Can you roll over a 403(b) into a Roth IRA?August 21, 2012: 6:30 AM ET
My daughter has about $25,000 in her 403(b) account. She quit her job and has no income. Can she convert her 403(b) money into a Roth IRA this year? — Name withheld
Anyone can roll a 403(b) into a traditional IRA or convert it to a Roth IRA when they leave an employer, regardless of age. A Roth conversion may be a great choice, says James Shagawat of Baron Financial Group, an advisory firm in Fair Lawn, N.J. Without a job, her income tax bracket may be lower than if she had kept working, which means she may pay less in taxes if she converts her 403(b) to a Roth IRA. And by paying taxes on a conversion now, she won't owe taxes when she starts making withdrawals.
That said, whether it's a good idea for your daughter to roll those assets into a Roth IRA will depend on whether she has the extra cash to cover the income taxes triggered by the conversion. Shagawat warns that paying the tax with 403(b) funds will reduce the account's value, and could end up triggering an additional 10% penalty for making a withdrawal before age 59 1/2. "If she can't pay the taxes, she shouldn't do it," says Shagawat.
Another option: She can roll over her 403(b) into a traditional IRA. She won't owe any tax on the rollover, but she'll eventually see a tax bill when she begins making withdrawals.
— Austin Kilham
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