Can I Move My Required Distributions to a Roth IRA?

By Joe Cicchinelli and Beverly DeVeny
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This week’s Slott Report Mailbag examines if you can move an employer 401(k) plan to a Roth 401(k) and answers whether or not you can move your required minimum distributions (RMDs) to a Roth IRA. As always, we recommend you work with a competent, educated financial advisor to keep your retirement nest egg safe and secure. You can find one in your area here.


I currently have a traditional 401(k) with my current employer to which I make my monthly contributions.  Can I convert that to a Roth 401(k) by paying the taxes now and having it grow tax-free?


If your plan has a Roth 401(k) component and allows in-plan Roth conversions, you could do so. Check with your plan administrator to see if it’s possible in your plan. Keep in mind that a conversion to a Roth 401(k) CANNOT be recharacterized for any reason.



I have a question concerning how to pass assets from my children to their children in case one of my children should die first.

Companies that don’t allow per stirpes manage all of my 401(k) accounts and IRA accounts. They only allow primary and contingent beneficiaries. I know you do not like to have a trust account as beneficiary. I have both a living trust and will, which do not affect the beneficiary designation in a 401(k) or IRA.

How do I resolve this dilemma?

Thank you,

Run-Han Wang

If the plan administrator of the 401(k) and the IRA custodians do not accept “per stirpes” beneficiary designations, then you might need to consider naming a trust as beneficiary. Or, perhaps, you could find an IRA custodian who does allow per stirpes and then simply transfer your IRA funds to that new custodian. If you are eligible to take a distribution from your 401(k), then you could roll over those funds to that new IRA custodian as well. You might also be able to specify on the beneficiary form in the contingent beneficiary section that if child A dies then his share should go to his children. You would have to check with the custodian to see if they will accept this type of language. We do not recommend naming your estate as the beneficiary of retirement plans. Good luck.


This is my first year with required distributions, and my broker and CPA informed me that the funds must be moved to a regular brokerage account. I had planned on moving them to my Roth account (I have a traditional IRA, Roth IRA and standard brokerage account). What is the rationale for requiring the funds be moved to a brokerage account (not a Roth), and can this be changed? I am willing to pay the taxes involved, but want the freedom to move funds around without having to consider the impact of taxation. 

Also, I am running my own consulting firm with income over $4,000.  According to your Q&A in the Wall Street Journal, I would be allowed to put such funds into my Roth account – just want to confirm.

Thank you,

Martin Gorski
Darien, IL

The tax code says that IRA required minimum distributions are not eligible to be converted to a Roth IRA. So, even though RMDs are taxable, they cannot be deposited into your Roth IRA. Amounts above your RMD are eligible to be converted to your Roth IRA. If you are still working past age 70 ½, you can potentially make a Roth IRA contribution as long as your adjusted gross income does not exceed certain IRS annual limits. See IRS Publication 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements for those income limits.

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