Even before President Trump’s tax reform legislation was finalized, rumblings of limits to 401(k) contribution amounts gave credence to “Rothification” impacting the investment industry.
If such proposals had passed, this would have reduced the amount of pre-tax money that people could contribute to their 401(k) plans, while freeing up spending money for the government.
But the industry is already seeing a rise in the conversion from some or all traditional defined contribution plans to Roth-like plans, hence the movement being coined Rothification. The results have sparked a debate about the pros and cons of moving in this direction.
Proponents of the increased reliance on Roth 401(k)s and IRAs point to the tax benefits later in life for retirement savers.
These savers will sacrifice a tax break today, so that they can avoid paying taxes when the money is withdrawn from their savings in retirement.
There are also estate planning benefits, because there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) on Roth IRAs. Roth 401(k) accounts rolled over to Roth IRAs would also receive such benefits.
Many financial advisors fear that Rothification would lead to reduced retirement savings at a time when Americans can ill-afford to do so.
The loss of the income tax deduction would cause worker’s take-home pay to be reduced.
This could, in effect, limit the cash-flow available for 401(k) contributions and other retirement savings.
Roth accounts certainly offer solid options for retirement saving. While the benefit of tax savings down the road in retirement can seem distant, the reality is that many retirees may find themselves in a higher income tax bracket in the future.
Many also see Roth accounts as a way for retirement savers to diversify their retirement accounts’ tax profiles, in efforts to be prepared no matter what tax rules are passed in the future.
In the Meantime
Financial advisors should consider how Roth accounts can make sense for 401(k) plan sponsors and their employees.
We haven’t seen the last of the Rothification movement, so it’s best to first be educated, and then be prepared for what’s next.
Vestwell does not offer tax advice, please consult your tax professional, as necessary, related to any tax-related topics.