Skip to main content

A mega backdoor Roth IRA is a retirement strategy that allows high-income earners to make after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA. In 2022, individuals earning more than $129,000 are not eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA income limit for 2023 will increase to $138,000. Anyone with income exceeding these amounts cannot contribute to a Roth IRA. The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA strategy solves that problem by allowing high-income earners to make after-tax contributions to a traditional IRA and then convert those funds to a Roth IRA.

When done correctly, the strategy not only allows high-income earners to contribute to a Roth IRA, it also allows them to contribute more after-tax dollars than they could make in direct contributions alone.

Join along for a deep dive into the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA with us and see if it’s right for you and your retirement plan.

Why a Roth Over a Traditional IRA or 401K?

Depending on your income, effective tax rate, and retirement goals, a traditional IRA or 401k may be the perfect approach for your retirement strategy. However, there are some situations where the Roth IRA and 401K offer several advantages over a traditional IRA or 401k.

First and foremost, the traditional IRA and 401K are tax-deferred, meaning you don’t pay taxes on the money you contribute until you withdraw it in retirement.

The Roth IRA is funded with after-tax dollars, meaning you don’t get a deduction for your contributions, but you also won’t pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it in retirement. Paying those taxes now can be a big benefit if you’re in a higher tax bracket at retirement than you are now.

Second, the Roth IRA has no required minimum distributions (RMDs). Avoiding RMD’s means you can leave your money invested for as long as you want and never have to take it out. With a traditional IRA, you’re required to start taking withdrawals at age 72.

Finally, the Roth IRA has more flexible withdrawal rules than the traditional IRA. For example, you can withdraw your contributions at any time without penalty, and you can withdraw your earnings before age 59 1/2 if you meet one of the IRS’s hardship conditions.

For all these reasons, the Roth IRA can be a great tool when saving for retirement.

Definition of a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

A Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is a retirement savings strategy that allows high-income earners to make after-tax contributions to a traditional IRA and convert those funds to a Roth IRA.

There are two steps to the strategy. First, you make after-tax contributions to a traditional 401K. Second, you convert those after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA.

The contribution limit for the mega backdoor Roth IRA is the same as the contribution limit for the traditional 401K ($20,500 in 2022, $22,500 in 2023).

The mega backdoor Roth IRA is sometimes called the two-step backdoor Roth IRA.

Backdoor Roth IRA vs. Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

The backdoor Roth IRA and the mega backdoor Roth IRA are similar in that both allow high-income earners to make after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA.

The difference is in how the contributions are made and how much you can contribute. With the backdoor Roth IRA, you make after-tax contributions to a traditional IRA and then convert those funds to a Roth IRA. In 2022, the backdoor Roth IRA contribution limit is $6,000, or $7,000 for those over age 50.

With the mega backdoor Roth IRA, you make after-tax contributions to a traditional 401K and then convert those funds to a Roth IRA.

The mega backdoor Roth IRA can allow you to save a maximum total of $40,500 of after-tax dollars in 2022.

Who Benefits from a Mega Backdoor Roth?

Several types of people can benefit from the mega backdoor Roth IRA. Let’s consider a few scenarios and see if you might fit into one or more.

Those who max out traditional 401K contributions: If you’re already maxing out your traditional 401K contributions, the mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way to save even more for retirement.

Those who have extra income to contribute on an after-tax basis: If you have extra income that you can contribute on an after-tax basis, the mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way to save for retirement.

Those who are not eligible for direct Roth IRA contributions due to high income: The mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way for high-income earners to make after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA.

Those who want to contribute over the annual IRA limits: The mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way to contribute more than the annual IRA contribution limit.

Those who have already achieved other important financial goals: If you’ve already achieved other important financial goals, such as paying off debt or saving for a down payment on a house, the mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way to save for retirement.

Those whose company allows for after-tax contributions and in-service withdrawals: If your company allows for after-tax contributions and in-service withdrawals to a Roth IRA, the mega backdoor Roth IRA can be a great way to save for retirement.

Mega Backdoor Roth IRA Eligibility

There are a few eligibility requirements for the mega backdoor Roth IRA.

You must have earned income: You must have earned income in order to contribute to a Roth IRA. This includes income from employment, self-employment, alimony, and disability payments.

You must have a traditional 401K: In order to make after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA, you must have a traditional 401K.

You must be able to make after-tax contributions and in-service withdrawals to your 401k: In order to make after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA, you must be able to make after-tax contributions to your 401K.

If you meet these eligibility requirements, you should have the ability to pursue the Mega Backdoor Roth strategy. The bigger question will become whether or not it is a smart retirement strategy for you. A conversation with a financial advisor can help you create a confident retirement strategy.

How Does a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA Work?

There are two steps to the mega backdoor Roth IRA: making after-tax contributions to a traditional 401K and then converting those funds to a Roth IRA.

Step One: Backdoor Roth IRA Conversion

The first step is to make after-tax contributions to a traditional 401K. In 2022, the contribution limit for a traditional 401K is $20,500. Traditional 401k limits will increase to $22,500 in 2023. Not all 401k plans will allow for direct contributions, so it’s important to check with your plan administrator to ensure you can make the deposit into your 401k and that you can make in-service withdrawals so you can make the conversion.

Step Two: Make the Conversion

The second step is to convert the after-tax funds from your traditional 401K into a Roth IRA. You can do this by making a direct transfer or by rolling the funds over into a Roth IRA. This can be initiated by your wealth management professional or by contacting your 401k and IRA plan administrator.

Roth IRA Income Limits for 2022

Roth IRAs have income limits that restrict high-income earners from utilizing the retirement strategy. If you earn beyond these limits, you are essentially unable to contribute to a Roth IRA without a strategic approach like the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.

There is a phase-out range, meaning you can contribute to a Roth IRA until you cross a certain level of earnings. At that point, you are limited to how much you can contribute to your Roth IRA. You can contribute up to the full amount if you earn below the phase-out range. If you earn within the range, you can contribute a reduced amount. If your earnings surpass the phase-out range, you would need to take an alternative approach like the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.

Single filers- the 2022 contribution phase-out range is $129,000 to $144,000. In 2023, the contribution phase-out range for single filers will increase to a range of $138,000 to $153,000.

Married filing jointly- the contribution phase-out range is $204,000 to $214,000. In 2023, the contribution phase-out range for those who are married and filing jointly will increase to a range of $218,000 to $228,000.

Is a Mega Backdoor Roth Worth It?

The answer to this question will be different for everyone. A financial advisor can help you understand whether the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is right for your retirement strategy.

There are some clear advantages to the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA. The biggest advantage is that it allows high-income earners to get around the Roth IRA income limits. So if you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA because you earn too much money, the Mega Backdoor Roth can be a great way to get those funds into a Roth IRA.

Mega Backdoor Roth IRA Contribution Limits

Likely the biggest advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth is that it allows you to contribute more money to your retirement than you would be with a traditional 401K or Roth IRA. The contribution limit for a traditional 401K is $20,500 in 2022. The contribution limit for a Roth IRA is $6,000 in 2022. With the Mega Backdoor Roth, you can contribute up to $40,500 to your retirement in 2022.

Tax Guidelines for a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is a legal way to save for retirement. There is no gray area here. The IRS has specific guidelines around the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA and how the taxes work.

The biggest thing to remember is that you will owe taxes on the after-tax contributions you make to your traditional 401K. When you convert those funds to a Roth IRA, you will owe taxes on that money. However, any growth in the account will be tax-free.

Tips for Your Own Mega Backdoor Roth IRA

If you are considering utilizing the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA for your retirement strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Remember the Pro Rata Rule for the Mega Backdoor Roth

The pro rata rule says that you can only convert the after-tax contributions you have made to your traditional 401K. You cannot convert any of the pretax contributions or earnings in the account.

This can get tricky if you have been contributing to your traditional 401K for a long time. You will need to work with your wealth management professional or your plan administrator to figure out how much of your account is after-tax contributions.

The net effect of the IRA aggregation rule is that only a portion of the non-deductible contributions can actually be converted, even if the non-deductible contribution is made to a new account and converted separately because the IRA aggregation rule combines all the accounts for tax purposes anyway.

This can be a major tax trap most investors are not aware of. You should consult with a financial advisor before considering this strategy to make sure you are not going to be hit with large taxes.

Check the Rules on Your Own 401K Plan

It is never good to accidentally lock up a large sum of money. Not all 401K plans allow for after-tax contributions. Before you decide to utilize the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA, make sure your plan allows for after-tax contributions.

Contribute the Maximum Post-Tax Dollars

The whole point of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is to get as much money into a Roth IRA as possible. It probably wouldn’t make sense to go through the trouble of setting up a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA for a small contribution. The benefit comes from the ability to contribute, so contribute the most possible to get the most benefit from your efforts.

Roll Your Post-Tax Contributions Into the Roth IRA

Once you have made your after-tax contributions to your traditional 401K, you will need to roll those funds into a Roth IRA. You cannot leave the money in your traditional 401K.

The good news is that most 401K providers offer a way to easily roll over your funds into a Roth IRA.

Why Is the Mega Backdoor Roth Not Allowed at Some Companies?

The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA is an IRS-sanctioned way to contribute to a Roth IRA. So why wouldn’t all companies allow it?

The answer has to do with the way that 401K plans are structured. Some 401K providers don’t have the ability to handle after-tax contributions, or they simply choose not to offer it as an option.

Unfortunately, the mega backdoor is shut if your company’s 401K plan doesn’t allow for after-tax contributions.

Will the Backdoor Roth Ever Be Eliminated?

While there is little way to know what the future holds, it seems unlikely that the backdoor Roth IRA will be eliminated. The IRS has been clear that the backdoor Roth IRA is a legal way to save for retirement.

Mega Backdoor Roth Alternatives

If your company’s 401K plan doesn’t allow for after-tax contributions, there are a few other ways to get money into a Roth IRA.

One option is to simply contribute the maximum amount to your traditional 401K and then roll the funds into a Roth IRA when you retire. While it isn’t quite as good as the mega backdoor Roth because you will owe taxes on the money when you retire, it offers a way to get money into a Roth IRA.

The Bottom Line

The mega backdoor Roth IRA is a great way for high-income earners to get money into a Roth IRA if your company’s 401K plan allows for it. If not, there are other ways to get money into a Roth IRA. Connect with an advisor at Dechtman Wealth Management to unlock the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA and explore other creative solutions that will have your retirement ready.

Important Disclosure Information

Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Dechtman Wealth Management, LLC [“DWM”]), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from DWM. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. DWM is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the DWM’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request or at www.dechtmanwealth.com.

Please Note: DWM does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to DWM’s web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly.

Please Remember: If you are a DWM client, please contact DWM, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you would like to impose, add, or to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services.  Unless, and until, you notify us, in writing, to the contrary, we shall continue to provide services as we do currently.

Please Also Remember to advise us if you have not been receiving account statements (at least quarterly) from the account custodian.

Join our newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

Name*