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A Roth 401(k) and a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) are two types of accounts to save for the future that come with considerable tax breaks. Naturally, the government has some conditions for these perks. There are Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) contribution limits, capping how much you can save per year. Here’s how these rules work and ways you can plan around them.

Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA basics

A Roth 401(k) is a workplace retirement plan. You can only save through a Roth 401(k) if it’s available at your job. You can open a Roth IRA on your own outside of work.

Both accounts follow the same general tax rules. You fund these accounts with after-tax dollars, meaning you don’t get an upfront tax deduction. In exchange, your withdrawals in retirement after you turn 59 1/2 are tax-free. If you take out money then, you avoid owing tax on your investment earnings.

There are some notable differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA. Your employer decides what investments are available for a Roth 401(k). With a Roth IRA, you decide what to invest in, so it offers more variety. Another considerable difference is how much you can save per year in each account due to the contribution limits and other rules.

How do limit contributions work?

The IRS does not let you put unlimited money into retirement plans. Instead, it sets an annual contribution limit. You can only save up to the contribution limit each year. Once you max out your contributions, you must wait until the following year to save more.

If you don’t save up to the full contribution limit in a year, your limit doesn’t increase next year – you can’t make up for missed contributions. This is why saving regularly and putting aside as much as possible for each annual contribution limit is helpful.

The IRS publishes the Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) contribution limits every year. It adjusts the amount you can save per year to match inflation. The contribution limits increase over time, so your retirement savings keep up with inflation and rising prices.

Guide to Roth contribution limits

The Roth contribution limits depend on your age, income, the type of account you’re using, and the year. To explain how this works, here are the 2023 Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) contribution limits.

Your ageRoth 401(k) contribution limit for 2023Roth IRA contribution limit for 2023
Younger than 50$23,500$7,000
50 or older$30,500$8,000

Roth 401(k) contribution limit

If you’re wondering, “How much can I contribute to a Roth 401(k)?” the answer depends on your age. If you are younger than 50, you can save up to $23,000 from your work income into a Roth 401(k).1 You must ask your employer to withhold the amount you want to save from your paycheck.

The Roth 401(k) contribution limit does not include employer-matching contributions. If your job gives you a 401(k) match, this is on top of whatever you save. For example, if your job matches your contributions up to 4% of your salary and you earn $100,000, that’s $4,000 if you get the entire match. You could get that $4,000 from your employer and save up to another $22,500 from your earnings.

The 401(k) contribution limit applies to both money you save in a Roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k). Whatever you put in a traditional 401(k) reduces how much you can save for a Roth 401(k) that year. For example, if you put $10,000 in a traditional 401(k), you will only have the remaining $12,500 for your Roth 401(k) contribution limit.

Roth 401(k) catchup contributions

If you are 50 or older, the IRS allows you to save more per year in a 401(k) for catchup contributions. This lets you maximize savings in the last stretch before retirement. In 2024, the catchup contribution for a Roth 401(k) is $8,000.1 Altogether, you can save $30,500 in a Roth 401(k) if you combine the full contribution limit plus the catchup.

Roth IRA contribution limit

A Roth IRA also limits how much you can save per year. The limits are much lower than a workplace 401(k) plan. The maximum contribution to a Roth IRA also depends on your age. In 2024, you can save up to $7,000 in a Roth IRA if you are younger than 50.1

Once again, this is a joint contribution limit for both a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA. Any money you add to a traditional IRA in a year reduces the limit for how much you could save in a Roth IRA. If you save $3,000 in a traditional IRA, you only have $3,500 left for a Roth IRA.

Roth IRA catchup contributions

If you are 50 or older, you can save more per year in a Roth IRA thanks to catchup contributions. In 2024, you can add an extra $1,000 to your Roth IRA on top of the regular contribution limit.1 In 2024, you could save up to $8,000 max in a Roth IRA if you are 50 or older.

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Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) income rules

You can only contribute earned income from a job into a Roth IRA. Your contributions can’t come from investment earnings or other savings.

In other words, you must earn at least $6,500 per year to use the entire Roth IRA contribution limit. If you aren’t working, but your spouse is, you could fund a Roth IRA using your joint household income.

Most people working shouldn’t have issues hitting this earned income limit. It can be a problem if you’re trying to help your young children still in school save for retirement. They need at least some reported taxable income, like from babysitting or a paper route, to contribute to a Roth IRA.

With a Roth 401(k), you’re contributing to the account straight from your paycheck, so the earned income rule usually isn’t an issue. You’re earning the salary that goes right into your Roth 401(k).

Roth IRA income limits

The IRS has income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA. In 2024, you can contribute the entire $7,000 limit if you are single and have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) below $146,000 or are married filing jointly and have a combined MAGI below $230,000.¹

Past these income limits, there is a “phase-out range.” If your income is in the phase-out range, you can add some amount to a Roth IRA but less than the entire annual contribution of $7,000. The higher your income is in this range, the less you can save through a Roth IRA.

If you are single, the phase-out range is between $146,000 to $161,000. If you’re married, it’s between $230,000 to $240,000.¹ The IRS offers a worksheet to calculate the reduced contribution amount. If you need help, you could use tax software or meet with an accountant to figure out the correct calculation.

If you’re single and earn more than $161,000 or are married and earn more than $240,000, you cannot contribute any amount to a Roth IRA.¹ Be careful about contributing to a Roth IRA if you are close to or beyond the income limits. Otherwise, the IRS could force you to take the money out later.

Single income limitsMarried joint income limits
Full Roth IRA contribution allowedUnder $146,000Under $230,000
A reduced Roth IRA contribution (the phaseout range)$146,000 to $161,000$230,000 to $240,000
No Roth IRA contribution allowed$161,000 or more$240,000 or more

If you’re worried about “Is there a limit to Roth 401k contributions based on my income?” the answer will likely be a relief. A Roth 401(k) does not have any income limits. You can save through this account each year, no matter how much you earn.

Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA contribution deadlines

The Roth 401(k) contribution deadline is the last day of the year.² You have until December 31, 2023, to save money for the 2023 contribution deadline. Starting January 1, 2024, you’ll use the 2024 contribution limit.

A Roth IRA gives you more time. You can save until the tax filing deadline, usually April 15 of the following year.² For example, you could keep saving for the 2023 Roth IRA contribution limit until April 15, 2024. This gives you a little more time to max out your account. Remember these deadlines as you figure out how to maximize your retirement savings.

Roth IRA transfers

If you leave a job with a Roth 401(k), you can move that balance into your own Roth IRA through a rollover. That way, you could keep investing and saving on your own.

You don’t owe income tax for moving a Roth 401(k) into a Roth IRA. A rollover could keep you on track for your long-term retirement goals versus cashing out your 401(k) early.

You could also convert a traditional 401(k) or a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. You would owe income tax on any amount transferred to a Roth IRA. There are no income or contribution limits for making a Roth conversion.

If you earn too much to use a Roth IRA and don’t have a Roth 401(k), a Roth conversion could be a way to get some money into a Roth-type retirement account. You’ll owe taxes now, but you could withdraw your contributions tax-free during retirement.

Maximizing your Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA contribution limits

The potential tax savings from a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA can go a long way to supporting your retirement plan. By understanding the rules and restrictions on the contribution limits, you can make the most of this generous tax break.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to reach the Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA contribution limits, find out how much money you should be saving each month.

FAQs

Can I contribute to a Roth IRA and a Roth 401k?

Yes, you can contribute to both a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA, provided you are eligible to use both accounts. If you have a Roth 401(k) at work, you can contribute as much as you want into that account up to the contribution limits.

Whether you can also use a Roth IRA depends on your income. If your income is low enough to qualify for a Roth IRA, you can contribute to both a Roth IRA and a Roth 401(k). You could save up to the contribution limit for both accounts, increasing how much you can save per year.

Is there a salary limit to contribute to a Roth 401(k)?

No, there is no salary limit to contribute to a Roth 401(k). Only a Roth IRA has an income limit. You can contribute to a Roth 401(k) no matter how much you earn, up to the annual contribution limit.

Can I max out a 401(k) and a Roth 401(k) in the same year?

The 401(k) annual contribution limit applies to both your 401(k) and Roth 401(k) contributions. In 2024, you get $23,000 combined for both accounts, not $23,000 each. In other words, $23,000 is the most you can save by maxing out. You decide how to divide this annual contribution limit between a 401(k) and a Roth 401(K).

Should I split my 401(k) contributions between a Roth and traditional account?

It depends on your priorities for tax breaks. A traditional 401(k) lowers your taxes today with an upfront tax deduction, while a Roth 401(k) lowers your taxes in retirement. If you think your tax rate is higher now than it will be in the future, consider saving more in a traditional 401(k). If not, consider saving more in a Roth 401(k).

Having at least some tax-free income in retirement with a Roth 401(k) can be helpful. Not only does it lower your retirement tax bracket, but it could also reduce the taxes you owe on Social Security. Consult a financial advisor to figure out the best way to split your 401(k) contributions.

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1 Information from IRS' "401(k) limit increases to $22,500 for 2023, IRA limit rises to $6,500" as of October 5, 2023: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/401k-limit-increases-to-22500-for-2023-ira-limit-rises-to-6500

2 Information from IRS' "Amount of Roth IRA contributions that you can make for 2023" as of October 5, 2023: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/amount-of-roth-ira-contributions-that-you-can-make-for-2023

3 Information from Kiplinger's "401(k) contribution deadline" as of October 5, 2023: https://www.kiplinger.com/taxes/401k-contribution-deadline-coming-soon

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