I asked this earlier today but it was incorrectly closed as a duplicate of another question which did not actually answer mine. So re-asking...

I understand that Roth IRAs allow withdrawing your contributions before age 59 1/2 with no penalty.

At my old job I had a Roth 401k, but my employer's match went to a Traditional 401k, and I'd like to do a rollover to an IRA. I think when my Roth 401k rolls over to my Roth IRA, the Roth 401k's contributions/earnings split will carry over to the Roth IRA and thus my Roth 401k's contributions could later be withdrawn before age 59 1/2 with no penalty (but not my Roth 401k's earnings).

But what about the employer's contributions in my Traditional 401k? After rollover, will those count as "contributions" in my Roth IRA that I could withdraw before 59 1/2, or will they count as "earnings" since I didn't contribute them myself?

  • Any money from a Traditional 401k cannot rollover in a Roth IRA, only in a Traditional IRA. Putting it into a Roth IRA is a Conversion, which triggers full taxes on the amount. Afterwards, I think it is considered your contributions, but I'm not sure, so not an answer. Good question.
    – Aganju
    May 27, 2022 at 1:57
  • And your employer's contribution are always pre-tax; they don't pay taxes for you...
    – Aganju
    May 27, 2022 at 1:58
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    Read Craig's answer, read my answer in the duped question, and tell me how they're different.
    – littleadv
    May 27, 2022 at 3:49
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  • Hi littleadv. Craig's answer below identifies that "conversions" are a third official type alongside contributions and earnings, and the ordering amongst withdrawal types. In your answer on the other question, I think the relevant sentence is "Once you converted, the rules for conversions apply (including the 5 years waiting period)" - it wasn't obvious to me that a conversion is a distinct type nor what the other rules are, plus it was a little lost among the rest of the answer to a different question. Hope this helps with where my head was at; thanks for the info!
    – Cameron
    May 27, 2022 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


Neither! They count as conversions, which is a third distinct type according to the ordering rules for Roth IRA distributions. Their tax treatment is between contributions and earnings; they can be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free 5 years after conversion. Before that, they incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty, but no regular income tax.

  • Perfect, I hadn't seen that linked resource before, that answers it nicely. Thanks!
    – Cameron
    May 27, 2022 at 21:17

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