I’ve often thought about front loading my 401(k), i.e. contributing the full amount at the beginning of the year in as few paychecks as possible, but never done it.
Why? My former employer, although they did a true-up match the following year, would only contribute the matching money each paycheck if you contributed at least X%. So if I front loaded my contributions, then I would possibly not get the full matching money if I was no longer employed with them when they did the true-up.
With my new employer, I can maximize the 401(k) match even if I front load my 401(k) contributions.
Why do I like the idea of front loading my 401(k) contributions? I like going through my list of savings goals for the year and checking off one at a time, only concentrating on one goal at a time.
1. Get my savings account up to $60,000. done with mid March paycheck
2. Contribute the full $18,000 to my pre-tax 401(k). will be done with end of May paycheck
3. Contribute the maximum I can to my after-tax 401(k) and then transfer it to my Roth IRA. will finish with a September paycheck
4. Contribute the maximum I can to the Employee Stock Purchase Plan. ongoing
5. Pay down the mortgage by $28,671.79. this one probably won’t get done, but I’m forecasting I’ll get 75% of the way there.
I used to not like the idea of the small paychecks, but it has grown on me since I have a nice cash buffer now. I plan to use the BrokerageLink feature of my new 401(k) to set up a three fund portfolio and I can’t set that up to automatically put money into a specific allocation like I can with the regular funds in the 401(k) plan, but by front loading my 401(k) contributions, the money will only be sitting in cash for ~2.5 months if I let it sit there until all the money is there and then invest it. If I wasn’t front loading, I would feel a need to log in more often and set up the money.
Why have I always wanted to do this? Over the last few years, I’ve often wanted to leave my job before the end of the year and it would have been nice to have already maxed out my 401(k), be on the path to get the maximum match, and not worry about that while I was contemplating quitting my job.
Front loading also means I don’t have to worry about getting the contribution % exactly right to max it out with my last paycheck of the year or worry if my last paycheck will actually come in the following year or if there are more paychecks than expected.
I had forgotten about this idea, even after thoroughly reading my new job’s 401(k) plan’s Summary Plan Description (SPD) in detail to learn as much as I could about the after-tax contributions and how the matching worked. But then I read Mad Fientist’s blog post on why you should front load your 401(k) and I was hooked!
Readers, have you ever considered front loading your 401(k)?