Is a Backdoor Roth IRA Right for You?

Is a Backdoor Roth IRA Right for You?

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 grows tax-free. Roth IRAs also provide additional flexibility for withdrawals—once the account has been open for five years, contributions can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason.

But there’s a catch: Investors can only contribute to a Roth IRA if their income falls below a specific limit. If your contribution is for 2024, that maximum is $146,000 for a single person or $230,000 for a married couple filing jointly (based on modified adjusted gross income). If your contribution is for 2023, that maximum is $138,000 for a single person or $218,000 for a married couple filing jointly (based on modified adjusted gross income). Though, if you make slightly more than that, you may qualify to contribute a reduced amount.

Related: What Is a Roth IRA?

Want to contribute to a Roth IRA, but have an income that exceeds the limits? Good news: There’s another option. It’s called a backdoor Roth IRA.

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 what’s called a “backdoor Roth.” This process involves converting funds in a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.

The government allows you to do this as long as investors pay income taxes on any contributions deducted on taxes (and any profits made) when the investor converted the account. Unlike a standard Roth IRA, there is no income limit for doing the conversion, nor is there a ceiling to how much can be converted.

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

Is a Backdoor Roth Worth Doing?

It depends. Use SoFi’s IRA Contribution Calculator to make an informed decision.

High earners who don’t qualify to contribute under current Roth IRA rules may opt for this route. As with a typical Roth IRA, a backdoor Roth may be a good option when an investor expects their taxes to be lower today than in retirement. Investors who hope to avoid required minimum distributions (RMDs) when they reach age 72 might also consider doing a backdoor Roth.

But if someone is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, it may not make sense to bother with a backdoor conversion.

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

Related: How Much Can You Put in an IRA This Year?

If an investor already has traditional IRAs, it may create a situation where the tax consequences outweigh the benefits. Say an investor has money deducted in any IRA account, including SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, the government will assume a Roth conversion represents a portion of all the balances. For example, if they 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 $2,500 of the conversion taxable.

If an investor plans to use the converted funds within five years, a backdoor Roth may not be the best place to park their cash. That’s because withdrawals before five years are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.

Related: Roth IRA 5-Year Rule Explained

How to Open a Backdoor Roth IRA

If an investor has no other Traditional IRAs, here’s how to make a backdoor Roth IRA happen with SoFi:

•  Open both a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA with SoFi Invest®.
•  Make a non-deductible contribution to the Traditional IRA by the tax deadline (April 15, 2024 for tax year 2023). The maximum allowable yearly contribution is $6,500 (or $7,500 if you’re 50 or older) for 2023 and $7,000 (or $8,000 if you’re 50 or older) for 2024.
•  SoFi will send you a form to transfer the money into your Roth IRA. Sign and return it.
•  If you choose an automated investing account, once the funds are in your Roth IRA, SoFi will invest them in the portfolio you’ve chosen.

Related: 3 Easy Steps to Starting A Retirement Fund

If you have any questions or want some help as you go through the process, schedule a complimentary appointment with one of our licensed financial advisors. SoFi Invest is all about empowering you and your financial future, and we’re here to help.

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 they make too much to contribute directly to a Roth. Roth IRAs are a good option for younger investors at low tax rates and people with a high disposable income looking to reduce tax bills on capital gains in retirement.

Learn more about your retirement account options with SoFi.


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.

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.

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4% Rule for Withdrawals in Retirement

After decades of saving for retirement, many new retirees often find themselves facing a new challenge: Determining how much money they can take out of their retirement account each year without running the risk of depleting their nest egg too quickly.

One popular rule of thumb is “the 4% rule.” What is the 4% rule? Learn more about the rule and how it works.

What Is the 4% Rule for Retirement Withdrawals?

The 4% rule suggests that retirees withdraw 4% from their retirement savings the year they retire, and adjust that dollar amount each year going forward for inflation. Based on historical data, the idea is that the 4% rule should allow retirees to cover their expenses for 30 years.

The rule is intended to give retirees some planning guidance about retirement withdrawals. The 4% rule may also help provide them with a sense of how much money they need for retirement.


💡 Quick Tip: How do you decide if a certain trading platform or app is right for you? Ideally, the investment platform you choose offers the features that you need for your investment goals or strategy, e.g., an easy-to-use interface, data analysis, educational tools.

How to Calculate the 4% Rule

To calculate the 4% rule, add up all of your retirement investments and savings and then withdraw 4% of the total in your first year of retirement. Each year after that, you increase or decrease the amount, based on inflation.

For example, if you have $1 million in retirement savings, you would withdraw 4% of that, or $40,000, in your first year of retirement. If inflation rises 3% the next year, you would increase the amount you withdraw by 3% to $41,200.

Drawbacks of the 4% Rule

While the 4% rule is simple to understand and calculate, it’s also a rigid plan that doesn’t fit every investor’s individual situation. Here are some of the disadvantages of the 4% rule to consider.

It doesn’t allow for flexibility

The 4% rule assumes you will spend the same amount in each year of retirement. It doesn’t make allowances for lifestyle changes or retirement expenses that may be higher or lower from year to year, such as medical bills.

The 4% rule assumes that your retirement will be 30 years

In reality an individual’s retirement may be shorter or longer than 30 years, depending on what age they retire, their health, and so on. If someone’s life expectancy goes beyond 30 years post-retirement they could find themselves running out of money.

It’s based on a specific portfolio composition

The 4% rule applies to a portfolio of 50% stocks and 50% bonds. Portfolios with different investments of varying percentages would likely have different results, depending on that portfolio’s risk level.

It assumes that your retirement savings will last for 30 years

Again, depending on the assets in your portfolio, and how aggressive or conservative your investments have been, your portfolio may not last a full 30 years. Or it could last longer than 30 years. The 4% rule doesn’t adjust for this.

4% may be too conservative

Some financial professionals believe that the 4% rule is too conservative, as long as the U.S. doesn’t experience a significant economic depression. Because of that, retirees may be too frugal with their retirement funds and not necessarily live life as fully as they could.

Others say the rule doesn’t take into account any other sources of income retirees may have, such as Social Security, company pensions, or an inheritance.

How Can I Tailor the 4% Rule to Fit My Needs?

You don’t have to strictly follow the 4% rule. Instead you might choose to use it as as a starting point and then customize your savings from there based on:

•   When you plan to retire: At what age do you expect to stop working and enter retirement? That information will give you an idea about how many years worth of savings you might need. For instance, if you plan to retire early, you may very well need more than 30 years’ worth of retirement savings.

•   The amount you have saved for retirement: How much money you have in your retirement plans will help you determine how much you can withdraw to live on each year and how long those savings might last. Also be sure to factor in your Social Security benefits and any pensions you might have.

•   The kinds of investments you have: Do you have a mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash, for instance? The assets you have, how aggressive or conservative they are, and how they are allocated plays an important role in the balance of your portfolio. An investor might want assets that have a higher potential for growth but also a higher risk factor when they are younger, and then switch to a more conservative investment strategy as they get closer to retirement.

•   How much you think you’ll spend each year in retirement: To figure out what your expenses might be each year that you’re retired, factor in such costs as your mortgage or rent, healthcare expenses, transportation (including gas and car maintenance), travel, entertainment, and food. Add everything up to see how much you may need from your retirement savings. That will give you a sense if 4% is too much or not enough, and you can adjust accordingly.


💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that a traditional Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, is a tax-deferred account? That means you don’t pay taxes on the money you put in it (up to an annual limit) or the gains you earn, until you retire and start making withdrawals.

Should You Use the 4% Rule?

The 4% rule can be used as a starting point to determine how much money you might need for retirement. But consider this: You may have certain goals for retirement. You might want to travel. You may want to work part-time. Maybe you want to move into a smaller or bigger house. What matters most is that you plan for the retirement you want to experience.

Given those variations, the 4% rule may make more sense as a guideline than as a hard-and-fast rule.

Recommended: How Much Retirement Money Should I Have at 40?

The Takeaway

The 4% rule represents a percentage that retirees can withdraw from their savings annually and theoretically have their savings last a minimum of 30 years. For example, someone following this rule could withdraw $20,000 a year from a $500,000 retirement account balance.

However, the 4% rule has limitations. It’s a rigid strategy that doesn’t take factors like lifestyle changes into consideration. It assumes that your retirement will last 30 years, and it’s based on a specific portfolio allocation. A more flexible plan may be better suited to your needs.

Having flexibility in planning for withdrawals in retirement means saving as much as possible first. A starting place for many people is their workplace 401(k), but that’s not the only way you can save for retirement. For instance, those who don’t have access to a workplace retirement account might want to open an IRA or a retirement savings plan for the self-employed to invest for their future.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

How long will money last using the 4% rule?

The intention of the 4% rule is to make retirement savings last for approximately 30 years. How long your money may last will depend on your specific financial and lifestyle situation.

Does the 4% rule work for early retirement?

The 4% rule is based on a retirement age of 65. If you retire early, you may have more years to spend in retirement and your financial needs will likely be different.

Does the 4% rule preserve capital?

With the 4% rule, the idea is to withdraw 4% of your total funds and allow the remaining money in the account to keep growing. Because the withdrawals would at least partly consist of dividends and interest on savings, the amount withdrawn each year would not come totally out of the principal balance.

Is the 4% Rule Too Conservative?

Some financial professionals say the 4% rule is too conservative, and that retirees may be too frugal with their retirement funds and not live as comfortable a life as they could. Others say withdrawing 4% of retirement funds could be too much because the rule doesn’t take into account any other sources of income retirees may have.


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.

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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How To Make Changes to Your 401(k) Contributions

Whether you just set up your 401(k) plan or you established one long ago, you may want to change the amount of your contributions — or even how they’re invested. Fortunately, changing your 401(k) contributions is usually straightforward, and you may be able to change your 401(k) contributions at any time (depending on your plan).

After all, the point of a 401(k) plan is to help you save a substantial amount for your retirement. So it’s important to keep an eye on your account and your investments within the account, to insure that you’re saving and investing according to your goals.

To understand how to maximize this investment opportunity and grow your nest egg, it’s important to start with the basics.

Purpose of a 401(k)

A 401(k) is a retirement account that a company may offer to its employees. In some cases, enrollment in the employer’s 401(k) is automatic; in some cases it’s not. Be sure to check, so that you can take advantage of this savings opportunity.

Employees may contribute a portion of their paycheck to the company’s 401(k) account, and employers might also contribute to each employee’s account (again, depending on the plan).

The employer’s portion is called the company’s “match” or matching funds. Typically, an employer might match up to a certain percentage of what the employee saves. One common matching plan is when a company matches 50 cents for every dollar saved, up to 6% of the employee’s total contributions. Terms vary, so it’s best to ask your Human Resources representative what the match is (if there is one).

The money a participant contributes to their 401(k) plan is technically called an “elective salary deferral” because it’s optional, not required, and those deductions are not included in an employee’s taxable income. That’s why 401(k) and similar accounts (like 403b and most IRAs) are often called tax-deferred accounts: You don’t pay taxes on the money you’ve saved until you withdraw the money in retirement.

This tax benefit can be significant. Every dollar you save reduces your taxable income, which can result in a lower tax bill in some cases.

Can You Change Your 401(k) Contribution at Any Time?

While the opportunity to make changes to some employee benefits, like health insurance, are generally only offered once a year during so-called open enrollment periods, many plans allow participants to change the amount of their 401(k) contributions at any point. According to Department of Labor guidelines, an employer must allow plan participants to change investments at least quarterly (sometimes more often, if company stock or other high-risk investments are offered by the plan).

The reasons for making changes to your 401(k) contributions may vary.

The Ability to Save More

You may have gotten a raise, or experienced a change in your financial circumstances, and wish to increase the percentage of your savings. Contributions to these plans are typically expressed as a percentage of your annual salary. For example, if you earn $75,000 per year, and your contribution rate is 10%, you would save a total of $7,500 per year. If you got a raise to $80,000 and now wish to contribute 12%, you would save a total of $9,600 per year.

To Get the Match

As discussed above, some 401(k) plans offer a savings match from the employer. In most cases, the match is a set percentage of the employee’s contribution. If you set up your 401(k) at a point when you couldn’t get the full match, you may want to increase your contributions to get the full employer match.

Rebalancing Your Asset Allocation

If you’ve held the account for a while, say a year or more, the original allocation of your investments — i.e. the balance between equities, cash, and fixed income investments — may have shifted. Restoring the original balance of your investments may be a priority, if your strategy and risk tolerance haven’t changed.

Changing Your Asset Allocation

You also might want to shift the allocation because your financial strategy has become more aggressive (i.e. tilting toward stocks) or more conservative (tilting toward cash and fixed income).

Setting Up Automatic Increases

Some plans offer participants the option of automatically increasing their contribution rate every year, typically up to a certain percentage (e.g. 15%), and not to exceed the maximum contribution levels. While some plans have different rules, the basic contribution limit for 401(k) plans for 2024 is $23,000 for participants under age 50. For those 50 and older, you can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,500. For 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 for participants under age 50. For those 50 and older, you can save an extra $7,500 in “catch-up contributions”, for a total of $30,000.

Setting up automatic increases allows you to save more each year without having to think about it; this can be beneficial for overcoming the inertia common among many savers.

How to Change 401(k) Contributions: 3 Steps

Again, the 401(k) plan provider will be able to advise participants on how often they can make changes to their contributions, and what the process will look like. For employees unsure of the plan provider, the company’s human resource department can point them in the right direction.

In some cases, participants can change their contributions directly through their plan provider’s website. Generally, the process of making changes to a 401(k) looks like this:

Step 1:

A participant, i.e. the employee, contacts their 401(k) provider to discuss how to change contributions for their particular 401(k) plan.

Step 2:

The employee considers how much of their paycheck they want to contribute to their 401(k) moving forward, taking their company’s 401(k) match into consideration, and ideally contributing at least that much. The employee might also change their asset allocation, depending on plan rules.

Step 3:

The participant fills out any forms (online or via paperwork) to confirm their new contribution.
Often, these steps can take just a few minutes, using your plan sponsor’s website.

Why Contribute to a 401(k)? 3 Good Reasons

Contributing to a 401(k) plan is an important way to save for retirement. The funds in a 401(k) are invested, generally in mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or target date funds — which can offer the potential for growth over time. Typically there are about 12 investment options in most 401(k) plans.

But perhaps the three best reasons to contribute to a 401(k) plan are the opportunity to save automatically, via regular payroll deductions; the potentially lower tax bill; the ability to get “free money” from your employer match, if it’s offered.

Low-stress Saving

For many people, this type of investment is easy because you can choose how much of your salary to contribute each pay period, and deductions happen automatically. You don’t have to think about your savings, your contributions are taken directly from each paycheck, so it helps to build your nest egg over time.

Lower Taxable Income

Another benefit is the potential for savings during tax season. Since the contributions an employee makes to their 401(k) plan over the course of the year aren’t included in their taxable income, that can lower their overall taxable income. This, in turn, may result in an individual falling into a lower tax bracket and paying less income tax for that year.

And in the future, when they might likely be in a lower tax bracket due to retirement, they’ll pay lower taxes when they withdraw the money from their 401(k) account.

Note: Withdrawing money from a 401(k) account before retirement age may lead to early withdrawal penalties.

Another perk of enrolling in a 401(k) plan is the notion of “free money” from one’s employer. Some companies match a portion of their employees’ contributions—often around 50 cents to $1 for each dollar that an employee contributes.

Typically, an employer might set a maximum matching limit, such as 3% to 6% of the employee’s salary.

This matching contribution is often referred to as free money because the contribution effectively increases an employee’s income without increasing their current tax bill. It’s worth noting that an employer’s match generally vests over the course of three or four years—meaning that the employer-contributed money will accrue in the account, but an employee won’t be able to keep it if they switch jobs, unless they remain with the company for that set period of time.

Setting up Recurring Contributions

When it comes to setting up a 401(k), the process varies by workplace. Some companies offer automatic enrollment to employees, automatically reducing the employee’s wages by a certain amount and diverting that money to the employee’s 401(k) plan, unless the employee chooses not to have their wages contributed.

Or, an employee can choose to enroll, but to contribute a custom amount. This type of contribution is referred to as an elective deferral.

In companies that don’t offer automatic enrollment as an option, employees will need to work with their HR department and retirement plan provider to get their 401(k) set up.

Participants need to decide how much they want to contribute, may need to choose their investments, can opt to take advantage of autopilot settings, and can roll over a 401(k) from a past job into their new one.

How Much to Save for Retirement

The Department of Labor (DOL) outlined a few best practices for investing in order to save for retirement.

It’s estimated that most Americans will need 70% to 90% of their preretirement income saved by retirement, in order to maintain their current standard of living. Doing that math can give plan participants an idea of how much they should be contributing to their 401(k).

Participants might also consider a few basic investment principles, such as diversifying retirement investments to reduce risk and improve return. These investment choices may evolve overtime depending on someone’s age, goals, and financial situation.

The DOL recommends that employees contribute all they can to their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to take advantage of benefits like lower taxes, company contributions, and tax deferrals.

Adding Alternative Investments to a 401(k)

Some savers may find themselves interested in pursuing alternative investments when saving for retirement. An alternative investment takes place outside of the traditional markets of stocks, fixed-income, and cash. This method may appeal to those looking for portfolio diversification. Popular examples of alternative investments are private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities.

Self-directed 401(k)s allow participants to add alternate investments to their 401(k) portfolio. With a self-directed 401(k), the investor chooses a custodian such as a brokerage or investment firm to hold the amount of assets and execute the purchase or sale of investments on the participant’s behalf. If an employer offers a self-directed 401(k), the custodian will likely be the plan administrator.

The Takeaway

For employees looking to change 401(k) contributions, the process is often as simple as reaching out to your plan provider and confirming that you’re allowed to make a change at this time.

Some companies have rules around when and how often employees can make changes to their contributions. Once you have the go-ahead to make the change, and have considered what works best for your current financial situation and your future goals, it’s generally straightforward.

A company-sponsored 401(k) plan offers many benefits — but once you leave your job, many of those benefits — including the employer-matching program — no longer apply. That’s why it usually makes sense to do a rollover of your previous 401(k) to an IRA, so you can remain in control of your money, with SoFi Invest®.

When you do a 401(k) rollover it helps to keep your retirement funds in one place. SoFi makes the rollover process seamless, and there are no rollover fees or taxes.

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.


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.

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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401(k) Vesting: What Does Vested Balance Mean?

401(k) Vesting: What Does Vested Balance Mean?

Your vested 401(k) balance is the portion you fully own and can take with you when you leave your employer. This amount includes your employee contributions, which are always 100% vested, any investment earnings, and your employer’s contributions that have passed the required vesting period.

Here’s a deeper look at what being vested means and the effect it can have on your retirement savings.

Key Points

•   401(k) vesting refers to when ownership of an employer’s contributions to a 401(k) account shifts to the employee.

•   401(k) contributions made by employees are always 100% vested; they own them outright.

•   Vesting schedules vary, but employees become 100% vested after a specified number of years.

•   401(k) vesting incentivizes employees to stay with their current employer and to contribute to their 401(k).

•   Companies may use immediate, cliff, or graded vesting schedules for their 401(k) plans.

What Does Vested Balance Mean?

The vested balance is the amount of money that belongs to you and cannot be taken back by an employer when you leave your job — even if you are fired.

The contributions you personally make to your 401(k) are automatically 100% vested. Vesting of employer contributions typically occurs according to a set timeframe known as a vesting schedule. When employer contributions to a 401(k) become vested, it means that the money is now entirely yours.

Having a fully vested 401(k) means that employer contributions will remain in your account when you leave the company. It also means that you can decide to roll over your balance to a new account, start making withdrawals, or take out a loan against the account, if your plan allows it. However, keeping a vested 401(k) invested and letting it grow over time may be one of the best ways to save for retirement.

💡 Recommended: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?

How 401(k) Vesting Works

401(k) vesting refers to the process by which employees become entitled to keep the money that an employer may have contributed to their 401(k) account. Vesting schedules can vary, but most 401(k) plans have a vesting schedule that requires employees to stay with the company for a certain number of years before they are fully vested.

For example, an employer may have a vesting schedule requiring employees to stay with the company for five years before they are fully vested in their 401(k) account. If an employee were to leave the company before reaching that milestone, they could forfeit some or all of the employer-contributed money in the 401(k) account. The amount an employee gets to keep is the vested balance. Other qualified defined contribution plans, such as 401(a) or 403(b) plans, may also be subject to vesting schedules.

💡 Recommended: What Happens to Your 401(k) When You Leave a Job?

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Importance of 401(k) Vesting

401(k) vesting is important because it determines when an employee can keep the employer’s matching contributions to their retirement account. Vesting schedules can vary, but typically after an employee has been with a company for a certain number of years, they will be 100% vested in the employer’s contributions.

401(k) Vesting Eligibility

401(k) vesting eligibility is the time an employee must work for their employer before they are eligible to receive the employer’s contribution to their 401(k) retirement account. The vesting period varies depending on the employer’s plan.

401(k) Contributions Basics

Before understanding vesting, it’s important to know how 401(k) contributions work. A 401(k) is a tax-advantaged, employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows employees to contribute a portion of their salary each pay period, usually on a pre-tax basis.

For tax year 2024, employees can contribute up to $23,000 annually in their 401(k) accounts, with an extra $7,500 in catch-up contributions allowed for those age 50 or older. For tax year 2023, employers can contribute up to $22,500, with an extra $7,500 in catch-up contributions allowed for those age 50 or older. Employees can then invest their contributions, often choosing from a menu of mutual funds, exchanged-traded funds (ETFs) or other investments offered by their employer.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also allows employers to contribute to their employees’ plans. Often these contributions come in the form of an employer 401(k) match. For example, an employer might offer matching contributions of 3% or 6% if an employee chooses to contribute 6% of their salary to the 401(k).

In 2024, the total contributions that an employee and employer can make to a 401(k) is $69,000 ($76,500 including catch-up contributions). In 2023, the total contributions that an employee and employer can make to a 401(k) is $66,000 ($73,500 including catch-up contributions).

Employer contributions are a way for businesses to encourage employees to save for retirement. They’re also an important benefit that job seekers look for when searching for new jobs.

💡 Recommended: How To Make Changes to Your 401(k) Contributions

Benefits of 401(k) Vesting

There are several benefits of 401(k) vesting, including ensuring that employees are more likely to stay with a company for the long term because they know they will eventually vest and be able to keep the money they have contributed to their 401(k). Additionally, it incentivizes employees to contribute to a 401(k) because they know they will eventually be fully vested and be entitled to all the money in their account.

401(k) vesting also gives employees a sense of security, knowing they will not lose the money they have put into their retirement savings if they leave their job.

Drawbacks of 401(k) Vesting

While 401(k) vesting benefits employees, there are also some drawbacks. For one, vesting can incentivize employees to stay with their current employer, even if they want to leave their job. Employees may be staying in a job they’re unhappy with just to wait for their 401(k) to be fully vested.

Also, using a 401(k) for investing can create unwanted tax liability and fees. When you withdraw money from a 401(k) before age 59 ½, you’ll typically have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty and taxes. This can eat into the money you were hoping to use for retirement.

How Do I Know if I Am Fully Vested in my 401(k)?

If you’re unsure whether or when you will be fully vested, you can check their plan’s vesting schedule, usually on your online benefits portal.

Immediate Vesting

Immediate vesting is the simplest form of vesting schedule. Employees own 100% of contributions right away.

Cliff Vesting

Under a cliff vesting schedule, employer contributions are typically fully vested after a certain period of time following a job’s start date, usually three years.

Graded Vesting

Graded vesting is a bit more complicated. A percentage of contributions vest throughout a set period, and employees gain gradual ownership of their funds. Eventually, they will own 100% of the money in their account.

For example, a hypothetical six-year graded vesting schedule might look like this:

Years of Service

Percent Vested

1 0%
2 20%
3 40%
4 60%
5 80%
6 100%

Why Do Employers Use Vesting?What Happens If I Leave My Job Before I’m Fully Vested?

If you leave your job before being fully vested, you forfeit any unvested portion of their 401(k). The amount of money you’d lose depends on your vesting schedule, the amount of the contributions, and their performance. For example, if your employer uses cliff vesting after three years and you leave the company before then, you won’t receive any of the money your employer has contributed to their plan.

If, on the other hand, your employer uses a graded vesting schedule, you will receive any portion of the employer’s contributions that have vested by the time they leave. For example, if you are 20% vested each year over six years and leave the company shortly after year three, you’ll keep 40% of the employer’s contributions.

Other Common Types of Vesting

Aside from 401(k)s, employers may offer other forms of compensation that also follow vesting schedules, such as pensions and stock options. These tend to work slightly differently than vested contributions, but pensions and stock options may vest immediately or by following a cliff or graded vesting schedule.

Stock Option Vesting

Employee stock options give employees the right to buy company stock at a set price at a later date, regardless of the stock’s current value. The idea is that between the time an employee is hired and their stock options vest, the stock price will have risen. The employee can then buy and sell the stock to make a profit.

Pension Vesting

With a pension plan, vesting schedules determine when employees are eligible to receive their full benefits.

How Do I Find Out More About Vesting?

There are a few ways to learn more about vesting and your 401(k) vested balance. This information typically appears in the 401(k) summary plan description or the annual benefits statement.

Generally, a company’s plan administrator or human resources department can also explain the vesting schedule in detail and pinpoint where you are in your vesting schedule. Understanding this information can help you know the actual value of your 401(k) account.

The Takeaway

While any employee contributions to 401(k) plans are immediately fully vested, the same is not always true of employer contributions. The employee may gain access to employer contributions slowly over time or all at once after the company has employed them for several years.

Understanding vesting and your 401(k)’s vesting schedule is one more piece of information that can help you plan for your financial future. A 401(k) and other retirement accounts can be essential components of a retirement savings plan. Knowing when you are fully vested in a 401(k) can help you understand how much money might be available when you retire.

There are many ways to save for retirement, including opening a traditional or Roth IRA. To get started with those, you can open an online retirement account on the SoFi Invest® platform.

Find out more about investing with SoFi today.

FAQ

What does 401(k) vesting mean?

401(k) vesting is when an employee becomes fully entitled to the employer’s matching contributions to the employee’s 401(k) account. Vesting typically occurs over a period of time, such as five years, and is often dependent on the employee remaining employed with the company.

What is the vesting period for a 401(k)?

The vesting period is the amount of time an employee must work for an employer before they are fully vested in the employer’s 401(k) plan. This period is different for each company, but generally, the vesting period is between three and five years.

How does 401(k) vesting work?

Vesting in a 401(k) plan means an employee has the right to keep the employer matching contributions made to their 401(k) account, even if they leave the company. Vesting schedules can vary, but most 401(k) plans have a vesting schedule of three to five years.


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.

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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Can I Roll a 401k Into a Roth IRA?

When moving on to a new job, it may be difficult to keep track of the 401(k) left behind at your last job.

You’ll need to keep after it to make sure it’s balanced and earning the money you’ll need for retirement. What’s more, administrative fees on the account that may have been covered by your employer might now shift to you—making it more expensive to maintain the 401(k) account once you’ve left the company.

For these reasons and more, some people consider rolling over their old 401(k) retirement plans into a 401(k) with their current employer, a traditional IRA, or a Roth IRA.

This article will explore the benefits, restrictions, and ways to roll over a 401(k) into a Roth IRA, so that you can decide if that’s the right financial move for you.

What is a 401(k) Rollover?

A rollover simply means taking your money out of one retirement fund and placing it into a new one—one that provides more opportunity for your money to grow and/or consolidates your money into one location for more streamlined management.

There are a few different ways to roll over a 401(k):

1. You can roll it over into a 401(k) plan you set up with your new employer.
2. You can roll it over into a new traditional or Roth IRA that you set up directly.

In this article, we will focus on rolling over a 401(k) into a Roth IRA. This is also known as a Roth IRA conversion.

How Does a 401(k) Rollover Work?

There are two ways to roll over a 401(k) account—either directly or indirectly.

With a direct transfer, you will fill out paperwork to transfer funds from your old 401(k) account into a new retirement account (such as a Roth IRA). The money will get transferred from one account to another, with no further involvement from you.

With an indirect transfer, you would close, or cash out, the 401(k) account with the intention of immediately reinvesting it into another retirement fund. To make sure you actually do transfer the money into another retirement account, the government requires your account custodian to withhold a mandatory 20% tax—which you’ll get back in the form of a tax exemption when you file taxes.

The hitch: You will have to make up the 20% out of pocket and deposit the full amount into your new retirement account within 60 days. If you retain any funds from the rollover, they may be subject to an additional 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

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Get a 2% match on all your SoFi IRA contributions* through Tax Day (up to the annual contribution limits). Plus, you can still contribute to your 2023 IRAs until April 15th.


*Offer lasts through Tax Day, 4/15/24. Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

401(k) vs Roth IRA

Both a 401(k) account and a Roth IRA can be an important part of retirement planning. Each offers distinct benefits and advantages, as well as some key differences and restrictions. If you already have a 401(k) that you’re considering rolling over, you’re likely familiar with the plan details. But for comparison, here are some of the highlights of each account.

401(k) Roth IRA
No income limits on who can contribute to a 401(k) plan. Though Roth IRAs typically have income limits, those limits are waived when someone rolls over a 401(k) into a new Roth IRA account.
Contributions can be made to the account at any age, as long as you are still working for the company Contributions can be made to the account at any age
Subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs); the account holder must start withdrawing money There are no required minimum distributions (RMDs). Account holders can withdraw at their discretion.
The maximum contribution for 2024 is $23,000 with an additional $7,500 for those over age 50.

The maximum contribution for 2023 is $22,500 with an additional $7,500 for those over age 50.
The maximum contribution for 2023 is $6,500, with an additional $1,000 for those over age 50.

The maximum contribution for 2024 is $7,000, with an additional $1,000 for those over age 50.
Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, and withdrawals are taxed at the individual’s income tax rate at time of withdrawal. Contributions are made with post-tax dollars, and withdrawals are not taxed.
Except in a few hardship situations, any money withdrawn before age 59.5 is subject to both income tax and a 10% penalty. After five years, any earnings withdrawn through a non-qualified distribution is subject to income tax only, with no penalties.

Recommended: Comparing a Traditional IRA and 401(k)

How to Roll Over a 401(k) to Roth IRA

Though a Roth IRA has yearly contribution limits (for 2023, $6,500, with an additional $1,000 for those over age 50), there is no limit to the amount of money you can roll over from your 401(k) into a Roth IRA.
If you decide it is the right move for you and your circumstances, rolling your 401(k) into a Roth IRA is relatively simple:

1. Open a new Roth IRA account.
2. Contact the company that currently holds your current 401(k) and request a transfer. You’ll most likely have to fill out a few forms.
3. Keep an eye out to make sure the transfer happens.
4. Take another look at your overall retirement plan strategy.

401(k) to Roth IRA Rollover Rules

There are a few rules to consider when rolling over 401(k) assets to a Roth IRA.

Rollover Amount Will be Taxed

Since your 401(k) account was funded with pre-tax dollars and a Roth IRA is funded with post-tax dollars, you will need to pay income tax on the 401(k) balance in the same tax year in which your rollover takes place.

A Roth IRA is Subject to the Five-Year Rule

Once you transfer money into your new Roth IRA, it pays to keep it there. If you withdraw any earnings that have been in the account for less than five years, you will likely be required to pay income tax and an additional 10% penalty. This is known as the five-year rule .

The Takeaway

One way to handle a 401(k) account from a previous employer is by rolling it over into a Roth IRA. For some individuals, it might be the only way to take advantage of a Roth IRA, which typically has an income limit. With a Roth IRA, account holders can contribute post-tax dollars now, and enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

If you’re looking to roll a 401(k) into a Roth IRA, SoFi Invest® can help. SoFi offers both Roth and traditional IRA accounts.

And if you’re simply looking to refine your own retirement plan (or start one!), SoFi Invest can help you figure out a retirement savings strategy that works with your goals.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you invest in your retirement.


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.

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.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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