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Can You Have a Joint Retirement Account?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s likely that planning for retirement may be looming in the back of your mind. And that’s a good thing: According to the Center for Retirement Research, 39% of households are at risk for not having enough to maintain their living standards in retirement.

One way to start your retirement savings plan is to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your partner. You’ve no doubt heard of joint checking accounts, but what about joint retirement accounts – is there such a thing? Unfortunately, no. But while retirement plans like a 401(k) or IRA do not allow for multiple owners, there are ways couples can plan their retirement savings together.

Key Points

•   Joint retirement accounts are not available, but couples can coordinate their retirement planning.

•   Reviewing retirement goals together helps couples align their financial strategies for the future.

•   Each spouse can name the other as a beneficiary on their individual retirement accounts to ensure shared access to funds.

•   Couples can each have their own IRAs and contribute based on their joint taxable income.

•   Spousal IRAs allow a non-working spouse to contribute to an IRA, provided the other spouse has earned income.

How Couples Can Plan Together for Retirement

Although there are no joint retirement account options, you can prepare for your golden years together by combining retirement forces. Here’s how.

Review Your Retirement Goals as a Couple

Talking openly and honestly about your finances is one of the keys to building a healthy financial plan. A good first step is to have a productive conversation about your plans and goals for retirement with your significant other. Do you plan on staying in the same home during your retirement years? Perhaps you want to travel internationally once per year or buy a camper and travel across the country.

Determine the amount of money you want in retirement, too. While of course each couple’s retirement number is dependent upon their standard of living, you can calculate an estimate: Start with your current income, subtract estimated Social Security benefits, and divide by 0.04 to get your target number in today’s dollars.

Once you’ve put the numbers together and have a sense of how much you need to retire, you can figure out what you can safely withdraw to make your retirement last as long as you do.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that you must choose the investments in your IRA? Once you open an IRA and start saving, you get to decide which mutual funds, ETFs, or other investments you want — it’s totally up to you.

Determine When Both of You Will Retire

Do you know when you will retire? How about your partner? Remember, retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs generally cannot be withdrawn from penalty-free until you reach age 59 ½.

If you or your partner do plan to retire earlier than 59 ½, it might make sense to put some of your retirement funds into a taxable brokerage account that you can access at any time.

Name Your Spouse as a Beneficiary

While there are many ways to start saving for retirement, unfortunately, there aren’t any options that operate as a joint retirement account by default. A work-around to this is for each of you to name your spouse as a beneficiary in your retirement account. If something were to happen to one of you, the other person would still have access to your accounts and the money in it.

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Your Top Questions About Joint Retirement, Answered

These are some of the biggest questions couples have when it comes to joint retirement.

Can both spouses contribute to a 401(k)?

No — only one spouse can contribute to a 401(k) account. 401(k)s are employer-sponsored plans. So just the spouse who works at the company offering the plan can participate in it and contribute to it.

However, the other spouse can be a beneficiary of the plan. This means that if the original planholder dies, the spouse gets the inherited 401(k) and can then roll it into their own 401(k) or into an IRA.

How much can a married couple contribute to a 401(k)?

As noted above, 401(k) plans are individual, with only one person contributing to each account (along with their employer, in some cases). The maximum 401(k) contribution allowed in 2024 is $23,000, with an additional catch-up contribution of $7,500 for those 50 and older. With those figures in mind, if each partner has their own 401(k) plan, a married couple could each contribute $23,000 for a combined $46,000 a year.

The maximum 401(k) contribution allowed in 2023 is $22,500, with an additional catch-up contribution of $7,500 allowed for those 50 and older. That means if each partner has their own 401(k) plan, a married couple can each contribute $22,500 for a combined $45,000 a year in 2023.

How many IRAs can a married couple have?

If a couple is married and files their taxes jointly, each partner in the marriage can contribute to their own IRAs. There is a contribution limit, however — the total contributions to the IRAs “may not exceed your joint taxable income or the annual contribution limit on IRAs times two, whichever is less,” according to the IRS. The annual IRA contribution limit is $7,000, so the total limit is $14,000, for 2024. Those 50 and older can contribute an additional catch-up amount of $1,000.

For 2023, the IRA contribution limit is $6,500, so the total limit is $13,000. Those 50 and older can contribute an additional catch-up amount of $1,000.

Recommended: How Many IRAs Can You Have?

Can my wife contribute to an IRA if she doesn’t work?

Yes, a non-working spouse can open and contribute to an IRA (called a spousal IRA) as long as the other spouse is working and the couple files a joint federal income tax return. The spouse who doesn’t work can contribute up to the IRA limit of $7,000 in 2024, plus $1,000 additional in catch-up contributions if she is 50 or older.

What is a spousal Roth IRA?

A spousal IRA is a Roth or traditional IRA for a spouse who doesn’t work. A couple must file their taxes as married filing jointly to be eligible for a spousal IRA. The spouse who doesn’t work can contribute up to the IRA limit of $7,000 in 2024, plus $1,000 additional in catch-up contributions if she is 50 or older.

Can a husband and wife both have a Roth IRA?

A husband and wife can each have their own separate Roth IRAs. Your total contributions to both IRAs must not exceed your joint taxable income or the annual contribution limit to the IRAs times two. For 2024, you can each contribute $7,000 to your separate Roth IRAs, making the total contribution limit $14,000 for those under age 40. Those 50 and up can each contribute an extra $1,000 if they choose.

Can my non-working spouse have a Roth IRA?

Yes. Spousal IRAs can be traditional or Roth IRAs. In a Roth IRA, the money put into it is not tax deductible. Instead the money comes from taxable income but may grow tax free, so that an individual typically doesn’t have to pay taxes on the money that’s taken out of the account when they retire. While the contribution limits vary according to your tax filing and income status, typically the limit of contributions is the same as it is for traditional IRAs.

What is the maximum Roth contribution for a married couple?

In 2024, the annual limit for an IRA contribution is 7,000 per person, or $8,000 for those 50 and older. However, a Roth IRA has income limits. In 2024, a couple that is married filing jointly cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $240,000. Those with a MAGI between $230,000 and $240,000 can contribute a partial amount, and those whose income is less than $230,000 can contribute the full amount.

Should a married couple have two Roth IRAs?

Whether you should have two Roth IRAs is a personal decision. One consideration: Since a married couple cannot have a joint retirement account like a joint Roth IRA, if you each have a Roth IRA, you may be able to save more for retirement if you both contribute the full amount allowed to your separate IRAs. For 2024, that amount is $7,000 for those under age 50, and $8,000 for those 50 and up. However, your total contributions to both IRAs must not exceed your joint taxable income

The Takeaway

While no specific retirement savings plans — such as 401(k)s or IRAs — offer joint retirement accounts, there are ways for couples to plan and save for retirement together. One way is to each have your own separate IRAs that you contribute to. Another easy way to make sure you’re both taken care of in retirement is to make each other the beneficiaries on your individual accounts.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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TFSA vs RRSP: What’s the Difference?

TFSA vs RRSP: What’s the Difference?

Both TFSAs and RRSPs are accounts that provide Canadian consumers with a chance to save while enjoying investment earnings and unique tax benefits. While a TFSA acts as a more general savings account, an RRSP is used for retirement savings.

Saving is never a bad idea, so here you can learn the difference between these accounts and how they can play a role in securing your financial future.

Keep reading for a more detailed breakdown of a TFSA vs. RRSP so you can make the right financial move for your needs.

What Is the TFSA?

A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a type of registered tax-advantaged savings account to help Canadians earn money on their savings — tax-free. TFSA accounts were created in 2009 by the Canadian government to encourage eligible citizens to contribute to this type of savings account.

Essentially, a TFSA holds qualified investments that can generate capital gains, interest, and dividends, and they’re tax-free. These accounts can be used to build an emergency fund, to save for a down payment on a home, or even to finance a dream vacation.

A TFSA can contain the following types of investments:

•   Cash

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Mutual funds

It’s possible to withdraw the contributions and earnings generated from dividends, interest, and capital gains without having to pay any taxes. Accountholders don’t even have to report withdrawals as income when it’s time to file taxes.

There is a limit to how much someone can contribute to a TFSA on an annual basis. This limit is referred to as a contribution limit, and every year the Canadian government determines what the contribution limit for that year is. If someone doesn’t meet the contribution limit one year, their remaining allowed contributions can be made up for in following years.

To contribute to a TFSA, an individual must be at least 18 years of age and be a Canadian resident with a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN).

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What Is the RRSP?

A Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is, as the name indicates, a type of savings plan specifically designed to help boost retirement savings. To obtain one, a Canadian citizen must register with the Canadian federal government for this financial product and can then start saving.

When someone contributes to an RRSP, their contributions are considered to be tax-advantaged. What this means: The funds they contribute to their RRSP are exempt from being taxed the year they make the contribution (which can reduce the total amount of taxes they need to pay for that year). On top of that, the investment income these contributions generate will grow tax-deferred. This means the account holder won’t pay any taxes on the earnings until they withdraw them.

Unlike a TFSA, there isn’t a minimum age requirement to open and contribute to an RRSP. That being said, certain financial institutions may require their customers to be the age of majority in order to contribute. It’s possible to contribute to an RRSP until the year the account holder turns 71 as long as they are a Canadian resident, earned an income, and filed a tax return.

Keep reading for a TFSA vs. RRSP comparison.

Similarities Between a TFSA and an RRSP

How does a TFSA vs. RRSP compare? There are a few similarities between TFSAs and RRSPs that are worth highlighting. Here are the main ways in which they are the same:

•   Only Canadians citizens can contribute

•   Contributions can help reach savings goals

•   Investments can be held in each account type

•   Both accounts offer tax advantages.

Differences Between a TFSA and RRSP

Next, let’s answer this question: What is the difference between an RRSP and a TFSA? Despite the fact that both an RRSP and a TFSA share similar goals (saving money and earning interest on it) and advantages (tax benefits), they have some key differences to be aware of.

•   Intended use. RRSPs are for retirement savings whereas TFSAs can be used to save for any purpose.

•   Age eligibility. To contribute to a TFSA one must be 18 years old, but there isn’t an age requirement to open an RRSP.

•   Contribution limit. The limits are usually set annually and are different for TFSAs and RRSPs. For 2024, the contribution limit for an RRSP is the lesser of either 18% of earned income reported on an individual’s tax return for the previous year or the contribution limit, which is currently $31,560 in US dollars. The limit for a TFSA, which also can vary annually, was most recently $7,000.

•   Taxation on withdrawals. While RRSP withdrawals are taxable (but subject to certain exceptions), TFSA withdrawals can be made at any time tax-free.

•   Taxation on contributions. Contributions made to a TFSA aren’t tax-deductible, but RRSP contributions are.

•   Plan maturity. An RRSP matures at the end of the calendar year that the account holder turns 71. TFSAs don’t have age limits for account maturity.

•   Spousal contributions. There is no form of spousal TFSA available, but someone can contribute to a spousal RRSP.

How Do I Choose Between a TFSA and RRSP?

Choosing between a TFSA and an RRSP depends on someone’s unique savings goals and tax preferences. That being said, if someone’s main goal is saving for retirement, they’ll likely find that an RRSP is the right fit for them. When someone contributes to an RRSP, they can defer paying taxes during their peak earning years. Once they retire and make withdrawals (which they will need to pay taxes on), they will ideally have a lower income (and be in a lower tax bracket) and smaller tax liabilities at that point in their life.

If someone wants to be able to use their savings for a variety of different purposes (perhaps including a medium-term goal like the amount needed for a down payment on a home), they may find that a TFSA offers them more flexibility.
That said, there’s no reason TFSA savings can’t be used for retirement later on. Contributing to a TFSA is a great option for someone who has already maxed out their RRSP contributions for the year, but who wants to continue saving and enjoying tax benefits.

Recommended: What Tax Bracket Do I Fall Under?

Can I Have Both a TFSA and RRSP?

It is indeed possible to have both an RRSP and TFSA and to contribute to them at the same time. Putting money into both of these financial vehicles can be a great way to save. There are no downsides associated with contributing to both an RRSP and TFSA at the same time if a person can afford to do so.

Can I Have Multiple RRSP and TFSA Accounts?

Yes, it’s possible to have more than one TFSA and RRSP open at the same time, but there’s no real benefit here. The same contribution limits apply.

That means that opening more than one version of the same account or plan only leads to having more accounts to manage and incurring more administration and management fees. Just as you don’t want to pay fees on your checking account and other bank accounts, you probably don’t want to burn through cash on fees here.

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Should I Prioritize One Over the Other?

Which type of account someone should prioritize depends on their savings goals. Their preferences regarding the unique tax advantages of each account may also come into play. That being said, if someone is focused on saving for retirement, they’ll likely want to make sure they max out their RRSP contributions first.

The Takeaway

Both RRSP and TFSA accounts are great ways for Canadian citizens to save for financial goals like retiring or financing a wedding. Each account has unique advantages and contribution limits. While an RRSP account is designed to help with stashing away cash for retirement, a TFSA account can be used to save for any type of financial need. Whether you choose one or both of these products, you’ll be on a path towards saving and helping to secure your financial future.

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FAQ

Is it better to invest in TFSA or RRSP?

When it comes to TFSA vs. RRSP, there’s no right answer to whether investing in one is better than the other. Someone focused on saving for retirement may want to prioritize an RRSP, while someone who wants to save for other expenses (like a home or wedding) may find a TFSA more appealing.

Should I max out RRSP or TFSA first?

If someone is focused on saving for retirement, they may want to max out their RRSP first. That being said, this is a personal decision that depends on unique financial goals and tax preferences.

When should you contribute to RRSP vs TFSA?

Typically, the contribution deadline for RRSPs is around March 1st. A Canadian citizen can put funds in a TFSA at any point in a calendar year, and if they don’t max out their account, they will usually be able to contribute the remaining amount in the future.


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As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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Is a Backdoor Roth IRA Right for You?

Backdoor Roth IRAs

Want to contribute to a Roth IRA, but have an income that exceeds the limits? There’s another option. It’s called a backdoor Roth IRA, and it’s a way of converting funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth.

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that may provide investors with a tax-free income once they reach retirement. With a Roth IRA, investors save after-tax dollars, and their money generally grows tax-free. Roth IRAs also provide additional flexibility for withdrawals — once the account has been open for five years, contributions can generally be withdrawn without penalty.

But there’s a catch: Investors can only contribute to a Roth IRA if their income falls below a specific limit. If your income is too high for a Roth, you may want to consider a backdoor Roth IRA.

Key Points

•   A backdoor Roth IRA allows high earners to contribute to a Roth IRA by converting funds from a traditional IRA.

•   This strategy involves paying income taxes on pre-tax contributions and earnings at conversion.

•   There are no income limits or caps on the amount that can be converted to a Roth IRA.

•   The process includes opening a traditional IRA, making non-deductible contributions, and then converting these to a Roth IRA.

•   Potential tax implications include moving into a higher tax bracket and owing taxes on pre-tax contributions and earnings.

What Is a Backdoor Roth IRA?

If you aren’t eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA outright because you make too much, you can do so through a technique called a “backdoor Roth IRA.” This strategy involves contributing money to a traditional IRA and then converting it to a Roth IRA.

The government allows individuals to do this as long as, when they convert the account, they pay income tax on any contributions they previously deducted and any profits made. Unlike a standard Roth IRA, there is no income limit for doing the Roth conversion, nor is there a ceiling to how much can be converted.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to open an IRA account? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

How Does a Backdoor IRA Work?

This is how a backdoor IRA typically works: An individual opens a traditional IRA and makes non-deductible contributions. They then convert the account into a Roth IRA. The strategy is generally most helpful to those who earn a higher salary and are otherwise ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Example Scenario

For instance, let’s say a 34-year-old individual whose tax filing status is single and who makes $150,000 a year wants to open a Roth IRA. Their income is too high for them to be eligible for a Roth directly (more on this below), but they can use the “backdoor IRA” strategy. In order to do this, the individual would open a traditional IRA and contribute non-deductible funds to it. They then convert that money to a Roth IRA.

Recommended: Traditional Roth vs. Roth IRA: How to Choose the Right Plan

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Income and Contribution Limits

In general, Roth IRAs have income limits. In 2024, a single person whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $161,000, or a married couple filing jointly with a MAGI more than $240,000, cannot contribute to a Roth IRA. For tax year 2023, a single filer whose MAGI is more than $153,000, or a married couple filing jointly with a MAGI over $228,000, cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.

There are also annual contribution limits for Roth IRAs. In 2024, an individual can contribute up to $7,000 in a Roth IRA (or up to $8,000 if they are 50 or older). For tax year 2023, an individual can contribute up to $6,500 in a Roth IRA (or up to $7,500 if they are 50 or older). Traditional IRAs have the same contribution limits as Roth IRAs.

How to Set Up and Execute a Backdoor Roth

Here’s how to initiate and complete a backdoor Roth IRA.

•   Open a Traditional IRA. You could do this with SoFi Invest®, for instance.

•   Make a non-deductible contribution to the Traditional IRA.

•   Open a Roth IRA, complete any paperwork that may be required for the conversion, and transfer the money into the Roth IRA.

Tax Impact of a Backdoor Roth

If you made non-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA that you then converted to a Roth IRA, you won’t owe taxes on the money because you’ve already paid taxes on it. However, if you made deductible contributions, you will need to pay taxes on the funds.

In addition, if some time elapsed between contributing to the traditional IRA and converting the money to a Roth IRA, and the contribution earned a profit, you will owe taxes on those earnings.

You might also owe state taxes on a Roth IRA conversion. Be sure to check the tax rules in your area.

Another thing to be aware of: A conversion can also move people into a higher tax bracket, so individuals may consider waiting to do a conversion when their income is lower than usual.

And finally, if an investor already has traditional IRAs, it may create a situation where the tax consequences outweigh the benefits. If an individual has money deducted in any IRA account, including SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, the government will assume a Roth conversion represents a portion or ratio of all the balances. For example, say the individual contributed $5,000 to an IRA that didn’t deduct and another $5,000 to an account that did deduct. If they converted $5,000 to a Roth IRA, the government would consider half of that conversion, or $2,500, taxable.

The tax rules involved with converting an IRA can be complicated. You may want to consult a tax professional.

💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

Is a Backdoor Roth Right for Me?

It depends on your situation. Below are some of the benefits and downsides to a backdoor Roth IRA to help you determine if this strategy might be a good option for you.

Benefits

High earners who don’t qualify to contribute under current Roth IRA rules may opt for a backdoor Roth IRA.

As with a typical Roth IRA, a backdoor Roth may also be a good option when an investor expects their taxes to be lower now than in retirement. Investors who hope to avoid required minimum distributions (RMDs) when they reach age 73 might also consider doing a backdoor Roth.

Downsides

If an individual is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, it won’t make sense for them to do a backdoor conversion.

And because a conversion can also move people into a higher tax bracket, you may consider waiting to do a conversion in a year when your income is lower than usual.

For those individuals who already have traditional IRAs, the tax consequences of a backdoor Roth IRA might outweigh the benefits.

Finally, if you plan to use the converted funds within five years, a backdoor Roth may not be the best option. That’s because withdrawals before five years are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.

Is a Backdoor Roth Still Allowed for 2023? For 2024?

Backdoor IRAs are still allowed for tax year 2023. And at this point, they are still allowed for 2024 as well.

There had been some discussion in previous years of possibly eliminating the backdoor Roth IRA, but as of yet, this has not happened.

The Takeaway

A backdoor Roth IRA may be worth considering if tax-free income during retirement is part of an investor’s financial plan, and the individual earns too much to contribute directly to a Roth.

In general, Roth IRAs may be a good option for younger investors who have low tax rates and people with a high income looking to reduce tax bills in retirement.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

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FAQ

What are the rules of a backdoor Roth IRA?

The rules of a backdoor Roth IRA include paying taxes on any deductible contributions you make; paying any other taxes you may owe for the conversion, such as state taxes; and waiting five years before withdrawing any earnings from the Roth IRA to avoid paying a penalty.

Is it worth it to do a backdoor Roth IRA?

It depends on your specific situation. A backdoor Roth IRA may be beneficial if you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA. It may also be advantageous for those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in retirement.

What is the 5-year rule for backdoor Roth IRA?

According to the 5-year rule, if you withdraw money from a Roth IRA before the account has been open for at least five years, you are typically subject to a 10% tax on those funds. The five year period begins in the tax year in which you made the backdoor Roth conversion. There are some possible exceptions to this rule, however, including being 59 ½ or older or disabled.

Do you get taxed twice on backdoor Roth?

No. You pay taxes once on a backdoor IRA — when you convert a traditional IRA with deductible contributions and any earnings to a Roth. When you withdraw money from your Roth in retirement, the withdrawals are tax-free because you’ve already paid the taxes.

Can you avoid taxes on a Roth backdoor?

There is no way to avoid paying taxes on a Roth backdoor. However, you may be able to reduce the amount of tax you owe by doing the conversion in a year in which your income is lower.

Can you convert more than $6,000 in a backdoor Roth?

There is no limit to the amount you can convert in a backdoor Roth IRA. The annual contribution limits for IRAs does not apply to conversions. But you may want to split your conversions over several years to help reduce your tax liability.

What time of year should you do a backdoor Roth?

There is no time limit on when you can do a backdoor Roth IRA. However, if you do a backdoor Roth earlier in the year, it could give you more time to come up with any money you need to pay in taxes.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule? Are There Exceptions?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule is one of the rules that governs what an investor can and can’t do with funds in a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA 5-year rule comes into play when a person withdraws funds from the account; rolls a traditional IRA account into a Roth; or inherits a Roth IRA account.

Here’s what you need to know.

Key Points

•   The Roth IRA 5-year rule requires accounts to be open for five years before earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after age 59 ½.

•   Contributions to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time without penalties.

•   Exceptions to the 5-year rule include reaching age 59 ½, disability, and using funds for a first home purchase.

•   Each conversion from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA starts a new 5-year period for tax purposes.

•   Inherited Roth IRAs also adhere to the 5-year rule, affecting the taxation of earnings withdrawals.

What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule?

The Roth IRA 5-year rule pertains to withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA. A quick reminder of how a Roth works: An individual can contribute funds to a Roth IRA, up to annual limits. For 2024, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is $7,000. Investors 50 and older are allowed to contribute an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions. For 2023, the maximum IRS contribution limit for Roth IRAs is $6,500 annually. Investors 50 and older can contribute an extra $1,000.

Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn at any time without tax or penalty, for any reason at any age. However, investment earnings on those contributions can only typically be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free once the investor reaches the age of 59 ½ — and as long as the account has been open for at least a five-year period. The five-year period begins on January 1 of the year you made your first contribution to the Roth IRA. Even if you make your contribution at the very end of the year, you can still count that entire year as year one.

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Example of the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule

To illustrate how the 5-year rule works, say an investor opened a Roth IRA in 2022 to save for retirement. The individual contributed $5,000 to a Roth IRA and earned $400 in interest and they now want to withdraw a portion of the money. Since this retirement account is less than five years old, only the $5,000 contribution could be withdrawn without tax or penalty. If part or all of the investment earnings is withdrawn sooner than five years after opening the account, this money may be subject to a 10% penalty.

In 2027, the investor can withdraw earnings tax-free from the Roth IRA because the five-year period will have passed.

💡 Quick Tip: How much does it cost to open a new IRA account? Often there are no fees to open an IRA, but you typically pay investment costs for the securities in your portfolio.

Exceptions to the 5-Year Rule

There are some exceptions to the Roth IRA 5-year rule, however. According to the IRS, a Roth IRA account holder who takes a withdrawal before the account is five years old may not have to pay the 10% penalty in the following situations:

•   They have reached age 59 ½.

•   They are totally and permanently disabled.

•   They are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner.

•   They are using the distribution (up to $10,000) to buy, build, or rebuild a first home.

•   The distributions are part of a series of substantially equal payments.

•   They have unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of their adjusted gross income for the year.

•   They are paying medical insurance premiums during a period of unemployment.

•   They are using the distribution for qualified higher education expenses.

•   The distribution is due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.

•   They are taking qualified reservist distributions.

5-Year Rule for Roth IRA Conversions

Some investors who have traditional IRAs may consider rolling them over into a Roth IRA. Typically, the money converted from the traditional IRA to a Roth is taxed as income, so it may make sense to talk to a financial or tax professional before making this move.

If this Roth IRA conversion is made, the 5-year rule still applies. The key date is the tax year in which the conversion happened. So, if an investor converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA on September 15, 2022, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2022. If the conversion took place on March 10, 2023, the five-year period would start on January 1, 2023. So, unless the conversion took place on January 1 of a certain year, typically, the 5-year rule doesn’t literally equate to five full calendar years.

If an investor makes multiple conversions from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, perhaps one in 2023 and one in 2024, then each conversion has its own unique five-year window for the rule.

5-Year Rule for Inherited Roth IRA

The 5-year rule also applies to inherited Roth IRAs. Here’s how it works.

When the owner of a Roth IRA dies, the balance of the account may be inherited by beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can withdraw money without penalty, whether the money they take is from the principal (contributions made by the original account holder) or from investment earnings, as long as the original account holder had the Roth IRA for at least five years. If the original account holder had the Roth IRA for fewer than five tax years, however, the earnings portion of the beneficiary withdrawals is subject to taxation until the five-year anniversary is reached.

People who inherit Roth IRAs, unlike the original account holders, must take required minimum distributions (RMDs). They can do so by withdrawing funds by December 31 of the 10th year after the original holder died if they died after 2019 (or the fifth year if the original account holder died before 2020), or have the withdrawals taken out based upon their own life expectancy.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

How to Shorten the 5-Year Waiting Period

To shorten the five-year waiting period, an investor could open a Roth IRA online and make a contribution on the day before income taxes are due and have it applied to the previous year. For example, if one were to make the contribution in April 2023, that contribution could be considered as being made in the 2022 tax year. As long as this doesn’t cause problems with annual contribution caps, the five-year window would effectively expire in 2027 rather than 2028.

If the same investor opens a second Roth IRA — say in 2024 — the five-year window still expires (in this example) in 2027. The initial Roth IRA opened by an investor determines the beginning of the five-year waiting period for all subsequently opened Roth IRAs.

The Takeaway

For Roth IRA account holders, the 5-year rule is key. After the account has been opened for five years, an account holder who is 59 ½ or older can withdraw investment earnings without incurring taxes or penalties. While there are exceptions to this so-called 5-year rule, for anyone who has a Roth IRA account, this is important information to know about.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

Do I have to wait 5 years to withdraw from my Roth IRA?

Because of the Roth IRA 5-year rule, you generally have to wait at least five years before withdrawing earnings tax-free from your Roth IRA. You can, however, withdraw contributions you made to your Roth IRA at any time tax-free.

Does the 5-year rule apply to Roth contributions?

No, the Roth IRA rule does not apply to contributions made to your Roth IRA, only to earnings. You can withdraw contributions you made to your IRA tax-free at any time.



Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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