A ROTH IRA Strategy for High Income Earners

 Do you have a 401k Plan from your current employer?  Does it allow you to make after tax contributions (these are different than pretax contributions and Roth 401k contributions)?  If the answer to both is “yes”, a recent IRS notice may present a welcome opportunity.  IRS Notice 2014-54 has provided guidance (positive guidance) allowing the splitting of after tax 401k contributions to a ROTH IRA. Although I believe that ROTH IRAs are used in many less than ideal situations, this is one strategy that can make sense for higher income earners; tax diversification and getting money into a ROTH without a big upfront tax cost. 

After answering “yes” to the first two questions, the next question is, “Are you making maximum contributions on a pretax basis?”  That is, if you are under 50 years old, are you contributing $17,500 and if you are over 50 (the new 30) $23,000? If you are making the maximum contribution, then a second look at after tax contributions should be considered.  Whew – that’s three hoops to jump through – but the benefits might just be worth it.

Putting Notice 2014-54 to Work

For example, Teddy, age 50 has a 401k plan and contributes $23,000 (includes the catch up contribution) and his employer matches $5,000 for a total of $28,000.  Teddy’s plan also allows for after tax contributions and he may contribute $29,000 more up to an IRS limit of $57,000. 

The new IRS Notice makes it clear and simplifies the process allowing this after tax amount at retirement to be rolled into a ROTH IRA.

The bottom line:  It is more attractive to make after tax contributions to your 401k with the flexibility of converting the basis to a ROTH at retirement or separation of employment without the tax hit of an ordinary Roth conversion.

As usual, the nuances are plentiful and your specific circumstances will determine whether this strategy is best for you.  To that end, we are here to help evaluate the opportunity with you.

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. C14-033701