It’s smart and very beneficial to strive to put the maximum amount into your retirement account(s) every year. When you do so, you can greatly reduce your taxable income and tax burden as well as boost your retirement income. Even if you find yourself behind schedule late into the calendar year, all is not lost; there are still things you can do.

Take advantage of these strategies to make the most of your retirement accounts:

1. “Catch Up” contributions. If you’re age 50 or older, you can make additional contributions to your IRA or other qualified plan. You can contribute an additional $5,500 on top of the current maximum of $16,500 to qualifying plans. For IRAs, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

2. Roth conversion. In many situations, it can benefit you to convert a portion of your traditional IRA or other plan to a Roth IRA before December 31st.

* With a Roth IRA, you pay regular income tax on the funds before you put them in, but once they’re in a Roth IRA, they grow income-tax fee and you pay no income tax when you withdraw them in your retirement (provided you’ve had the account at least 5 years).

* Plus, unlike your traditional IRA, you’re not required to ever withdraw the money if you don’t want to, so they can continue to grow tax free as long as you like. You can even pass them down tax-free to your heirs. So the potential value of funds in a Roth IRA is greater than the potential value of the same amount of IRA funds.

* If your current taxable income has some room for growth because your tax deductions and credits wipe out your taxes, then the additional taxes for rolling over the traditional IRA might be a non-issue for you.

* Also, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, you’ll pay fewer taxes on the rollover now than you would if you kept the old IRA and had to pay taxes on your distributions in retirement.

3. Start a Self-Employed Retirement Plan. If you’re self-employed and currently are not utilizing a retirement plan, you potentially can contribute almost $50,000 towards your retirement each year. Not only are you planning for your retirement, but also you’re reducing your taxable income by a considerable amount.

* There are a lot of options available for self-employed retirement plans. Investigate your options and choose the best one for your situation. Seek out professional advice if you need it.

4. Play the calendar game. If you find yourself nearing the end of the year and can see that you’re not going to reach the contribution limits for your 401(k), do what you can to increase your payroll deductions, even if it’s just for a few months. The same goes for any IRA contributions; do what you can to reach the limits.

* Keep in mind that every $1,000 you put into your 401(k) or other plan is worth almost $6,000 in 20 years and approximately $14,000 in 30 years at 8.5% interest. Tighten your belt for a couple of months and it will pay off!

Maximize your contributions any way you can. Contributions to retirement plans offer tremendous flexibility as they relate to tax planning. They really are tools to manipulate your level of taxable income.

Although these strategies can improve your financial situation, it’s important to do the necessary research before making significant changes to your retirement planning and strategies. Just as there are many things you can do to reduce your tax burden, there are many mistakes that can increase your tax burden as well.

Always consult your financial or tax advisor before taking any substantial action. Working together, you can take advantage of these strategies and more to make the most of your retirement account options.