Should You Convert Your 401(k) to a Roth IRA? What Changes to Expect From Congress

It’s an age-old question, what is the right time to convert a 401(k) to a Roth IRA? But with new legislation coming, the decision may need a bit of extra consideration.

In this segment of “Financial Planning Q&A” on Motley Fool Live, recorded on Dec. 1, retirement expert Robert Brokamp discusses a new wrinkle in the 401(k) conversion process.

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Robert Brokamp: “If any plan to convert 401(k) to Roth IRA, do I have to do it sooner than later? Are we running short on time?” I would say this first of all, what they’re trying to do as far as I understand, and again, this is just in the House bill, then the Senate has to do their bill and then the president has to sign it, and then the whole reconciliation process, yes, things are going to change.

From what I understand, the only thing that’s going to be eliminated is the ability to convert after-tax dollars. It’s not like they’re eliminating all conversions, just this conversion of after-tax dollars that people have been doing to create the backdoor Roth as well as the mega backdoor Roth, which you can do in your 401(k) if it allows after-tax contributions.

If Banu, you’re just doing regular old conversions from a traditional to a Roth, I don’t think there’s a hurry to do that. I don’t think that’s what’s on the chopping block. But I’m adding a bit of a caveat because the law hasn’t been passed yet, so who knows what’s going to happen by the time it passes?

I will say as I’ve pointed previously if you want to do the conversion this year, you do have to do it by December 31. This is not something that’s going to wait till April 15th to do. If converting makes sense for you this year, I would do it and I wouldn’t put it off.

I think you could also convert next year as well, but just regular pre-tax money and earnings, not the after-tax, but that’s just my current understanding of it and we’ll see what changes.

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