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Roth Conversion Ladder

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Roth Conversion Ladder

As an early retiree, you may be looking for ways to maximize your retirement savings while also minimizing your tax burden. One strategy that can help you achieve both of these goals is known as the Roth Conversion ladder. You can treat Roth IRA withdrawals as tax-free and penalty-free income thanks to this “early retirement hack”.

A Roth IRA is a type of retirement account that allows you to contribute after-tax dollars, and then withdraw that money plus earnings tax-free during retirement. Unlike a traditional IRA or 401(k), which require you to pay taxes on your withdrawals, a Roth IRA offers tax-free growth and withdrawals.

The Roth Conversion ladder strategy involves converting your traditional IRA or 401(k) savings into a Roth IRA over time and then take tax-free distributions 5 years after each initial conversion. By doing this, you can create a steady stream of tax-free income during retirement.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you have $200,000 in your 401(k) account that you want to convert into a Roth IRA. If you converted this all at once, you would be taxed on the entire $200,000 – this could put you into a higher tax bracket and result in a hefty tax bill. With the Roth Conversion ladder strategy, you can spread this out by converting $20,000 each year over 10 years. This would allow you to gradually move your money into a tax-free growth account where you can build your retirement savings and eventually withdraw the money without having to pay taxes and penalties.

The five-year waiting period applies to each conversion. To not trigger penalties or taxes, you must wait for five years from the date that the conversion initially settled and take a Roth IRA distribution. For example, if you converted $20,000 from 401(k) to Roth IRA in Year 0 and paid tax on the conversion, you would take a tax-free distribution of $20,000 plus earnings in Year 5. There is known as “laddering” strategy since each conversion has its own 5- year clock.

It’s important to note that the Roth Conversion ladder strategy is not for everyone. If you’re in a very high tax bracket now and expect to be in a lower bracket upon retiring, it may make more sense to stick with a traditional IRA or 401(k). But if you’re an early retiree who expects to have a long retirement horizon, the Roth Conversion ladder strategy can be a powerful tool for building tax-free wealth over time. You also need to plan ahead and make sure you have enough money to cover your living expenses while you’re doing the conversions.

Overall, Roth Conversion ladder can be an effective way to minimize taxes and create a reliable source of tax-free income during retirement.

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