SECURE Act 2.0 Offers New Options for 529 Plans and Student Loan Payments

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In December 2022, Congress passed the SECURE Act 2.0. It introduced two new rules relating to 529 plans and student debt that will take effect in 2024.

The first provision allows for tax- and penalty-free rollovers from a 529 plan to a Roth IRA. The second provision allows student loan payments made by employees to qualify for employer retirement matching contributions. The overall goal is to help young adults start saving for retirement.

New 529 Rollover Option

529 plans are tax-advantaged savings accounts specifically geared to saving for college. In an effort to broaden the flexibility of 529 plans in situations where families have extra funds in an account, Congress created a new rollover option.

Starting in 2024, 529 plan beneficiaries can roll over up to $35,000 to a Roth IRA over their lifetimes. The rollover is not subject to taxes or a penalty that would typically apply to a non-education use of funds. This new rollover option can allow a young adult to get a head start on saving for retirement.

Here’s how it will work:

  • The beneficiary of the 529 plan must be the owner of the Roth IRA.
  • Any rollover is subject to annual Roth IRA contribution limits, so a beneficiary can’t roll over $35,000 all at once. For example, in 2023, the Roth IRA contribution limit is $6,500 (for people under age 50) or earned income, whichever is less. If the limit remains the same in 2024, a beneficiary would be able to roll over up to $6,500. If the beneficiary earns $4,000 in total income in 2024, then the maximum amount that could be rolled over is $4,000.
  • In order for the rollover to be tax- and penalty-free, the 529 plan must have been open for at least 15 years. If the 529 account owner (typically a parent) changes the beneficiary of the 529 plan at any point, this will restart the 15-year clock.
  • Contributions to a 529 plan made within five years of the rollover date can’t be rolled over — only 529 contributions made outside of the five-year window can be rolled over to the Roth IRA.

New Option for Employer Treatment of Employee Student Loan Payments

In addition to making 529 plans more flexible with a new rollover option, the SECURE 2.0 legislation seeks to help employees who have student loans and are making monthly loan payments. Employees with student loan debt often have to prioritize repaying their loans over contributing to their workplace retirement plan, which can mean missing out on potential employer retirement matching contributions. Starting in 2024, employers will have the option to treat an employee’s student loan payments as payments made to a qualified retirement plan (student loan payments will be considered “elective deferrals”), which would make those contributions eligible for an employer retirement match (if the employer offers this benefit).

Our team of Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) professionalsis here to construct your comprehensive financial plan and help you start saving for retirement.

Prepared by Broadridge. Edited by BFSG. Copyright 2023.

Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including those undertaken or recommended by Company), will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Please see important disclosure information here.

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