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Greetings, DrMerlot, and welcome. You asked:

Dear Retirement Guru; I just received a transaction detail report for a job I had for 1 year: I quite June 30. It included a 401(a) pre and post tax accounts and a tax-deferred 403(b). My total contributions for tax year 1998 for the 401(a) was $2.7K with $1.8K pretax. My 403(b) contribution was $5.8K. I have a side job with a 457 plan which may come to 3K$ this calendar. I also have a private practice sep- ira which may come to 1.2K$ by the end of the year. My question is in regards to a 401(k) Thrift plan at my new job. If I were to participate in it before the end of the calendar year 1998, how much could I contribute to it without incurring any bad vibs from the IRS?I am assuming there must be a limit to the sum of all the contributions for some of these retirement plans.

Sorry, no gurus here … Just us Fools. But maybe we can be of some help anyway. Let's start with the easy one, your 457 plan. You may contribute up to $8.5K to that nonqualified plan this year regardless of how much you put in the other plans. As to the others, that gets a tad bit more complicated because there you have to coordinate your contributions. And seeing as they're scattered all over the place, you have to keep a watchful eye on what's happening.

In the SEP-IRA, you may contribute up to 13.0435% of your net earnings from self-employment (See IRS Pub 560 for details) or $30K, whichever is less. The combined contributions to your 401a, 403b and 401k plans may not exceed the lesser of 25% of compensation or $10K. Based on your previous pre-tax contributions of $7.6K, that means you can't contribute more than $2.4K to the 401k or 25% of your pay from that job, whichever is less. You, not your new employer, are responsible to ensure this amount is not exceeded. Finally, you must ensure that the total of all of your contributions to the SEP, 401a, 403b and 401k do not exceed the lesser of 25% of your total compensation or $30K, whichever is less. Do all that, and you'll stay out of trouble.

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