Vanguard Mega Backdoor Roth: The Simple Guide

We have always enjoyed working with Vanguard. Especially when it comes to Vanguard’s Mega Backdoor Roths.

Of course, we mostly do cash balance plans and other defined benefit plan structures. But there’s not another better option to get after-tax contributions and then use the Mega Backdoor Roth.

Vanguard has an excellent reputation in the industry, of course. They are straightforward to plan custodians to use and very cost-effective. That’s why they are our number one plan custodian that we use.

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But using Vanguard for a Mega Backdoor Roth might be more challenging than you think. It would be best if you made sure that their plan allows for the mega.

What is a Mega Backdoor Roth?

A mega backdoor Roth is a type of retirement savings strategy that allows you to contribute a significant amount of after-tax dollars to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) account. It is often used by high-income earners who have already maxed out their 401(k) contribution limit and are looking for ways to boost their retirement savings further.

The mega backdoor Roth involves making after-tax contributions to a traditional 401(k) account, which can then be rolled over into a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) account. The contribution limits for after-tax contributions are much higher than the regular 401(k) contribution limit, which makes it possible to contribute a substantial amount of money to a Roth account each year.

Not all 401(k) plans offer the mega backdoor Roth option, so you’ll need to check with your plan administrator to see if it’s available. Additionally, some complex tax rules and regulations are associated with the strategy, so it’s recommended that you consult with a financial professional to determine whether it’s the right approach for your circumstances.

How Does a Mega Backdoor Roth Work?

A mega backdoor Roth allows you to make after-tax contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), and then roll over those after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k).

Here’s how the process typically works:

  1. Check if your plan allows after-tax contributions: First, you’ll need to check if your employer-sponsored retirement plan allows after-tax contributions. Not all plans offer this feature, so you’ll need to check with your plan administrator.
  2. Make after-tax contributions: If your plan allows after-tax contributions, you can contribute up to the annual contribution limit set by the IRS, which is currently $58,000 (in 2021) or 100% of your salary, whichever is less. This includes any pre-tax and employer contributions you may have already made.
  3. Roll over after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k): Once you’ve made your after-tax contributions, you can roll them over to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). The after-tax contributions will be considered a “conversion,” which means you’ll need to pay taxes on any investment gains that occurred while the contributions were in your retirement plan.
  4. Enjoy tax-free growth and withdrawals: Once your after-tax contributions have been converted to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k), you’ll enjoy tax-free growth on your investment and tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

It’s important to note that the rules and regulations surrounding the Vanguard Mega Backdoor Roth can be complex, so it’s recommended that you consult with a financial professional to determine whether it’s the right approach for your individual circumstances.

Benefits of a Vanguard Mega

The Roth after-tax 401(k) provides several benefits compared to a traditional pre-tax 401(k) account. Here are some of the advantages:

  1. Tax-free withdrawals in retirement: The primary advantage of a Roth after-tax 401(k) is that it allows you to withdraw your savings tax-free in retirement. With a traditional pre-tax 401(k), you’ll owe income taxes on your withdrawals, which can reduce the amount of money you have available to spend in retirement.
  2. No required minimum distributions (RMDs): Roth accounts are not subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) during the account owner’s lifetime, which means you can leave your savings in the account and let them continue to grow tax-free for as long as you want. In contrast, traditional pre-tax 401(k) accounts require you to start taking RMDs at age 72, which can be a disadvantage if you don’t need the money or want to leave it to your heirs.
  3. Tax diversification: A Roth after-tax 401(k) provides tax diversification, which means you’ll have the flexibility to withdraw from both pre-tax and after-tax accounts in retirement. This can help you manage your tax liability and avoid triggering higher tax rates.
  4. Potential for higher contribution limits: Roth after-tax 401(k) contributions are included in the overall 401(k) contribution limit set by the IRS, which is currently $19,500 (in 2021). However, the contribution limit for after-tax contributions can be much higher, up to $58,000 (in 2021) or 100% of your salary, whichever is less. This means you can potentially contribute more to your Roth after-tax 401(k) account than you could to a traditional pre-tax 401(k).

It’s important to note that the Vanguard Roth after-tax 401(k) may not be the best option for everyone. The decision of whether to contribute to a Roth after-tax 401(k) or a traditional pre-tax 401(k) account will depend on your individual circumstances, including your current tax rate, expected tax rate in retirement, and financial goals. It’s recommended that you consult with a financial professional to determine the best approach for your situation.

Paul Sundin

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