Insights and Resources

Navigating the New Norm: Understanding the Secure Act 2.0

ARTICLE | December 06, 2023

The Secure Act 2.0, a critical piece of legislation making waves in the financial world, is ushering in significant changes to retirement and college savings plans. The Act, with its 90-plus provisions, is designed to enhance retirement savings, streamline plan administration, and add flexibility to college savings plans.

Strengthening Retirement Savings

The Secure Act 2.0 is designed to preserve and enhance the retirement savings of working Americans. It emphasizes keeping employees connected to their retirement accounts as they navigate through their careers. The Act mandates the creation of a "Lost and Found" database to assist retirement plan participants in locating accounts from former employers, reducing the possibility of misplaced funds or premature withdrawals, referred to as automatic portability.

The Act also introduces a system that automatically transfers retirement savings to a new plan when employees change jobs, tethering participant's assets to them. Such a provision is a significant step towards reducing asset leakage from ERISA plans and helps alleviate the missing participant issue.

In a bid to streamline plan administration, the Act increases the dollar limit for plan sponsors to automatically cash out a former employee's retirement plan from $5,000 to $7,000 starting in 2024. Plan sponsors can also work with vendors to assist in implementing automatic rollovers, a service provided by some retirement plan industry providers and Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH).

Adding Flexibility to College Savings Plans

One of the standout provisions of the Secure Act 2.0 is its impact on college savings plans. Traditionally, funds saved in a 529 Plan were strictly for future education costs. However, the Act now allows for the conversion of these funds into a Roth IRA if not used for qualifying educational expenses. This provision offers an unprecedented level of flexibility for parents and guardians, previously constricted by the stringent rules of 529 plans.

To qualify for this provision, the 529 Plan must have been in existence for at least 15 years, and the amount being rolled over must have been held in the account for at least five years. Beneficiaries can roll over up to a maximum of $35,000 for their lifetime. Additionally, the beneficiary must have earned income up to the amount to be converted to a Roth IRA, and IRA annual contribution limits apply.

This provision can be a game-changer for families, enabling them to adapt their financial strategies to meet changing circumstances. It allows funds initially set aside for education to be repurposed for retirement without incurring penalties or additional taxes.


The Secure Act 2.0, which goes into effect on January 1, 2024, promises to reshape the landscape of retirement and college savings plans. The Act offers exciting possibilities by strengthening retirement savings, streamlining plan administration, and adding flexibility to college savings plans. However, these changes should be viewed within the context of your overall financial picture. It may be beneficial to consult with a financial advisor to ensure these changes align with your long-term financial goals.

The Act reaffirms the need for financial planning and underscores the importance of being prepared for unexpected situations. With the right approach, the changes brought about by the Secure Act 2.0 can significantly boost financial stability, both for retirement and education. It is indeed a step forward towards a future filled with financial security and peace of mind.

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