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Roth 401(K) vs. Traditional 401(K)
Old 06-17-2018, 07:01 AM   #1
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Roth 401(K) vs. Traditional 401(K)

I have to decide in a week which to pick. Any thoughts? Currently have a Roth IRA. Can I roll a Roth 401k into a Roth IRA at retirement?

I am currently 53 and looking to ER between 55-57.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:18 AM   #2
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My employer does not match Roth 401K contributions, so I decided to stick with the traditional 401K and extra dollars were invested in an online brokerage account. Depending on your tax bracket, long term gains from the brokerage account are taxed at 0% or 15% maximum.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:28 AM   #3
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https://www.schwab.com/resource-cent...hich-is-better

Interesting comment from Al18 about the matching. More thoughts in the link:
current marginal tax rate vs your rate at withdrawal.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:31 AM   #4
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Are you in a high income tax state, but plan on moving to a low income tax state in the future? That also could be a determinant.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:31 AM   #5
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If I am not mistaken it is harder to get withdrawals from a Roth 401k prior to age 59 1/2 than from a traditional 401k. There are IRS rules and your plans rules that may be even more strict. I believe the rule for Roth 401k distributions mentioned above is an actual IRS rule.

Does your plan allow "in-plan" Roth 401k conversions? If so, you may wish to go the traditional 401k option -- it will keep your options available.

Are you currently maximizing a Roth IRA separate from your 401k?

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Old 06-17-2018, 07:38 AM   #6
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I did both. The employer match always went into traditional. I used an increasing allocation to Roth and taxable accounts as I approached ER. I am finding that having diversity among taxable, tax deferred, and Roth accounts is VERY good.
Do you REALLY have to choose A or B?
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Old 06-17-2018, 08:46 AM   #7
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The mathematically correct answer totally depends on the difference in tax rates between when you put the money in today and what you project your tax rates will be when you pull the money out. The most difficult part of working that out is projecting what your tax rates will be when withdrawing. Total tax rates in retirement include things like ACA subsidies (a potential "reverse tax") and effects on SS taxability. It involves a lot of uncertainty projecting any individual's future tax rates.

It is important to remember that it isn't useful to compare how much money you pay in taxes. By virtue of compounding, Traditional results in eventually paying more $$ in taxes, but it also results in a bigger nest egg to pay taxes from. The important number is how much money is left for you to spend after-tax. not in how many $$ the government gets. A lot of people get hung up on the total aggregate tax bill and forget to focus on what they get to spend after tax.

If you are saving more than the 401K qualified contribution limit, there are savings options that are Roth only. "Backdoor Roth" and mega-backdoor Roth" are ways available to some people to get additional savings above traditional contribution limits into tax advantaged Roth accounts. HSA's can be considered as a "super Roth" if used for long term retirement savings strategies. For upper earner/savers, the rules and iimits result in accumulating a mix of Roth and traditional. Also as was already mentioned, the employer match is always in traditional whether the individual elects Roth or traditional for their contributions.

It is common for those who retire early to have the time between retiring and starting retiremt income sources like SS, RMD's and pensions as a low tax period where Roth conversions are advantageous. If you intend to retire and start living off savings prior to traditional retirement age, potential Roth conversions under lower tax rates are an additional complication in modelling.

Most people get more benefit from traditional contributions. Which is another way of saying that overall tax rates decline in retirement for most people. For the median case though, the difference isn't big.
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Old 06-17-2018, 08:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thepalmersinking View Post
I have to decide in a week which to pick. Any thoughts? Currently have a Roth IRA. Can I roll a Roth 401k into a Roth IRA at retirement?

I am currently 53 and looking to ER between 55-57.
Yes, your Roth 401K funds can be rolled over into a Roth IRA at retirement. Here's all the info, direct from the IRS:

https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans...-roth-accounts
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