Know the Benefits of a Roth 401(k)
Determine whether it’s important for you to have tax-free money in retirement.
Question: My company is starting to offer a Roth 401(k). I’m 56 years old, and most of my savings is in a traditional 401(k). Does it make sense to contribute to the Roth? - G.K., St. Peters, Mo.
Answer: The key question is whether you think your income tax rate is lower now than it will be in retirement. That’s because with a Roth 401(k), you don’t get a tax deduction for your contribution up front, but you can withdraw the money tax-free in retirement.
“For a younger person who expects their earnings to go up later, that’s a clearer case for the Roth 401(k),” says Roger Young, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price.
It’s a tougher decision if you’re currently in a high tax bracket. Your tax rates could still be high in retirement if you have a lot of savings in tax-deferred accounts. (Tax rates are set to rise at the end of 2025.) Consider contributing at least some money to the Roth to provide tax diversification, allowing you to manage withdrawals from tax-free and tax-deferred accounts so you can limit the tax bite and avoid other levies on high-income retirees, such as the Medicare surcharge.