Mega Backdoor Roth Explained!

Mega Backdoor Roth Explained!

By: Geoff Curran & Jeff Barnett

Everyone thinks about saving for retirement, and not many people want to work forever. However, have you thought about the best way to save for the future? If you are setting aside the yearly max in your 401(k) and channeling extra savings to your brokerage, you might be missing out on powerful tax-advantaged saving opportunities. In this article, we will show you how we help clients maximize savings, minimize taxes and secure their future using the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.


Most people know they can contribute to their employer’s retirement plan from their paychecks through pre-tax and Roth contributions up to $19,000 a year ($25,000 if age 50 or older; IRS, 2018). What people miss is whether their retirement plan allows for additional after-tax contributions beyond this limit. Enter the supercharged savings!

It turns out that some company plans permit you to contribute up to the IRS maximum for total contributions to a retirement plan, which is $56,000 in 2019 ($62,000 with catch-up contributions; IRS, 2018). The IRS maximum counts contributions from all sources, including pre-tax employee deferrals, employer matching contributions, and even after-tax contributions for the Mega Backdoor Roth. That means you might be able to contribute an additional $20,000 or more after-tax each year after maxing your elective deferral and receiving your match. You can then convert the extra after-tax savings to Roth dollars tax-free. This more than doubles what most individuals can contribute to their retirement plan, and you won’t have to pay taxes on your Roth account distributions in retirement. This benefit is even greater when both spouses have this option available through their employers, so be sure to check both plans.

Retirement plans like those at Boeing, Facebook, and Microsoft permit easy conversions of after-tax to Roth dollars within the retirement plan. Other companies offer a variation where you can make in-service distributions and move after-tax dollars into a Roth IRA. Make sure to check with your benefits team to find out if your company’s retirement plan supports after-tax contributions and Roth conversions, the steps involved and the maximum amount you can contribute to the after-tax portion of your retirement plan. It’s important not to run afoul of plan rules or IRS requirements, so also be sure to consult experts like your accountant or financial advisor if you have any questions.  

Why contribute extra after-tax?
Now that we have covered the high-level view, let’s hammer down the why. The benefit of contributing to your employer’s after-tax retirement plan is that those contributions can subsequently be converted to Roth tax-free. This is sometimes called a ‘Mega Backdoor Roth,’ whereby you can contribute and convert thousands of dollars per year depending on your retirement plan. Once converted, these Roth assets can grow tax-free and be distributed in retirement tax-free. After several years of Mega Backdoor Roth contributions, you can amass a meaningful amount of wealth in a tax-free retirement account

How do I contribute?
1. Log in to your employer’s retirement plan through their provider website, such as Fidelity.

2. Find the area where you change your paycheck and bonus contributions (i.e., deferrals).

3. Find “after-tax” on the list showing how much you elected to contribute pre-tax, Roth, or after-tax to your 401(k).

4. Enter a percentage to have withheld after-tax from your upcoming paychecks and bonuses that works for your budget.

5. Select an automated conversion schedule, such as quarterly (Microsoft’s retirement plan even offers daily conversions!). If your plan doesn’t offer automated periodic conversions, contact your retirement plan provider regularly throughout the year to convert the assets.

6. Remember to select an appropriate investment allocation for your retirement account that aligns with your overall investment plan.

Is any part of the conversion taxed?
For retirement plans that don’t convert after-tax contributions to Roth daily, there may be growth in the account prior to conversion. This growth is subject to taxation at ordinary income tax rates. For example, if you converted $22,000 ($20,000 contributions + $2,000 investment growth over the period), you’ll owe income tax on the $2,000.

We suggest speaking with a Merriman advisor to determine if your retirement plan allows additional after-tax contributions, how to fit it within your budget and its impact on your retirement savings goals.


References: Internal Revenue Service. (2018, November 2). Retirement Topics – 401(k) and Profit-Sharing Plan Contribution Limits. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-401k-and-profit-sharing-plan-contribution-limits

Employee Spotlight | Geoff Curran

Employee Spotlight | Geoff Curran

Aimee: How did you come to Merriman?

Geoff: I was working at TD Ameritrade and Merriman was on our advisor referral platform. I was introduced to the firm by Michael Van Sant, and at one point took a tour of the office. On that tour, I started to feel like this was where I was supposed to work. My colleagues from TD Ameritrade even returned from the visit and remarked it was where I belonged, after they visited the office. I started working at Merriman less than six months later!


Aimee: What do you do at Merriman?

Geoff: I am a wealth advisor, have never been anything else here.


Aimee: What do you love about working here?

Geoff: I love the people. Financial advising is a team sport, and it’s not fun to do alone. I have a lot of fun meeting with clients and having the team to recap the meetings with. Debriefing with the team on how we are doing in helping clients is great.


Aimee: What is a fun fact about you?

Geoff: I was born with club feet and couldn’t really walk until kindergarten, but in high school I ran track and played soccer and basketball. Also, I have a favorite dance move called “The Stomp”. I stomp my right foot to the music, people around me need to watch out for their feet and toes!


Aimee: How do you spend your free time?

Geoff: Everyday my wife, Christina, and I walk our dog, Archie, rain or shine. Otherwise, we enjoy being homebodies or adventuring around Gig Harbor, Washington. I read thriller novels and like to finish the whole series. I just finished a 17-book series. I am also on the investment committees for the Tacoma Employees Retirement System Pension and Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. It is really rewarding to provide advice to institutions and be a part of the action.


Aimee: What’s next?

Geoff: We are expecting our first child in late April (any day now!).  I hope to one day take the LSAT and enroll in a hybrid/virtual law program so that I can provide our clients with legal advice too!



Should I Rent Out My Home on Airbnb?

Should I Rent Out My Home on Airbnb?

Written by: Geoff Curran, CPA/ABV, CFA, CFP® and Alex Golubev, CFA

The last few years have seen tremendous growth in the short-term rental housing economy. Services like Airbnb and VRBO connect homeowners and travelers around the world. While vacation rentals aren’t anything new, home-sharing platforms make it more convenient than ever for homeowners to earn extra money on their personal residence or vacation home. Airbnb fosters accountability and transparency by inviting hosts and guests to review and rate each other on criteria like cleanliness, following house rules, and ease of communication. A whole ecosystem of services has also sprung up to streamline and improve host operations (Smartbnb, AirDNA, NoiseAware, Vacasa, Evolve and many more). However, vacation rental remains a highly competitive and regulated industry.

(more…)
Talking to your Parents about Health and Finances

Talking to your Parents about Health and Finances

With the arrival of our first child fast approaching, my wife and I in all of our excitement have been working through a to-do list to prepare for this lifechanging event. While we know we have many surprises ahead, taking the time to learn, ask questions and plan for what’s coming can only help us.

My focus has been planning for the next generation of our family, but this experience caused us to start asking our parents questions we hadn’t before. (more…)

How to Determine When You Need Trip Insurance

How to Determine When You Need Trip Insurance

A lot goes into planning a great trip – choosing flights and hotels, making sure you have all the necessities, finding a house sitter, etc. Personally, I’m never able to relax and enjoy the trip until I’m on the flight to my destination. I’m always worried something might go wrong, and some unforeseen circumstance may force me to cancel all or part of the trip.

By the time you get to the airport, you’ve usually spent a good chunk of money that’s not refundable. If you have to cancel last minute, you miss out on the trip you’ve been looking forward to for months, and you lose the money you spent so far. (more…)

Merriman’s Guide to Social Security and Medicare

Merriman’s Guide to Social Security and Medicare

An important part of helping clients achieve their financial goals is helping them navigate questions and decisions around Social Security and Medicare. Whether it’s deciding when to start Social Security or applying for supplemental Medicare coverage, these decisions have a big impact on your financial situation and wellbeing.

This book is broken up into two parts, as Social Security and Medicare are complex topics. The first covers Social Security and strategies. The second part covers the ins and outs of Medicare and all its various plans.

We hope you discover strategies and new things that will help you make the best decisions for your situation. As always, we’re here to help and answer any questions you may have.