Questions we get asked:
You may be asking yourself, "What is a backdoor Roth contribution?"
This is a great question and an important one too, as retirement planning can be a complex and confusing process. Understanding the distinct types of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and their respective benefits can help you make informed decisions about your financial future. One strategy that may be worth considering is a backdoor Roth contribution. In this article, we'll explain a backdoor Roth contribution, how it works, and who can benefit from it.
Understanding Traditional IRA and Roth IRA
Before diving into the topic of backdoor Roth contributions, it's important to understand the basic differences between a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA.
A Traditional IRA is an individual retirement account where you make contributions with pre-tax dollars. This means that you can deduct the contributions from your taxable income in the year you make them. However, when you take distributions (withdrawals) from the account during retirement, those distributions will be taxed as ordinary income.
On the other hand, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account where you make contributions with after-tax dollars. This means that you cannot deduct the contributions from your taxable income in the year you make them. However, the assets grow tax-free, and when you take distributions (withdrawals) from the account during retirement, those distributions will be tax-free.
The main difference between a Traditional IRA and Roth IRA is when you pay the taxes. With a Traditional IRA, you pay taxes on the distributions during retirement, while with a Roth IRA, you pay taxes on the contributions up front.
What is a backdoor Roth contribution, and how does it work?
The backdoor Roth contribution strategy entails converting a non-deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.
This is helpful because there are income limits for contributions to a Roth IRA, meaning that high-income earners may not be able to contribute directly to a Roth IRA. These income limits do not apply to contributions to a Traditional IRA in the same way. For individuals that have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, there are income limitations on the ability to deduct contributions to a traditional IRA, but not the ability to contribute to the account. So, by making a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA, high-income earners can still get money into a Roth IRA through the backdoor, benefitting from the tax-free growth and distributions of Roth IRAs.
Who can benefit from a backdoor Roth contribution?
A backdoor Roth contribution can be a powerful strategy for high-income earners who are not eligible to contribute directly to a Roth IRA and have also already maxed out their contributions to their employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k).
Additionally, a backdoor Roth contribution can be a good strategy for those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement. Since Roth IRA distributions are tax-free, having a portion of your retirement savings in a Roth IRA can help to mitigate the impact of taxes on your overall retirement income.
While a backdoor Roth contribution can be a powerful strategy for some, it may not be appropriate for everyone. It's important to be aware of some potential caveats. For example, the pro-rata rule dictates that if you already have tax-deferred dollars in other IRA accounts, attempting a backdoor Roth could create unintended tax consequences.
In conclusion, a backdoor Roth IRA can be an effective strategy, allowing high-income earners to benefit from the tax-free growth and distributions of a Roth IRA even if they cannot contribute directly to one. As always, it is important to consult with a tax professional to understand the implications of a backdoor Roth contribution and to ensure that it is the right strategy for you before making any significant changes to your retirement plan.