Tying up loose ends and the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

announced our move to a MCOL. I had < 2 months before my planned maternity leave to figure out how to make sure I was maximizing benefits – particularly my work-sponsored retirement accounts. To recap what retirement accounts I have through work:

  • 403(b) – I max out my contribution at $18,000 and receive a generous employer contribution + match. I am currently 40% vested in employer contributions.
  • Private 457(b) – I max out my contribution at $18,000. There is no employer contribution.
  • Cash Balance Plan aka small pension. Unfortunately, I am 0% vested so will lose it all.
Roth IRA for 2017 was funded in January. Since the leave was planned well before our move to MCOL, I had already increased contributions to my work’s 403(b) and 457(b) so that my contributions would be maxed out by the end of September. I was unable to get a straight answer from HR if I can continue to make contributions when short term disability pay kicked in for my maternity pay so I played it safe. I also could not get a straight answer if I would continue to get employer contributions + match if I front loaded the 403(b) and 457(b). Thankfully the employer contributions + match have continued! Now that I will be separating from my job (I am employed until the end of December) and starting a new job in 2018 that only offers a 401(k) (losing 457(b) and cash pension plan), I decided to take advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA (linked to excellent article by Mad Fientist). What is the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA? It is the ability to contribute an additional $36,000 a year into a Roth IRA. This is in addition to the regular or backdoor Roth IRA of $5,500 annually. I knew this was an option through my work’s 403(b) since they allow non-Roth after-tax contributions aka NRATs. This is not the same as being able to contribute to a Roth 403(b) or 401(k). These contributions are in addition to my $18,000 employee contribution. You can contribute NRATs up to the total limit of $54,000 (for 2017). Obviously, I want the free employer contribution + match so I am limited to contributing an extra ~ $15,000 in after-tax contributions. But if you have no employer contribution then you can contribute the difference of $54,000 – $18,000 or up to $36,000. One caveat is that you want your plan to allow in-service distributions, meaning that you can move the NRAT portion of your 403(b) or 401(k) out of the account into your Roth IRA. Some plans let you do this quarterly or annually. Mine only allows this upon job separation. Not a deal breaker but this means that I will owe taxes on the gains only. One will still owe taxes on the gains with a quarterly or annual in-service distribution – but it will have less time to make gains so they should be minimal. I did not contribute to this in the past since I’m still paying down student loans. But now that I am leaving and losing a good amount of tax-advantaged space with the new job, it made sense to “fill up” this bucket. To summarize, here is how to tell if you are eligible for a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA (and don’t forget to read the excellent article linked above):
  • Does your plan allow non-Roth after-tax contributions?
  • Does your plan allow in-service distributions? How often?
  • If yes to both – you are lucky! And have an additional potential $36,000 to contribute to your Roth IRA
Have you heard of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA? Comment below!]]>

1 Comment

  1. Biglaw Investor on November 7, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to check with my wife’s plan to see if the Mega Backdoor Roth is possible. It’s never been an option for me but now that we’re married I need to make sure it’s not an option for her either.

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