Saving for Retirement as a High-Income Earner

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Picture of Allison Vanaski, CFP®

Allison Vanaski, CFP®

If you are a high-income earning professional, you may need to take additional steps to ensure you are saving enough for retirement. Many investors find that maximizing their company retirement plans may not be enough. You want to make sure you are saving enough in your income-earning years to maintain a similar lifestyle in retirement. Here are some tips to get you there:



Health Savings Accounts are what we call triple tax free. This means that contributions made into HSAs are not just tax deductible, but the earnings are tax-deferred and the withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified medical expenses the scope of which is very broad.

To qualify for an HSA, you must first have what is considered a high deductible health plan ($2,600 per family or $1,300 per individual). Families can deposit up to $6,750 per year to their HSA and individuals can add up to $3,350. Using this strategy means contributing the maximum amount each year and not withdrawing from it at all during your working years. When you retire it can be used as a supplemental fund for medical expenses completely tax-free or, if used for other expenses, withdrawals after the age of 65 would be taxed as ordinary income. Using this strategy might be especially beneficial now that there is a fair amount of uncertainty about the future of Medicare coverage especially for those with higher-net-worth.


If you are a high-income self-employed individual, you can contribute as much as $53,000 to a profit-sharing 401(k) versus the $18,000 that w-2 employees can contribute. In the event that your employer makes large contributions to your retirement, the, by all means, stay put. But chances are you will be able to maximize your retirement contributions on a much greater scale and an independent contractor.

If you already are self-employed, then you should consider a personal defined benefit plan. Compared with other defined contribution plans, this one begins by determining your projected annual benefit once you retire. You will then calculate the annual contribution you need to reach the defined benefit. This is based on your life expectancy, current age and return assumptions. Some annual contributions can reach more than $100,000, which allows small business owners to save more in this plan than in other retirement plans. Here’s the caveat: Defined benefit plans have setup and administration fees that you don’t find in other retirement contribution options. When the plan is in place, you are required to pay the annual contributions for at least five years. This plan is best suited for individuals who can contribute at least $80,000 yearly.


Once you have maxed out your employee contributions for the year in your 401(k) (currently at $18,500/year in 2018), some 401(k) plans allow you to contribute after-tax dollars for total contributions up to $53,000 or 100% of your compensation. The earnings from after-tax 401(k) contributions grow tax-free until you withdraw them, at which point they will be taxed as ordinary income. However, if you’re maximizing your retirement contributions and still have extra money for investing, you may want to invest in something that you can eventually convert to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) such as an after-tax 401(k).


Ideally, you should maximize the retirement benefits from your employer, considering any employee match and/or tax benefits you may receive by participating in a company retirement plan. After contributing to your retirement plans you may find you have additional income to save and should consider saving into a taxable brokerage account. While there are no immediate tax benefits to saving into this type of account, it does offer the most flexibility (funds do not have to be used solely for retirement), and any gains in the account are taxed at capital gains rates, rather than ordinary income. It is always nice to have a variety of accounts to generate an income for you in retirement, especially pulling money from accounts that have favorable tax implications. Because of the flexible nature of these accounts, the funds can be earmarked for retirement, but you may also use this account for shorter-term goals: your children’s education, a down payment on a house, etc. Investment options within these brokerage accounts may be greater than those offered through a company retirement plan.


These are just some of the ways you can increase your retirement savings as a high-income earner. Your financial advisor can help you navigate the ins and outs of each option and assess which ones will best fit your current income and financial goals. The ideas in this article are general in nature and are not meant to be tax advice. You should consult with a qualified tax advisor about your specific situation. Schedule a discovery call to talk with one of our trusted advisors!

Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. Information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances as needed. No advice may be rendered by Arcadia unless a client service agreement is in place. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.

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