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Back when I was self-employed, I started a Roth IRA and have regularly deposited in it since then. However, my current employer offers matching contributions to their 401(k) plan, and with the matching I'd like to focus my retirement savings in that plan for now. But what should I do with the existing Roth IRA?

  • Leave it alone, and just put new money in the 401(k)?
  • Roll my money from the Roth IRA into my employer's 401(k)?
  • Make contributions to my employer's 401(k), but regularly transfer from my 401(k) into my Roth IRA?
14

You can not roll Roth money into a pre-tax accounts. Roth IRAs can only be rolled into other Roth IRAs and not Roth 401ks (irs)

For most 401ks, you cannot transfer money out until you leave the company. There are some exceptions, but they are less common.

Your best bet is to leave your exising roth ira separate from your 401k.

A good strategy for retirement accounts is whenever able (typically when you switch jobs) roll your 401k into a "rollover IRA" (not a roth). Then you can manage your investments with more options than the 5-20 funds provided in the 401k. I would recommend against rolling funds into a 401k because of the lack of options in most 401k plans.

Update 2019: Roth 401ks are a lot more common in 2019 then they were in 2011. Also, one drawback to creating a rollover IRA that I was not aware of in 2011 is that it can make it undesirable to do a back-door roth conversion due to the pro-rata rule.

  • 5
    Even if you could do a rollover (roth-roth 401K), it wouldn't be a good idea. Employer retirement plans are notoriously expensive in terms of fees compared to what you are likely getting as an individual. Personally I wish I could do the REVERSE and move money out of my employer plan to my personal plan without quitting my job. – JohnFx Apr 19 '11 at 0:59
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Adding to the excellent answers already given, we typically advise members to contribute as much as needed to get a full employer match in their 401K, but not more. We then redirect any additional savings to a traditional IRA or ROTH IRA (depending on their age, income, and future plans). Only once they've exhausted the $5000 maximum in their IRA will we look at putting more money into the 401K.
The ROTH IRA is a beautiful and powerful vehicle for savings. The only reason to consider taking money out of the ROTH is in a case of serious catastrophe.

3

In general, I agree with Alex' "don't do it." If I dig deep for any reasons to transfer from a Roth into a Roth 401(k) there might be 2:

  • Low cost options inside the 401(k). Ever hear of the VIIIX? This is a Vanguard institutional fund sporting a .02% expense.
  • Ability to borrow up to 50% of your balance. This is a controversial move, but I can easily contrive times that access to a low interest source of funds can be useful.

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