Last August, The Pension Protection Act of 2006 was passed, providing many benefits to savers. It was created with an eye on helping to “Protect pension and retirement plan participants and promote individual savings.” In a nutshell [don’t worry, we won’t dive into the entire 1,304-page Act today], we’ll focus on five of the prominent areas in the plan …
- Permanency to retirement plan and savings incentives. Contribution limits to IRAs, 401(k)s, and other workplace savings plans were increased in 2001 but were due to expire in 2010. This legislation makes these increases permanent. It also makes permanent the relatively new Roth 401(k) option which was slow to catch on for fear it would also disappear in 2010.
- Automatic 401(k) enrollment. The new plan makes it easier for corporations to set up automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans. They can also set the plans to increase contributions automatically over time. I think this is great. If you don’t, you can ‘opt out’ – the issue now is that you may need to opt out of your company plan rather than opting in. In a study of four large companies that made 401(k) enrollment automatic, researchers found that 96% of employees were saving in a 401(k) plan six months after being hired [compared with 43% that were saving after six months prior to the switch to automatic enrollment]. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, it is expected that automatic enrollment would increase 401(k) participation from about 66% (currently) of eligible workers to more than 90%. Employers will be able to start contributions at 3% of salary and increase it over time to 6%. “Lifecycle” or “Target Retirement” funds are likely to be the default fund.
- Deposit your tax refund automatically into an IRA. Starting in 2007, you can directly deposit all or a portion of your federal tax refund into an IRA. Consider this – the average tax refund of $2,400 is more money than the average person now saves for retirement annually!
- Other IRA Enhancements. Beginning in 2010, it will be possible for anyone to convert eligible workplace savings plans or traditional IRA assets into a Roth IRA [regardless of income]. There are many other enhancements [primarily estate planning-related] which you can read more about below.
- 529 College Savings Plan benefits are now permanent. The benefits of this college savings tool, established in 1996, were set to expire in 2010. This uncertainty kept many potential parents on the sidelines or in other vehicles because of their uncertain future.
- White House Pension Act Fact Sheet
- Fidelity Investments
- TIAA-CREF – Pension Protection Act of 2006 Guide
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