Doing a Roth Conversion Like This Can Minimize Your Taxes
One of the costs of converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA is how much you will pay in taxes. In some cases, those taxes can be a heavy burden, especially if you have been diligent in building up the balance in your traditional IRA. Fortunately there’s a way to put a lid on your tax liability as you convert to a Roth. Rather than converting the entire traditional IRA all at once, you could do a series of partial conversions. Consider working with a financial advisor to help ensure that you are handling your tax-advantaged accounts in the smartest way.
Roth Conversion Basics
There are two key reasons to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. One is that you can withdraw money later tax free, and second is that there are no required minimum distributions. Remember that early withdrawals (before age 59.5) from a traditional IRA are subject to a 10% penalty. When you convert from a traditional IRA to a Roth you’ll want to make sure you do so in a way that doesn’t trigger the penalty. You have 60 days to convert if you move the money. It’s generally safer to let your brokerage(s) handle the conversion so you don’t forget to make the 60-day deadline.
Keep in mind that money in your traditional IRA has yet to be taxed. The point of a Roth IRA is that it’s already taxed money that grows tax-free. So, to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA you’ll have to pay ordinary income taxes on your traditional IRA contributions in the year of the conversion before they “count” as Roth IRA funds. The taxable amount that you convert to a Roth gets added to your taxable income for that year and is taxed at the appropriate rate.
Doing Partial Roth Conversions
Just as dollar-cost averaging helps ensure that you’re not buying high and selling low, a common mistake some retail investors make – doing a series of partial Roth conversions can help put a lid on what you will owe the government in taxes, according to Morningstar. The point is to convert just enough each year to keep you from being bumped up into a higher tax bracket.
For example, in 2022 a married couple earning up to $178,150 would be in the 22% tax bracket. But this couple would be in the 24% tax bracket if their total taxable income was from $178,151 to $340,100. Now, suppose that in 2022 they have taxable income of $125,000; a 22% tax rate on that amount is $27,500. If they convert a traditional IRA with a $115,000 balance to a Roth, that would result in their taxable income rising from $125,000 to $240,000. That puts them in a 24% tax bracket, and 24% of $240,000 is $57,600.
Now, however, suppose they decide on a partial Roth conversion. Rather than convert the entire $115,000 traditional IRA to a Roth, they only convert $50,000. That puts their taxable income at $175,000, still within the 22% tax bracket. A 22% tax on $175,000 is $38,500 – far less than the $57,600 they would have owed if they had converted the entire traditional IRA into a Roth.
Considerations of Partial Conversions
Clearly, partial conversions of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, done correctly, enable you to avoid unnecessary federal taxes. But besides this obvious benefit, there are some challenges that should be factored into your decision to do a partial conversion.
For example, what are the relevant state taxes? If you’re moving into a state that has a higher tax rate you’ll need to take that into consideration as you calculate how much of your traditional IRA to convert. Secondly, what will you earn in a calendar year? That can be hard to predict, especially if your compensation depends on commissions or if you stand to receive a bonus or you plan to exercise an incentive stock option.
Finally, keep in mind that extra income from a Roth conversion can result in your losing the subsidy you are entitled to as part of the Affordable Care Act.
The primary reason to consider partial Roth conversions is to control future tax liability. You do this by “filling up” your current tax bracket to cap your taxable income at the maximum level of your existing tax bracket. This is sometimes called tax bracket arbitrage, paying taxes now at a lower rate than you otherwise would have to do at a future date.
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American Weed Stocks Are Cheap. They’re About to Get a Sales Bump.
However bad the year has been for most stocks, it has been especially harsh for state-licensed cannabis sellers.
In just the past month, the
AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis
exchange-traded fund (ticker: MSOS), which tracks America’s multistate operators—or MSOs—fell 25%, while the
How Do Mega Backdoor Roths Work?
A mega backdoor Roth is a unique 401(k) rollover strategy that’s designed for people whose incomes would ordinarily keep them from saving in a Roth Individual Retirement Account. The advantage of using a Roth IRA to save for retirement is being able to make tax-free qualified withdrawals. But not everyone can contribute to these accounts; higher-income earners are excluded. That’s where the mega backdoor Roth comes into play. If you have a 401(k) you’d like to roll over, you could use this strategy to enjoy the tax benefits of a Roth IRA without having income be an obstacle.
Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to maximize your retirement assets by working with a financial advisor.
Roth Account Basics
Before diving into the specifics of a mega backdoor Roth, there are a few things to know about Roth accounts, including Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s.
First, these accounts are both funded with after-tax dollars. That means when you make qualified withdrawals later, you won’t pay income tax on the money since you already paid it upfront. This is the key characteristic of Roth accounts and what makes them so appealing to investors who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket at retirement.
Next, your ability to contribute to a Roth 401(k) is not restricted by your income. But it is for a Roth IRA. For the 2021 tax year, you must be within these modified adjusted gross income limits to make a full Roth IRA contribution:
Single filers: MAGI of $125,000 or less
Married filing jointly: MAGI of $198,000 or less
Head of household: MAGI of $125,000 or less
You can make partial contributions above those income limits. But your ability to contribute phases out completely once your MAGI hits $140,000 (if you file single or head of household) or $208,000 if you’re married and file a joint return. For 2021, the full contribution allowed is $6,000 with a $1,000 catch-up contribution for savers aged 50 and older.
Finally, Roth 401(k) accounts are subject to required minimum distribution rules just like traditional 401(k) accounts. This rule requires you to begin taking money from your 401(k) starting at age 72. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, is not subject to RMD rules.
What Is a Backdoor Roth?
A backdoor Roth offers a work-around for people whose incomes are above the limits set by the IRS. When you execute a backdoor Roth, you roll money over from a traditional IRA to a Roth account. This way, you won’t have to pay taxes on your retirement savings in the Roth IRA when it’s time to make withdrawals. And you’re not subject to required minimum distribution rules either.
But there is a catch. You have to pay income tax on the money you roll over to a Roth account. So while you could save money on taxes in retirement, you’re not escaping the tax liability of a traditional IRA altogether.
How a Mega Backdoor Roth Works
A mega backdoor Roth is a backdoor Roth that’s designed specifically for people who have a 401(k) plan at work. This type of backdoor Roth allows you to contribute up to $38,500 to a Roth IRA or a Roth 401(k) in 2021. This is in addition to the regular annual contribution limits the IRS allows for these types of accounts. To execute a mega backdoor Roth, two conditions have to be met. Your 401(k) plan needs to allow the following:
You can ask your plan administrator whether your 401(k) meets these criteria. And if your plan doesn’t allow for in-service withdrawals or distributions, you could still attempt a mega backdoor Roth if you plan to leave your job in the near future.
If your plan meets the criteria, then you can take the next steps to execute a mega backdoor Roth. This is typically a two-step process that involves maxing out after-tax 401(k) contributions, then withdrawing the after-tax portion of your account to a Roth IRA.
Again, whether you can follow through on the second step depends on whether your plan allows in-service withdrawals. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to wait until you separate from your employer to roll over any after-tax money in your 401(k) into a Roth IRA.
You also need to watch out for the pro rata rule. This IRS rule says you can’t only withdraw pre- or post-tax contributions from a traditional 401(k). So if you’re completing a mega backdoor Roth, you couldn’t just withdraw post-tax contributions if your account holds both pre- and post-tax funds. In that case, you may have to roll over the entire balance to a Roth IRA.
Benefits of a Mega Backdoor Roth
There are three key benefits associated with executing a mega backdoor Roth. First, you can contribute significantly more to a Roth IRA upfront this way. For 2021, the contribution limit is $38,500 on top of the regular annual contribution limit and any catch-up contribution limits that may apply.
You’ll need to know the maximum amount you’re allowed to contribute to the after-tax portion of your 401(k). So for 2021, the IRS allows a maximum contribution of $58,000 or $64,500 if you’re 50 or older. You’d subtract your 401(k) contributions and anything your employer adds in matching contributions to figure out how much you could add to the after-tax portion.
Next, you can enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This is a benefit you may otherwise not being able to get if your income is too high to contribute to a Roth IRA. By reducing your tax liability in retirement, you can help your investment dollars go further. And you may have a larger legacy of wealth to pass on to future generations.
Finally, a mega backdoor Roth IRA would allow you to sidestep required minimum distribution rules. This means that you could retain control over when you choose to take distributions from a Roth IRA.
So who is a mega backdoor Roth right for? You may consider this move if you:
Have an eligible 401(k) plan at work
Have maxed out traditional 401(k) contributions
Are not eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA because of your income
Have additional money that you want to invest for retirement
Want to leverage the higher Roth IRA contribution limits allowed by a mega backdoor rollover
Talking to your financial advisor can help you decide if a mega backdoor Roth makes sense. And your 401(k) plan administrator should be able to tell you if it’s possible, based on your plan’s guidelines.
Mega Backdoor Roth Alternatives
If you can’t execute a mega backdoor Roth because your plan doesn’t allow it, there are other ways to increase your retirement savings. For example, you could try a regular backdoor Roth instead. This might be something to consider if you still want to enjoy the tax benefits of a Roth IRA but your plan doesn’t fit the criteria for a mega rollover. You could also elect to make Roth 401(k) contributions to your retirement plan at work. This way, you still get the benefit of contributing after-tax dollars and making tax-free withdrawals. You’d be subject to the regular contribution limits and you’d still have to take the required minimum distribution. But that may outweigh the value of tax savings in retirement.
Investing in a Health Savings Account (HSA) is another option. While these accounts are not specifically designed for retirement, they can yield multiple tax benefits. Contributions are tax-deductible and grow tax-deferred. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for eligible healthcare expenses. And at 65, you can take money out of an HSA for any reason without a tax penalty. You’ll just owe ordinary income tax on any withdrawals that are not used for healthcare expenses.
Finally, you could open a taxable brokerage account to invest. This doesn’t necessarily save you money on taxes since you’ll owe capital gains tax when you sell investments at a profit. But it could help you to diversify your investments and there are no limits on how much you can invest in a brokerage account annually.
A mega backdoor Roth strategy could work well for higher-income earners who want to take advantage of Roth account benefits. There are certain rules that need to be followed to make it work, however, so you may want to talk to your plan administrator or a tax professional before going ahead. Keep in mind also that even if you can’t complete a mega backdoor Roth rollover, you still have other options for growing retirement savings.
Tips for Retirement Planning
If you’re saving for retirement in a 401(k) or IRA, pay attention to the fees you’re paying. For instance, check the expense ratios for each fund you’re invested in to understand how much you pay to own that fund on an annual basis. You can then compare that to the fund’s performance to determine whether the fees are justified. Also, consider any administrative fees you might be paying and how those affect your net returns.
Consider talking to your financial advisor about a mega backdoor Roth and whether it could be right for you. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. You can get your personalized recommendations in minutes just by answering a few simple questions. If you’re ready, get started now.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/designer491
Alibaba Is Tumbling. Chinese Tech Stocks Have a New Headache.
Chinese tech stocks were tumbling on Monday as two of the embattled sector’s leading players faced fresh fines from market regulators over disclosure rules.
China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced Sunday a wave of penalties for improperly reporting past deals, in breach of competition law.
(ticker: BABA) and
(0700.H.K.) were among the companies fined as a result.
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