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I am 61 years old and I have two 401k plans from former employers. I want to roll over these 401k plans into a single Roth IRA account over a period of time in several intervals. I would like to know the following:

  1. Are there any IRS limits on how much I can roll over at any one time?
  2. Typically, where does one go to open a Roth IRA account, and what is the typical account management fee?

Thanks in advance

1 Answer 1

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Be aware that if your 401(k) plans are not Roth 401(k) plans, then you will have to pay income tax (but no penalty tax since you are over 59.5) on the amount that you choose to roll-over each year.

  1. There are no IRS limits on how much money you wish to roll-over into your Roth IRA; you get to choose, and you may wish to lok at your tax bracket to see what is most advantageous. Keep in mind that distributions from a 401(k) plan are taxed as ordinary income, and you don't get a break on the tax rate for the qualified dividends and capital gains that occurred inside the 401(k) plans. Also, if you don't take out all the money in the next eleven years, you will be need to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from the plans each year, and thus lose some of the flexibility of choice in how much to withdraw. Incidentally, RMDs cannot be rolled over into Roth IRAs (or Traditional IRAs for that matter); but withdrawals in excess pf the RMD can be rolled over into an IRA.

  2. There are a large number of choices where you can open a Roth IRA account with varying levels of management fees. If you have a brokerage account already, they will be glad to create your Roth IRA account for you. If you hae a Traditional IRA account with a mutual fund house, or your local bank, they will be delighted to open a Roth IRA account form you. Go to the websites of any of these and they will be glad to handle the details for you. One caveat though; most of the "Roll over your 401(k) into an IRA with us and we will take care of everything for you" services will transfer all the money in your 401(k) plan into your IRA in one swell foop, and not in dribs and drabs or in the measured manner that you are contemplating. Keep in mind that some 401(k) plans also charge a small redemption fee for each distribution from the plan.


Finally, I suggest a stratagem that can avoid all the hassles mentioned above.

  1. Tell whomsoever you have chosen to be the custodian of your Rollover IRA that you wish to rollover all the money in your (Traditional, pre-tax) 401(k) accounts with ex-employers into your newly-established Traditional IRA account. Almost all custodians have standard well-established procedures for this (if yours doesn't, reconsider your choice of IRA custodian!) You will need to tell the new custodian the 401(k) account numbers etc, "sign" some "paperwork" (these days, a digital signature on an electronically presented document), and tell them "Go get 'em, Bears!" In a few days, your 401(k) accounts will be emptied out and all the money (less maybe the redemption fee) will appear in your new Rollover Traditional IRA account. In fact, most IRA custodians are so eager to get their hands on money that they will pay that redemption fee for you. There is no tax withholding (nor is any tax due) on this transfer; it is from one pre-tax account into another pre-tax account.
  2. Now that you have all the money in your Traditional IRA, you get to choose how much money you want to transfer from your Traditional IRA to your newly-created Roth IRA. You are required to pay income tax on the amount being transferred, but since this should be arranged as a direct or trustee-to-trustee transfer, there shouldn't be any income-tax withholding from the amount being transferred. Be sure to ask your tax adviser whether you will need to pay Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments (a.k.a file Form 1040-ES) to take into account the additional tax burden
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  • Thank you. This was very helpful, especially I didn't know about the 401k redemption fee. And yes, I plan to avoid RMDs, so I have to consult a tax adviser on how to set up my roll-over intervals in order to pay the least amount of taxes.
    – Anthony
    May 17, 2021 at 5:31
  • "but no penalty tax since you are over 59.5" - There wouldn't be a penalty on rolling a traditional 401k into a roth account no matter what your age would there? You would just pay the normal income tax on it.
    – GendoIkari
    May 19, 2021 at 21:26

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