beneficiary.
Here are the requirements. You must have had the 529 plan open for at least 15 years. You cannot rollover any contributions made in the preceding five years. Each year, the amount rolled from the 529 to the Roth is included towards the annual Roth contribution limit. For example, this year the limit is $6,500. The maximum you could roll from a 529 would be $6,500. But if the beneficiary already contributed $3,000 to an IRA (Roth or Traditional), you could only roll $3,500 from the 529 to the Roth. Thankfully, there are no income limitations to make this rollover. The lifetime limit on rolling over a 529 to a Roth will be $35,000, so this may take 5-6 years assuming the beneficiary makes no other IRA contributions.
You can change the beneficiary of a 529 plan to yourself. So, could you take an old 529, change the beneficiary to yourself and then roll it into your own Roth IRA? It is unclear in the legislation if a change in beneficiary will start a new 15-year waiting period. We will have to wait for additional rules to find out.
Other SECURE Act 2.0 Retirement Changes
So many changes! (Here is the most detailed summary I have seen so far.) These won’t impact everyone but I am studying all of these to see who might benefit:
- IRA catch-up amounts will be indexed to inflation and increase in $100 increments.
- 401(k) Catch-up contributions will be increased for ages 60-63. The amount will be $10,000 or 150% of the annual amount, whichever is higher.
- QCD (Qualified Charitable Distributions) limit of $100,000 will be indexed to inflation.
- New exceptions to the 10% premature distribution penalty.
- Emergency Savings Accounts, allowing people to access their 401(k)s without penalty. (Bad idea, but so many people in distress do this and then have to pay penalties and taxes, hurting them even further.)
- QLAC limit increased to $200,000.
- Allowing matching 401(k) contributions for payments towards student loans.
- Tax credits for small employers who start a retirement plan.
- New Starter 401(k) plans.
- Lower penalties for missed RMDs.
I appreciate that Washington wants to make it easier for Americans to save for retirement. The SECURE Act 2.0 has a vast amount of retirement changes to incentivize the behavior the government wants to see. For those who are able to save for retirement, they are making it easier to save and accumulate assets. Your retirement is your responsibility! And retirement planning is my job. I’m here to help with your questions, preparation, and implementing your retirement goals.