There are a lot of similarities between the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k). Both plans allow investors to build up tax-free retirement income, but neither offers any tax benefits upfront in the year of contribution.
There is one big difference between a Roth IRA, and a Roth 401(k). The Roth 401(k) is an employer sponsored plan. The other is a self directed account you can open if you are eligible.
It’s no surprise that the IRS has specific benefits for each type of plan. Learn about the benefits of both accounts, as well as other factors to consider when comparing the Roth IRA versus Roth 401(k).
Roth IRA vs. Roth 401 (k) – The Similarities
The two Roth plans appear to be the same on the surface. Before you open either or both accounts, you should be aware of some key similarities.
Roth IRA vs Roth 401k – Which One is Better?
Both Offer Tax-Free Distributions at Retirement
These two Roth plans are unique in that they allow you to accumulate a tax-free retirement income. You can get this benefit whether you own a Roth IRA, Roth 401(k), or both.
To qualify for a tax-free retirement income, you cannot take distributions which include earnings before the age of 59 1/2. You must also have been a member of a Roth plan at least five years prior to the date distributions are made. As long as you satisfy these two criteria, you will not be charged any taxes on the distributions that you receive.
Roth plans are completely different than other tax-sheltered plans such as regular 401(k), IRAs, and traditional IRAs. All other retirement plans have a tax-deferred status. This means that while you receive generous tax benefits when you are in the accumulation phase, you will be required to pay ordinary income taxes once you start taking distributions.
Roth IRAs as well as Roth 401(k), both of which are excellent strategies to diversify your tax base for retirement, can be used in this way. Both Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k) plans allow you to receive some income that is tax-free, while also receiving other sources of income that are fully taxable.
Both offer Tax-deductible contributions
There is no upfront tax deduction when you contribute to a Roth account, be it a Roth IRA, Roth 401(k), or Roth IRA-like plan. It’s unlike traditional IRAs or 401(k), where contributions are usually fully deductible the year in which they are made.
Tax deductibility is one of the main reasons people join retirement plans. If you choose a plan which allows you to deduct your contributions up front (i.e. If you use a traditional retirement plan, you can lower your tax liability in the year that you make contributions.
You can withdraw your contributions from either plan at any time – tax-free
You can withdraw your contributions from either Roth account at any time and not pay ordinary income tax, or the 10% penalty for early withdrawal. In part, this is because Roth IRAs are not tax deductible when they are first made. It’s also because the IRS rules for ordering distributions are only applicable to Roth plans. These ordering rules allow you to distribute contributions before accumulating investment earnings.
Roth IRAs differ from Roth 401(ks) in the way they handle early distributions.
You can withdraw early from Roth IRAs your contributions, which are not tax-deductible. Then you can withdraw the accumulated investment income once your contributions have all been withdrawn. Roth IRA owners have the opportunity to withdraw their money before paying taxes.
Roth 401(k), on the other, allows you to withdraw the contribution portion without having to pay ordinary income taxes or early withdrawal penalties. Since they are 401(k), they’re also bound by pro-rata rules.
If you withdraw money early from a Roth-401(k), 30% of the amount ($6,000 divided by $20 000) will be considered investment income.If you withdraw $10,000 in advance, $3,000, or 30% of the amount, is considered investment income, and will be subject to income tax as well as a 10% penalty for early withdrawal. The remaining $7,000 or 70% will be treated as a withdrawal from contributions and not subject to any tax or penalty.
IMPORTANT NOTE Not every 401(k), plan allows early withdrawals of Roth contributions. This is for the same reason that they do not allow early withdrawals in 401(k), plans generally.
Some only allow early withdrawals for hardship withdrawals or loans. (Note: The IRS regulations we have discussed are not the rules of employers.
Both offer tax-deferred investment returns
Both plans share one important feature with other retirement plans, despite the fact that contributions are not deductible. The Roth IRA as well as the Roth 401(k) allow money to be invested tax-deferred.
How can an account that supposedly is tax-free at retirement be tax-deferred in the accumulation phase?
Early withdrawals are the key. We have already covered how to withdraw contributions from a Roth IRA and Roth 401(k), without triggering a tax obligation. If your distributions include investment income, then the situation changes.
If you withdraw your investment earnings early, they are taxed.
If you do not have a Roth IRA, but have a Roth 401 (k), and take distributions that include investment earnings from either plan (which will be the case under the Roth 401) pro-rata rules), you will have a tax obligation.
Imagine you’ve been withdrawing early from your Roth plan. You’ve already withdrawn your entire contribution to the Roth plan. You continue to take distributions but now you’re withdrawing funds which represent your accumulated investment gains.
These withdrawals, which are made up of investment earnings, will not only be subject to ordinary income taxes but also to the 10% penalty for early withdrawal. Early distributions of a Roth plan will be treated the same as other retirement plans in terms of the withdrawals of investment earnings.
The taxability of your Social Security benefits will not be affected by distributions from either.
Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k), both of which offer this benefit, are also eligible for the Roth IRA.
The distributions you receive from other retirement accounts are added to the taxable income that you will have in retirement. These distributions will not only be subjected to income taxes, but will also be used to determine how much of your Social Security will be taxed.
According to current law, Social Security benefits are subject to income taxes based on a two-tiered formula. Social Security benefits will not be taxed if your combined retirement income is below these limits. If you are a single person and your combined income is more than $25,000, 50% will be taxed on your Social Security benefits.
If you are married and filing jointly, your combined income is more than $44,000. Then 85% of the Social Security benefit that you receive will be taxed.
The term “combined Income” includes income from other sources, such as pensions, distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k), and earned income.
It’s amazing that your Roth plan distributions do not count towards this calculation! Social Security treats your Roth plan distributions as though they didn’t exist. They are not taxed, so they won’t be included in your “combined income”.
Roth plans can be used to diversify taxation in retirement.
The distributions you receive from Roth plans do not count towards this calculation. To Social Security, the Roth plan distributions are treated as if they didn’t exist.
As they are not taxable, these items will not be included in the “combined income” and therefore excluded from threshold calculations.
Let’s now look at the differences between Roth IRAs, Roth 401(k), and Roth IRAs.
What is the Difference Between Roth IRA & Roth 401(k),
The Roth 401 (k) and Roth IRA are very different. This is mainly because the Roth 401 (k) is an employer sponsored plan. This alone creates many differences.
In 2023, the maximum contribution you can make to a Roth IRA is $7,500 or $6.500 if your age is 50 years or older . This is an improvement over previous years.
Roth 401(k), on the other hand, could potentially be three times more expensive!
The employee contributions limit in 2023 is $22,500 or $30,000 for those over 50 years old (up from $27,000 and $20,500 for 2022). You can contribute the maximum amount to your Roth account if you are a participant in a 401k plan with a Roth provision. This is up from $27,000 and $20,500 for 2022.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should contribute the full amount to the Roth part. The Roth 401(k), as a Roth plan does not allow for tax-deductible contributions. According to your age, you may find that $22,500 or $30,000.00 is a large amount of money for you to withdraw from your paycheck. It still allows you to put more money into a Roth account than you could with a Roth IRA.
Employer Matching Contributions
You can get a Roth 401 (k) plan as an employer-sponsored retirement program. Since the Roth IRA This is a self directed account. The employer match does exist.
Although not all employers provide the Roth 401 (k) or an employer matching contribution to their employees, those that do might not distinguish between the regular 401 (k) portion and the Roth portion. If the employer matches 50% of your contribution in this situation, then they will match 50% of the contribution you make to your Roth 401(k).
However, there is a limitation to the employer match. The employer can’t match contributions to your Roth 401(k), as it is a completely segregated part of your retirement plan. The employer’s match is deposited into your regular plan 401(k).
If your employer matches your contribution, then you will still have a regular portion of 401(k).
If your employer matches your contribution, then you will still have a regular Roth 401(k).
It would be a benefit to have the employer matching the Roth 401(k), but it would also create a problem with taxes. The employer match, which is tax-free when it’s made, would become taxable once you start taking distributions. You’re better off putting it in your regular 401(k), where it can be tax-deferred.
A Roth 401(k), which is part of a plan sponsored by an employer, may have a loan option.
Some employers do not offer loan options on their 401(k). If they do offer it, you can borrow of up to 50%, or $50,000, of the account’s vested value. If you take a loan from your plan, then you’ll have to pay monthly interest and payments until you repay the loan.
Since a Roth IRA plan is a self directed one, there is no provision for a loan.
Require Minimum Distributions (RMDs).
The Roth IRA is completely different from a Roth 401 (k). IRS requires minimum distribution (RMD). states that mandatory withdrawals must be made from a tax-sheltered retirement account at the age of 72. If the Secure Act 2.0 passes both houses of Congress, and becomes law, you will be required to take RMDs at age 72.
The percentage of withdrawals is based upon your remaining life expectancy when you reach the age at which each distribution must be made.
The difference between the two accounts is evident. Roth 401 (k) plans must comply with RMD requirements whereas Roth IRAs do not.
You can let your Roth IRA grow throughout your lifetime if you don’t have to take RMDs. You can leave more money to your heirs when you die.
**A Roth IRA can be a great way to ensure that you don’t outlive your money. Roth IRAs do not require RMDs, so the money can be used for later retirement years when other plans have been heavily depleted.
No income limit is imposed on your ability to contribute to a Roth 401(k). You can contribute to a Roth-401(k) as long as you are enrolled in a 401(k).
This is not the case with a Roth IRA. You will be prevented from contributing directly to a Roth IRA if your income exceeds certain thresholds.
The Roth IRA Income Limits for 2023 look like this:
- If you are married filing jointly or if you qualify as a widow (er), your income can be up to $218,000; partial contributions between $218,000-$228,000. After that, no contribution will be allowed.
- Married filing separate – partial contribution up to $10,000 of income, after that no contribution is allowed.
- If you are single, married filing separately, or head of household AND did not live together with your spouse during the year, you can contribute up to $138,000. You may also make partial contributions between $138,000-$153,000. After that, no contribution will be allowed.
Selecting a Trustee or Investment Manager
Roth IRAs are also popular in this area. A Roth IRA is a self directed account that can be managed by the trustee you choose. You can choose an investment platform that suits your needs in terms of fees and investment choices.
Choose a platform with low fees and a wide range of investment options. You can open a Roth IRA at one of the best online brokerage firms.
You may not have a choice with a Roth-401(k) because it is part of an employer sponsored plan. It’s one of the most common problems people face with employer-sponsored pension plans. The employer’s trustee may charge fees that are higher than usual.
They often limit your investment options. While you may choose a Roth IRA trustee who offers virtually unlimited options for investment, the Roth 401(k), on the other hand, might limit your choices to a maximum of six.
Roth IRA vs Roth 401k – Which is better for you?
Fortunately, the majority of people will not have to choose between a Roth IRA or a Roth 401 (k). allows both. You can still have a Roth 401 (k) and a 401 (k) plan. This is possible as long as you do not exceed the income limits for a Roth IRA.
There is also a combined maximum limit on contributions to all retirement schemes. It’s $66,000 for 2023 or $73,500 for those 50 and older. Because it’s part of the 401(k), Roth 401k has much higher contribution limits. You can save a lot of money this way. You can also choose to transfer a portion of your 401 (k) into a regular account. The portion of the traditional 401k that is contributed will be tax deductible.
The Roth IRA gives you access to many more options for investing. You can take advantage of your 401(k), but also expand your investment activities with your Roth IRA based upon your goals.
Don’t forget to have a Roth IRA if you are leaving your job and will need an account into which you can transfer your Roth 401 (k). You can also convert the traditional 401(k), to a Roth IRA.
All of this ultimately means that you should use both the Roth IRA plan and the Roth 401 (k) if both are available to you.