Secure Act 2.0: Summary for Individuals and Employers

Who doesn’t enjoy tying up year-end loose ends? The original SECURE Act was signed into law on December 20th, 2019. Its “sequel,” the SECURE 2.0 Act, was similarly enacted at year-end on December 29th, 2022.

Both pieces of legislation seek to reform how Americans prepare for retirement while juggling current spending needs. How, when, or will each of us retire? How can government incentives, regulations, and safety nets help more people safely do so—or at least not get in the way? 

These are questions we’ve been asking as a nation for decades, across shifting socioeconomic climates. Throughout, a hard truth remains:

Employers and the government play a role in helping you save for and spend in retirement, but much of the preparation ultimately falls on you. 

Neither the original SECURE Act nor SECURE 2.0 has fundamentally changed this reality. SECURE 2.0 has, however, added far more motivational carrots than punishing sticks. Its guiding goal is right there in the name: Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE). Following is an overview of its key components. 

Note: Implementation for each SECURE 2.0 provision varies from being effective immediately, to ramping up in future years. A few even apply retroactively. Many of its newest programs won’t effectively roll out until 2024 or later, giving us time to plan. We’ve noted with each provision when it’s slated to take effect. 

Saving More, Saving Better: Individual Savers

First, key provisions include several updates to encourage individual savers: 

  • Expanded Auto-Enrollment Requirements (2025): Because you’re more likely to save more if you’re automatically added to your company retirement plan program, auto-enrollment will be required for additional new retirement plans. Even with auto-enrollment, you can still opt out individually. Also, the Act has made a number of exceptions to the rules, including, as described here, “employers less than 3 years old, church plans, governmental plans, SIMPLE plans, and employers with 10 or fewer employees.” 
  • Higher Catch-Up Contributions (2024–2025): To accelerate retirement saving as you approach retirement age, SECURE 2.0 Act has increased annual “catch-up” contribution allowances for many retirement accounts (i.e., extra amounts allowed beyond the standard contribution limits); and, importantly, tied future increases to inflation. However, in many instances, the updates also require high-wage-earners ($145,000/year or higher) to direct their catch-up contributions to after-tax Roth accounts. 
  • Faster Plan Participation for Part-Time Employees (2024): If you’re a long-term, part-time employee, the SECURE Act of 2019 made it possible for you to participate in your employer’s retirement plan. With SECURE 2.0, you’ll be eligible to participate after 2 years instead of 3 years (after meeting other requirements). 
  • Saver’s Match for Low-Income Savers (2027): A Saver’s Credit for low-income families will be replaced by a more accessible Saver’s Match for those whose income levels qualify. While the credit offsets income on a tax form, the match will be a direct contribution into your retirement account, of up to $1,000 in government-paid matching funds.  
  • An Expanded Contribution Window for Sole Proprietors (2024): If you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll be able to establish a Solo 401(k) through the current year’s Federal income tax filing date, and still fund it with prior-year contributions. 
  • Potential Tax Error “Do Overs” (2025): To err is human, and often unintentional. As such, SECURE 2.0 has directed the IRS to apply an existing Employer Plans Compliance Resolutions System (EPCRS) to employer-sponsored plans and to IRAs. The details are to be developed, but as described here, the intent is to set up a system in which “most inadvertent failures to comply with tax-qualification rules would be eligible for self-correction.” 
  • Finding Former Plans (2024): It can be hard for company plan sponsors to keep in touch with former employees—and vice-versa. SECURE 2.0 has tasked the Dept. of Labor with hosting a national “lost and found” database to help you search for plan administrator contact information for former employees’ plans, in case you’ve left any retirement savings behind. 

Saving More, Saving Better: Employers

There also are provisions to help employers offer effective retirement plan programs: 

  • Better Retirement Plan Start-Up Incentives (2023): Small businesses can take retirement plan start-up credits to offset up to 100% of their plan start-up costs (versus a prior 50% cap). Also, businesses with no retirement plan can apply for start-up credits if they join a Multiple Employer Plan (MEP)—and this one applies retroactively to 2020.
  • A New “Starter 401(k)” Plan (2024): The Starter 401(k) provides small businesses that lack a 401(k) plan a simpler path to establishing one. Features will include streamlined regulatory and reporting requirements; auto-enrollment for all employees starting at 3% of their pay; a $6,000 annual contribution limit, rising with inflation; and a deferral-only structure, meaning the plan does NOT permit matching employer contributions.
  • Expanded SIMPLE Plan Contributions (2024): Under certain conditions, SECURE 2.0 allows for additional employer contributions to, and higher participant contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans. 
  • New Household Employee Plans (2023): Families can establish SEP IRA plans for their household employees, such as nannies or housekeepers.
  • Small Perks (2023): Until now, employers were prohibited from offering even small incentives to encourage employees to step up their retirement savings. Now, de minimis perks are okay, such as a gift card when a participant increases their deferral amount.

Next Steps

Stay tuned for the next part of this blog series, where we discuss strategies under the Secure 2.0 Act.

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

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