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At work I pay into an "involuntary 401(a)" retirement plan. I'd like to also open up a Roth IRA on my own. Do the contributions I make through my work plan count against the $5000/year limit on the Roth?

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No, your 401(a) contributions will not count against your Roth IRA limit. Contributing to other IRA accounts can reduce how much you can contribute to a Roth account, but 401(a)/401(k) and other employer sponsored plans do not count against the Roth IRA limit.

The IRS publishes a lot of really good information on this topic, which you can find here. It's pretty long though, so it's best used as a reference.

  • I did spend some time reading publication 590 before posting (good cure for insomnia!). With my primitive understanding of finance I was not sure if my plan was considered an IRA. Thanks again for your answer, I'm finding this site insightful. – Josh Aug 11 '11 at 13:02
  • Your 401(a) does not count as an IRA. It does share a limit with 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans, but not the $18,000 limit (in 2015/16) that most people have heard about. Rather it shares a different limit, which is roughly about 3 times the $18k limit (in 2015 it's $53,000). Matching contributions also count against that limit, as well as deferred compensation plans. – stannius Nov 3 '15 at 18:01

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