A New Way to Move Into a Roth 401(k)

Soon you may be able to roll over your 401(k) or 403(b) to a Roth inside your employer plan.

If you have been wishing you could convert some or all of your retirement savings to a Roth IRA -- and enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement -- but your money is tied up in your employer’s plan, you may be in luck. A new law allows participants in employer-provided 401(k) and 403(b) plans to roll over their savings to a Roth 401(k) account within their plan. You don’t have to cash out your investments; you can simply transfer your assets to the new account within your plan. But employers must amend their plans to allow the transfer, and they are not required to do so. Even if your employer amends its plan to allow Roth conversions, the amount you can transfer may be restricted. Only those workers who are 59½ or older can convert all of their traditional 401(k) or 403(b) plan to a Roth. Younger employees can convert only employer contributions; they cannot convert their own employee contributions. You have to pay income taxes on the entire amount you convert (except for any after-tax contributions).

The same law authorizes 457 retirement plans, used by state- and local-government workers, to start offering a Roth option next year.

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Mary Beth Franklin
Former Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance