Author Topic: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition  (Read 586 times)

afuera

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Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition
« on: January 07, 2021, 09:35:18 AM »
My husband will be quitting his job this year to be a house spouse.  In the past, we always made too much to contribute to a traditional IRA so always contributed to Roth.  This year, since we will be going down to one income, I'm hoping to be able to contribute to a traditional IRA in order to get a bigger tax break.  Specific details on our situation are below:
My salary: 119K, max out Pre-tax 401K and HSA
Husbands' Salary: 101K, max out Pre-tax 401K and HSA (equal % each month)
Estimated date my husband will exit the workforce: March 1st (Baby due 2/21/21)
My maternity leave ends: 5/16/21 (depending on actual day baby comes). 100% paid via short term disability, paid parental leave and vacation.

My husband has been working from home since March so he is still looking at possible part time/work from home options while I'm on maternity leave so possibly from March until May he may still be employed.

Here are the traditional IRA phase-out ranges for 2021:
$66,000 to $76,000 Single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan.
$105,000 to $125,000 Married couples filing jointly. This applies when the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan.
$198,000 to $208,000 A taxpayer not covered by a workplace retirement plan married to someone who's covered.
$0 to $10,000 Married filing a separate return. This applies to taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan.


From the IRS information above I have a couple questions:
1) I guess my main question is, if my husband is not covered under a workplace retirement plan for part of 2021, does the 198,000-208,000 income limit range apply? Does that limit only apply to someone who has zero contributions to a 401K for that year?
2) He will still be contributing to his 401K for the months he is working.   Would it be better to try and max his 401K in the first couple months (put the contribution % as high as Highly Compensated Employees restriction will allow) and then contribute to Roth IRA? 
3) I believe with him working a partial year, we may still be over the traditional IRA contribution limit depending on when he terminates employment. Would it be better to contribute to a traditional IRA now and then recharacterize it as Roth IRA later if we end up exceeding the income limits? or is it better to contribute to a Roth IRA now and recharacterize it as traditional if we end up staying under the limits?

I appreciate any help you guys can offer!  I'm sitting on a pile of cash ready to max IRAs for 2021 and its driving me crazy not being able to invest it yet.

terran

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Re: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2021, 09:59:03 AM »
1) If he's covered at all in 2021 then he's covered. Covered means either he or his employer actually contribute. The $105,000 to $125,000 limit will apply.

2) Yes, I would recommend that he maximize his contribution before he leaves even if that means he's not eligible for traditional IRA contributions as he'll be able to contribute more to the 401(k).

3) This year it doesn't really matter -- just pick whichever you think if more likely based on your expected income. Or you could wait until you know for sure and not have to deal with attaching a recharacterization statement to your taxes.

In future years when he will be eligible for traditional IRA contributions then I would contribute to traditional. This way, if you decide he should have contributed to Roth after all you can decide between converting to Roth and recharacterizing to Roth. If the original contribution has grown then you can recharacterize the contribution plus gains into Roth for the cost of taxes on the contribution (which results in more in Roth for same tax cost) or if the original contribution has shrunk then you can convert the amount you want to pay taxes on instead of recharacterizing contribution  (which would result in less in Roth since you'd be moving contributions minus losses). This is what I did, but I've gotten sick of filing recharacterization statements, so going forward I'm going to wait until the end of the year to contribute despite this being slightly suboptimal.
 

MDM

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Re: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2021, 06:16:44 PM »
Would it be better to contribute to a traditional IRA now and then recharacterize it as Roth IRA later if we end up exceeding the income limits? or is it better to contribute to a Roth IRA now and recharacterize it as traditional if we end up staying under the limits?
Before addressing those questions, to what type of account do you prefer to contribute?

E.g., you might prefer traditional if you will be saving 22% but prefer Roth if you will be saving 12%.

Retireatee1

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Re: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2021, 01:36:11 PM »
It might be worth looking into a Spousal Roth IRA if you haven't already

https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-a-spousal-roth-ira-4770888

DaMa

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Re: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA-House Spouse Transition
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2021, 01:28:44 PM »
I became the house spouse in May 2018.  Definitely max out the 401k if he can.  I couldn't pull it off in the time I had left, but I did contribute as much as my company allowed.

We went with Roth, because we were in the 12% tax bracket.  I also did the Spousal Roth in 2019.