Rolling a 529 Into a Roth IRA

Can you roll a 529 into something else

529 plans provide an effective means of saving for higher education expenses without incurring tax liabilities, including tuition, books and room and board costs. Income earned within these accounts may even be tax-exempt depending on its intended use such as tuition or books and room and board expenses.

Beneficiary changes are permitted; however, withdrawing money for noneducational uses will incur income taxes and a 10% penalty. So what are your options?

Can You Roll It Into a Roth IRA?

The SECURE 2.0 Act passed in December 2022 is full of retirement-related changes, but one that garners particular interest is its provision that allows beneficiaries to transfer up to $35,000 from a 529 account into their Roth IRA. According to USA Today, this amount equates to almost an entire year’s worth of Roth IRA contribution limit and can grow with time thanks to compound interest.

This new rule, set to go into effect in 2024, should make saving through 529 plans even more attractive for families and provide an important safety net for any child who changes their mind about attending college or has savings that exceed budget.

Saving for college tuition should be one of your main financial priorities, but a 529 should only be one part of that process. Before investing in one, focus on paying down consumer debt, building an emergency fund and investing 15% of income into retirement accounts first. Need help reaching your goals? Get connected with a SmartVestor Pro!

Can You Roll It Into a Traditional IRA?

A 529 plan allows parents and grandparents to save for college education with relative ease. Families can select from various investment portfolios, including static funds or ones which shift towards more conservative investments as the child nears college age.

Earnings within a 529 plan accrue tax-deferred, while withdrawals can be used tax-free to pay for qualified education expenses such as tuition fees, books, school supplies and housing and board.

In 2024, a new law allowed families to convert any unused 529 funds to Roth individual retirement accounts (IRA). This move eliminated one major downside of 529 plans that previously required beneficiaries to pay taxes and an additional 10% penalty upon withdrawals for noneducational uses; many financial planners believe this change has made plans even more attractive for families; however, there may still be exceptions and caveats associated with it.

Can You Roll It Into a 401(k)?

Most states offer 529 savings plans for higher education. These accounts enable you to invest your money for eligible education expenses such as tuition fees, books and room and board. Any investment earnings are tax-free when used for qualified educational expenses; otherwise withdrawal of funds could incur federal income taxes and possibly an additional 10% penalty; though there may be exceptions.

Frerichs suggests one strategy to offset tax hits is moving any unused funds to a Roth IRA, where investments will continue growing tax-free while withdrawals can be made later without incurring penalties.

Starting in 2024, savers will have access to this option thanks to a rule included in the $1.7 trillion spending package passed last year. However, there may be restrictions such as lifetime transfer caps of $35,000 and an account must have been open for 15 years prior to use.

Can You Roll It Into a 403(b)?

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged investment vehicle created to assist families save for college. Sponsored by states and managed by investment firms or banks, this plan allows parents, grandparents and other family members to invest on behalf of children or grandchildren.

Withdrawals from a 529 plan are tax-free as long as they’re used to cover qualified education expenses such as tuition fees, books and room and board costs. But if the funds are taken out for noneducational uses then income taxes and an additional 10% penalty will apply.

Saving for college costs for your children should be a financial goal, but that should not be your sole focus. Instead, pay off consumer debt and build an emergency fund equal to three to six months of expenses as quickly as possible. Once this goal has been accomplished, invest 15% of your income into retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or Roth IRAs.


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