Retirement Planning
March 15, 2023

Can You Have a Roth IRA and a 401k? A Guide

Stewart Willis

Saving up for retirement is important if you want to have financial freedom in your later years. That’s why it’s good to find an investment plan that works for you. However, you may be wondering if can you have a Roth IRA and a 401k. The simple answer is yes.

While you can have a Roth IRA and a 401k, you need to understand the differences between the two. You will need to consider the contribution limits and other factors before you decide if you need both.

Both retirement accounts have their pros and cons when it comes to making the most of your retirement savings. When contemplating if you should contribute to a 401k and a Roth IRA, you need to understand what they are.

What Is a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that is set up by you at an investment firm. You have full control over how you want to invest your money. Your choices aren’t as limited as they may be with a 401k. This type of investment account has nothing to do with your employer, so you don’t have to worry about limitations on that end. 

Roth IRAs accept funds after tax for your contributions. This means that withdrawals can be made tax-free in your retirement. However, you must follow all of the applicable rules for avoiding penalties.

What Is a 401k?

A 401k is a retirement plan sponsored by employers. Contributions to your 401k retirement savings are made by designating a part of your paycheck toward your retirement plan. This means that your contributions are made pre-tax. There are many investment options for a 401k, but they may be more limited because of your plan administrator.

You might find a 401k retirement savings plan is most advantageous to you if your employer matches your contribution. This means that your employer contributes additional money to your account. Usually, this is a percentage of your contribution, but no more than a predetermined percentage of your salary.

Notebook with sticky notes about Roth IRAs and 401ks.

What are the Differences between a Roth IRA and a 401k?

For retirement, you should take advantage of a 401k and a Roth IRA. In a perfect world, you should be able to contribute to a Roth IRA and 401k plan so you can have a secure retirement plan with financial freedom.

Contribution Limits

A 401k retirement plan has much larger contribution limits than a Roth IRA. These annual contribution limits change every year and vary based on marital status, earned income, and other factors. For a Roth IRA, your ability to contribute is determined based on your income.


Eligibility differs for these two types of retirement plans. Anyone who has earned income can contribute to a Roth IRA. Unearned income from rental properties, securities or Social Security retirement benefits don’t count. On the other hand, a 401k is limited to employees, because it is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.

If you can’t directly have a Roth IRA because of income limits, you can contribute to an IRA and 401k. Then, conduct a backdoor Roth conversion to enjoy the tax-free growth.

Tax Treatment

The tax benefits of a Roth and a 401k are differnt. Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars. However, this also means that you don’t pay taxes when you make withdrawals, so you have tax-free growth.

That’s unlike a 401k plan, which is funded pre-tax. Since a 401k reduces your taxable income, it can actually save you money.

Investment Options

A Roth IRA and a 401k offer different levels of control over your investment options. Investment options vary based on what your plan administrator for your 401k selects. Generally, they tend to be more limited than a Roth IRA. Since a Roth IRA is an individual plan, it allows you to have complete control of your investment choices and options.

Withdrawal Limitations

A 401k plan offers tax-deductible contributions, but you will have to pay taxes on withdrawals. This is not the case for a Roth IRA, as you can avoid taxes and penalties through certain conditions. Examples include: 

  • Having an account over 5 years old
  • Making a withdrawal after you are 59 ½ years old, as the IRS explains
  • Using a withdrawal to buy or build your first home (as long as it is $10,000 or less)

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

Roth IRAs have no RMDs. If you don’t need your money during retirement, then you can leave it for your beneficiaries. This can be a good option for those that want to plan ahead and leave something behind for family members.

A 401k does have RMDs. If you don’t take them, you may face penalties.

Can You Have Both a Roth 401k and a Roth IRA?

Yes, you can have both a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA at the same time. Contributing to one does not prevent you from contributing to the other. Regarding retirement savings, having both a Roth 401k and a Roth IRA can be a smart move.

When you contribute to a 401k and IRA, you make tax-deferred contributions. Roth accounts allow you to contribute after-tax dollars and enjoy tax-free growth. However, it's important to note that each account has its own set of rules and contribution limits.

Should I Do a Roth 401k If I Already Have a Roth IRA?

A Roth 401k is another type of employee-sponsored plan that combines the benefits of a traditional 401k account with a Roth IRA. Deciding whether to contribute to a Roth IRA and a Roth 401k requires careful consideration. You should consider your financial situation, retirement goals, current tax bracket, expected tax bracket in retirement, and the benefits each account offers to make an informed decision.

If you're a high earner and looking to stash away money for retirement each year, a Roth 401k could be your best bet. Why? Simply because it doesn't impose any income limits. Plus, if you're keen on making hefty contributions, the Roth 401k allows you to contribute more compared to a Roth IRA.

If you're someone who craves more control over your money, with a wider range of investment choices, a Roth IRA could be right up your alley. This is particularly true if you're thinking about leaving the account to an heir in the future.

Can I Max out 401k and Roth IRA in Same Year?

Yes, you can contribute to a 401k and IRA up to their limits because they are considered separate retirement accounts. It is generally a great idea to max out employer-sponsored retirement accounts to take full advantage of employer contributions. Having a Roth IRA on top of that gives you another financial safety net with tax-free withdrawals.

You should also be mindful of how much you contribute to your Roth IRA. Roth IRA overcontributions are real and they have a penalty. If you make an overcontribution, you can avoid the penalty. You must withdraw the amount before you file your taxes for the year you made the contribution.

You will also need to withdraw any growth that was made with the overcontribution. You need to remember that your investment gain should be added to your annual gross income and taxed. Also, if you're younger than 59½ years old, you will pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on that sum.

Can I Max out 401k and IRA in Same Year?

Yes, it’s possible to max out contributions to your 401k and IRA in the same year. However, keep in mind that you might not be able to claim a tax deduction on all contributions. Additionally, individuals who are at least 50 years old are permitted by the IRS to make additional "catch-up" contributions into each account. If your company also makes matching contributions to your 401k, you’ll have more retiretirement savings.

Start Preparing for Retirement

You can have both a Roth IRA and a 401k account can be beneficial to your retirement savings plan. However, you need expert advice to decide on whether or not you can or should contribute to both. Each investment option has its tax benefits. Are you still wondering if you can contribute to a Roth IRA and a 401k? 

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Stewart Willis is the founder and president of Asset Preservation Wealth & Tax, a financial planning firm in Phoenix, Arizona. Investment advisory services offered through Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser.

The commentary on this blog reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the author, Stewart Willis, providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC (“Foundations”), an SEC registered investment adviser or performance returns of any Foundations client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment, legal or tax advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Personal investment advice can only be rendered after the engagement of Foundations for services, execution of required documentation, including receipt of required disclosures. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Foundations manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Any statistical data or information obtained from or prepared by third party sources that Foundations deems reliable but in no way does Foundations guarantee the accuracy or completeness. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Any past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Foundations and its advisors are properly licensed or exempted. For more information, please go to and search by our firm name or by our CRD # 175083.

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