Cash Balance Plan Lifetime Limit: 5 Funding Tips [+ IRS Pitfalls]

Funding cash balance plans can be challenging. But how much do you know about the cash balance plan lifetime limit?

If you’re a business owner and want to maximize your retirement funds, you might want to consider a cash balance plan. These types of accounts allow you to contribute money tax-deferred, and the lifetime limit is approximately $3.1 million.

The lifetime limit is not a hard and fast rule, though; it is an arbitrary amount that changes from year to year based on your age and income. There are many factors to consider when choosing a cash balance plan.


Cash balance plan contributions allow you to make the highest tax deductions and savings during a year. You can contribute as much as $245,000 per year. The amount you can contribute is largely dependent on your age.

The older you are, the higher the contribution limit will be. This is because the older you are, the fewer years you have to save. You can save as much as you want, but don’t be tempted to spend it.

Cash balance plans fall under the “qualified plans” grouping. Qualified plans possess IRS tax-favored status. Tax advisors usually recommend maximum funding of these plans before exploring other tax-efficient strategies.

Plan contributions have the equivalent tax effect as a dollar for dollar ordinary income deduction. You may have Federal and State combined income tax rates of up to 45%. Tax-deductible CBP contributions can significantly reduce your business’ pre-tax income, drastically reducing your income tax payments.

Cash Balance Plan Lifetime Limit

You also benefit from significant contribution earnings. The CBP rules require annual funding, but let’s pretend you can only fund the plan once. If you make just one contribution of $150,000 with an interest credit rate of 5% interest per year, the investment will value $244 334.19 after earning compound interest for ten years. After 20 years, the initial $150 000 would appreciate to; $397 994.66 and $648 291.36 after 30 years.

Cash Balance Plan Lifetime Limit

A Cash Balance Plan lifetime limit is $3.1 million when an individual reaches age 62. A basic estimate would discount the amount by 10 years. The amount you contribute will likely increase over time as you approach retirement, but it will depend on your income level.

Some business owners use the higher earning years to catch up on their retirement payments and maximize their tax deduction. You should also consider how your income affects the lifetime limit of the plan.

As you get older, the lifetime limit will increase. The plan will have a higher life expectancy than a 401(k) plan. The plan’s actuary will determine the maximum amount you can contribute to the cash balance account.

The IRS will determine the annual compensation limit. If your salary is higher than the annual cap, the actuary will only use that higher W-2 for contribution purposes. In this way, the maximum compensation will be capped at $3.1 million in retirement.

Another important factor to consider is the lifetime limit. The cash balance plan lifetime limits are much higher than 401(k) plans. Moreover, the lifetime limit increases with age.

Strategies to Maximize the Plan

Let’s look at a few strategies that can be used:

Only Include 40% of the Employees

You should be aware that the cash balance plan is not entirely required to cover all employees; in fact, IRS only requires 40% of employees to be covered. Section 401 (a) (26) requires that 50 employees or 40% of them, whichever is lesser, receive benefits under the plan and that the contributions should be meaningful.

A business owner could consider the age-weighted capacity of the cash balance plan and eliminate some older employees allowing for an overall lower employee contribution while providing significant benefit.

Combine Cash Balance Plan with 401 (k) and Profit-sharing Plans

Cash balance plans are not always the ultimate security after retirement; you will need additional income from profit-sharing or 401(k) plans. A good plan combines profit-sharing and 401(k) alongside a cash balance plan.

Include your Spouse in the plan

If your spouse is employed and included in the business payroll, it is best to have them in the cash balance plan. A spouse on payroll can receive benefits; they can contribute to the available cash balance plan, profit-sharing, or 401 (k) plans.

Set Higher Wages for Yourself

Contributions to a cash balance plan consider the level of compensation one has. The owner can increase their W-2 wage to increase their contribution to the cash balance plan. This could also be applied to the owner’s spouse. Even though this will lead to higher income taxation, the company will get a higher deduction, and the owner will get a more considerable contribution towards social security.

Lifetime Limit: Maximum contributions

This is the main reason why it is important to understand the lifetime limits of your cash balance plan. You need to understand that the cash balance limit will grow as your account grows. You should make sure you understand that the amount you can deposit in the plan depends on the employer’s requirements.

The lifetime limit will depend on how much you can afford to contribute each year. If you have a good job, you should aim for at least $30,000 a year. If you’re still young, you can contribute a little less.

If you’re a senior citizen, you’ll need more money. As you age, the life expectancy limit will decrease as well. In this way, it will be more difficult to meet your goals. If you’re a baby boomer, you can increase your contribution limit accordingly.

If you’re a business owner, you may want to consider a cash balance plan. These plans often have a lifetime limit and allow you to access your funds before retirement. They can also be used when you’re self-employed or have a small business.

Unlike a traditional pension, a cash balance plan can offer a wealthier retirement account. However, beware of the downsides of a cash-balance plan.

If you’re an employer, you might want to look into a cash balance plan. These plans are not limited by annual contribution limits. Instead, they are based on average compensation. The maximum compensation for a cash balance plan is $3.1 million at retirement.

A cash balance plan’s lifetime limit is not set in stone. But the amount of money you can save at retirement depends on your age and compensation. A cash balance plan can give you a greater amount as you age.

Large ContributionsThe plan can make $100k + contributions in most situations
High Admin FeesThese plans are more expensive to maintain compared to a basic solo 401k
ComplianceCompliance issues are handled by the TPA
Investment OptionsInvestment choices are almost unlimited.

Bottom line

The lifetime limit on a cash balance plan is different than the annual contribution limit in a traditional pension. In a cash balance plan, you can make more contributions as you age.

Moreover, the account balance of a cash-balance plan is not subject to any annual or monthly limits. The account balance will be automatically accumulated and will grow with your income. If you’re a business owner, you should make sure that you have enough funds in your account to retire comfortably.