401k tax strategy.

I played with wwilson's calculator, even changing my current age to 20 years younger. The only way I could make the Roth 401K a better choice was if I changed my retirement tax bracket higher than my current tax bracket. Otherwise, it was a wash.

Am I missing something?

Also, I'll ask again. If my spouse dies during retirement and I then file as single, it seems that I will automatically go to the next higher tax bracket. Is this what happens? In this case, the Roth seems to be a no brainer.
Yes, it's called the Widow Tax
Last edited:
Yes, it's called the Widow Tax
Oh, wow! Thank you. Nobody ever mentioned this to me! I just studied it a bit. Certainly something that we should plan for. In my case, death of a spouse would result in lower social security income, a change from 12% tax bracket to 22% (yikes), and maybe a few other negative outcomes. So much to learn!

Seems that maybe Roths and life insurance policies help negate the widow tax. I will have to study other options.
Last edited:
Things about Roth IRA I don't like, is that you cannot be for sure if the tax policy won't change. Look what happen to SALT tax and mortgage deduction, we never thought it would change but it did, so I wouldn't count on it never be taxed, maybe a bit less than traditional IRA or 401k but it is not a guarantee, nothing is a guarantee. The other thing about it that I don't like is you are locking yourself up in the capital and you may not have access to it before retirement. If I need it for an investment or some other plan I cannot just take it out like that. Maybe I can if I am in distress but not as flexible.

Traditional 401k and IRA at least it is pre-tax money and compound growth pre-tax. It is "borrow your tax money" to invest against inflation like mortgage, despite you having to pay ordinary income tax on it when you withdraw (it was ordinary pre-tax income you contribute to begin with). So it is "more predictable"
I am not a big ROTH conversion fan, or let's say not convinced with my scenario, but your ROTH contributions are NOT locked up, only the gains/earnings are locked in for a period. So its liquidity has a charm to it, especially if you are young ( or middle aged) and are planning for that first home ownership. ( Gulp! )

I re- stress the good point PB made on compound growth in a 401k of the pre-tax money = equal more money in there to grow out of the gate.
Last edited:
I didn't see it mentioned but there are more and more frequently a ROTH 401k option. Same as a Roth IRA with higher contribution limits. If you wifes plan has that, it would be good to look at.

the good news is you have many options. When I'm really confused on which way to go. just split it down the middle and do both!