Retirement Plans

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits 2019

February 27, 2019
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Participant Contribution Limits

As they do every year, the IRS has published the 2019 retirement plan contribution limits for the various types of plans including the 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), IRA, and SIMPLE IRA. For my purposes here, I’m looking only at  defined contribution plans that allow participant contributions.  SEP-IRA plans are a separate topic not covered here.

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits 2019
Financial Planning for 2019 – Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

If you want to change your payroll contribution to an employer-sponsored plan, you might have to go to HR.  It is becoming more common, however, for employees to be able to make retirement plan elections online.

Generally, you are limited based on an aggregate of all the plans in which you participate.  You might also have a lower limit applied because of factors specific to your employer’s plan.

If you are age 50 or over at the end of 2019, you might also be able to make additional catch-up contributions.  These catch-up amounts are plan-type specific.

Always review your election with your employer to make sure you do not exceed the annual limit if you are trying to maximize your contribution.  Employers have an obligation to monitor employee contributions to make sure they don’t go over, but it never hurts to have it reviewed early in the plan year.

If your employer is required to do certain testing across its entire employee population to evaluate how contributions are distributed, they may have to cap how much the highest paid employees can elect.  You might have already been notified if this testing affects you.

The information provided here is only a summary.  You should refer to the linked IRS pages for more comprehensive coverage.  And, of course, consult your plan administrator and/or tax planner for specific advice.

401(k) and Profit-Sharing Plans

The IRS covers the limits for these common plans in more detail on their site, including information on related vs unrelated employers, treatment of excess deferrals, and overall limits on contributions.

If you are at least 50 years old by the end of 2019, you might be able to elect an additional “catch-up” deduction that is on top of the baseline amount.

Plan TypeDeferral Limit50+ Catch-Up
SIMPLE 401(k)$13,000$3,000
2019 elective contribution limits for 401(k) and Profit-Sharing plans

403(b) Plans

The 2019 elective deferral limit for 403(b) plans is $19,000.

Catch-up contributions for these plans fall into two categories:

Employees Age 50+

As with 401(k) plans, if you are at least 50 years old by the end of 2019, you are eligible for a $6,000 catch-up contribution.

15 Years of Service

If allowed by your employer’s plan and you have at least 15 years of service with that employer, you might be eligible for a special catch-up election even if you are not yet age 50.  Your employer will have to evaluate whether or not you are eligible for this feature and, if so, how much you can elect under it.

457(b) Plans

The 2019 limits for 457(b) plans are the lesser of

  • 100% of your includible earnings OR
  • $19,000

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Any available catch-up amounts are plan-specific.  If you’re interested, you should consult with your plan administrator.


The 2019 employee contribution limit for SIMPLE IRA plans is $13,000.  A grand total limit of $19,000 for all plans applies if you contribute to more than one employer plan during the year.

If your employer’s plan allows it, catch-up contributions up to $3,000 are available if you are at least age 50 by the end of 2019.

IRAs – Traditional and Roth

Total contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs are limited to $6,000 with an additional $1,000 catch-up amount for those age 50 and over.

If you are covered by a plan at work, your deduction for your traditional IRA contribution may be limited by your Modified AGI and filing status.

If you are NOT covered by a plan at work, your deduction for your traditional IRA may be limited by your Modified AGI and filing status if your spouse IS covered by a plan at their employer.

Roth IRA contributions can also be limited based on your Modified AGI and filing status.

The key point to remember here is that with a traditional IRA, how much you can deduct might be limited.  But with a Roth IRA, the contribution might be limited.

As always, check with your tax adviser for how any of these limits apply in your situation.