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Making Sense of the Mega Backdoor Roth

Roth IRAs are one of the greatest gifts ever given to retirement savers. They enable individuals who qualify to enjoy tax-free withdrawals of their money after they retire, or even earlier in some situations. This can help retirees stretch their nest eggs even further.

Stressing about taxes? Download Your FREE Guide: “5 Tax Hacks for Investors”

Do you have enough in your 401k to retire when you want?

But there’s one big catch when it comes to Roth IRAs: If you earn too much money, you can’t open or contribute to one. Specifically, if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is greater than $139,000 if you’re single or $206,000 if you’re married and file jointly this year, you can’t open and contribute to a Roth IRA.

The good news is that you can still reap the benefits of a Roth account even if your income exceeds these limits by using a technique known as a mega backdoor Roth. This strategy may also enable you to sock away tens of thousands of dollars more for retirement this year.

Read More: Roth IRA vs. Roth 401k: How are They Different?

Is a Mega Backdoor Roth Right for You?

The first step is to determine whether you are actually eligible for a mega backdoor Roth or not. You can only do a mega backdoor Roth if these conditions are present:

  • You participate in a 401k plan at work that allows after-tax contributions. Regular 401k contributions are made on an elective deferral, or pre-tax, basis. Fewer than half of 401k plans allow after-tax contributions, so check with your benefit plan administrator before moving forward.
  • The 401k plan allows in-service distributions to a Roth IRA or transfer of funds out of the after-tax portion of the account into a Roth 401k. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to wait until after you leave the company to perform a mega backdoor Roth.

How Does a Mega Backdoor Roth Work?

If you can check the box on each one of these conditions, then you may qualify to for a mega backdoor Roth IRA. Here’s how the process works:

  • Determine and make the maximum after-tax contribution you can to your traditional 401k account.
  • Rollover or convert this amount to a Roth IRA or Roth 401k. Unlike with a normal Roth IRA conversion, the principal will not be taxable. However, the earnings portion of the rollover will be considered pre-tax and subject to taxation at time of the conversion.

How Much Can You Contribute?

With a mega backdoor Roth, you may be able to contribute an additional $37,500 toward your retirement this year on top of the regular plan contribution limits. If you have access to a Roth 401k at work, you can decide whether to rollover the funds into this Roth 401k or a separate Roth IRA. If your employer only offers a traditional 401k, then you’ll rollover the funds into a Roth IRA.

The bottom line: If you are unable to contribute to a Roth IRA because you earn too much money, or if you still have money left over to save for retirement after maxing out your regular 401k and IRA, then a mega backdoor Roth might be a smart strategy for you.

The details in performing a mega backdoor Roth can be complex, so you should consult with your financial and tax advisors for guidance in your situation.

Suggested Next Steps for You:

  1. Sign up for Personal Capital’s free financial tools so you can track all of your accounts, including your retirement accounts, in one place. The tools will also help you spot inefficiencies, like where you may be paying too much in fees, or where you may be taking too much risk.
  2. Download your free guide to managing tax burden as an investor.

We are not licensed tax professionals. All insight provided represents a courtesy extended to you for educational purpose and you should not rely on this information as the primary basis of your tax planning decisions. You should consult qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Don Sadler is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about business and finance. Learn more at www.donsadlerwriter.com.
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