The Back-Door Roth IRA (or better yet, the Roth 401k)

By Jordan Sheppherd

You probably know that if you make more than $117,000 as a single-filer, or $194,000 as a joint filer, you don’t qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA.

What if I told you there’s a simple workaround to this problem? While the tax code places restrictions on one’s ability to directly contribute to a Roth IRA if one’s income is over a certain dollar amount, the income restrictions on conversions were lifted in 2010.

Translation? Even if you earn too much income to directly contribute to a Roth IRA, you can still contribute to another type of IRA, and convert it to a Roth. So, you could open a Traditional IRA, contribute $5,500 or $6,500 (depending on your age), and turn around and convert those funds into your Roth IRA.

Let’s think bigger. You might be thinking, “Why don’t I set up a SEP IRA, put 25% of my self-employment income into it, and convert those funds to a Roth?” Is this possible? Of course. But…

If you qualify for a SEP, and so long as you don’t have outside employees, you might as well set up a Solo 401(k). The Solo 401(k) allows $18,000-$24,000 more to be contributed to the plan than to a SEP IRA, the 401(k) already has a Roth component built into it, and as the Trustee/Administrator of the plan, you can internally convert those funds with the stroke of a pen.

Either way, if you’re a high income earner, and you’re wanting to get some money into a Roth, you might consider the back-door strategy. If you really want to get funky with the Roth though, set up a Solo 401(k).

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