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retirement

Rolling Over Into a Roth

Starting next year, you can roll 401(k) money directly into a Roth IRA without going through a traditional IRA first.

My husband has a 401(k) left from a previous employer. Can we roll that into a Roth IRA? Or can we only put $4,000 in one? He has approximately $23,000 in the 401(k) now, but he cannot contribute any more to it because he is no longer employed by that company.

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You generally need to roll 401(k) money over into a traditional IRA first, then convert it to a Roth IRA and pay taxes on the amount you convert. The rollover doesn't count toward the annual $4,000 IRA contribution limit, so your husband can make that new contribution, too.

But the tax law is about to change, which will take away the middle step. Starting January 1, 2008, you can roll the money over directly from a 401(k) into a Roth IRA. You'll still need to pay taxes when you make the rollover.

To make the switch from the 401(k) to the Roth, your adjusted gross income for the year must be less than $100,000 -- whether you're single or married. But that rule is about to change, too, when the income-level limitation disappears in 2010. At that point, anyone can roll over money from a 401(k) or a traditional IRA into a Roth, regardless of their income.

For more information about the new Roth rollover rules for 2010, see Income Limits on Roths to Change. Also see Everything You Need to Know About IRAs.

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