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Roth VS Traditional 401k Calculator

A 401(k) contribution can be an effective retirement tool. As of January 2006, there is a new type of 401(k) - the Roth 401(k). The Roth 401(k) allows you to contribute to your 401(k) account on an after-tax basis - and pay no taxes on qualifying distributions when the money is withdrawn. For some investors, this could prove to be a better option than contributing on a pre-tax basis, where deposits are subject to taxes when the money is withdrawn. Use this calculator to help determine the best option for your retirement.

By changing any value in the following form fields, calculated values are immediately provided for displayed output values. Click the view report button to see all of your results.
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Total contributions:
Invest annual tax-savings generated by traditional account
Increase future amounts to the maximum allowed
After-Tax Total At Retirement Column Graph: Please use the calculator's report to see detailed calculation results in tabular form.
After-Tax Comparison Line Graph: Please use the calculator's report to see detailed calculation results in tabular form.



Current age

Your current age.


Age at retirement

Age you wish to retire. This calculator assumes that the year you retire, you do not make any contributions to your 401(k). For example, if you retire at age 65, your last contribution occurs when you are actually 64.


Annual contribution

The amount you will contribute to a 401(k) each year. This calculator assumes that you make 12 equal contributions throughout the year at the beginning of each month. The annual maximum for 2021 is $19,500.  If you are age 50 or over, a 'catch-up' provision allows you to contribute an additional $6,500 into your account. It is also important to note that employer contributions do not affect an employee's maximum annual contribution limit. Both the annual maximum and "catch-up" provisions are indexed for inflation. 

Some employees are subject to another form of contribution limits. Employees classified as "Highly Compensated" may be subject to contribution limits based on their employer's overall 401(k) participation. If you expect your salary to be $130,000 or more in 2021 or was $130,000 or more in 2020, you may need to contact your employer to see if these additional contribution limits apply to you.


Invest traditional tax-savings

Check this box to invest any tax savings generated by contributions to a traditional 401(k). By investing your tax savings each year, you equalize the total cash flow between the two account types. For example, if you have a 25% income tax rate and contribute $1,000 to your retirement account, the actual cost after taxes would be $750 for the traditional contribution and $1,000 for the Roth contribution. If you do not wish to invest the difference, you are actually "spending" more per year with the Roth option and the end result will greatly favor a Roth-type savings plan. You may wish to leave this box unchecked if you have no ability or desire to create an additional investment account outside of your 401(k).


Maximize contributions

Check this box to increase all contributions to the maximum allowed each year. This will include future years that qualify for catch-up contributions. The annual maximum for 2021 is $19,500.  If you are age 50 or over, a 'catch-up' provision allows you to contribute an additional $6,500 into your account.


Expected rate of return

The annual rate of return for your 401(k) account. This calculator assumes that your return is compounded annually and your deposits are made monthly. The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the types of investments you select.  The Standard & Poor's 500® (S&P 500®) for the 10 years ending December 31st 2020, had an annual compounded rate of return of 13.8%, including reinvestment of dividends. From January 1, 1971 to December 31st 2020, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500®, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 10.8% (source: www.spglobal.com). Since 1970, the highest 12-month return was 61% (June 1982 through June 1983). The lowest 12-month return was -43% (March 2008 to March 2009). Savings accounts at a financial institution may pay as little as 0.25% or less but carry significantly lower risk of loss of principal balances.

It is important to remember that these scenarios are hypothetical and that future rates of return can't be predicted with certainty and that investments that pay higher rates of return are generally subject to higher risk and volatility. The actual rate of return on investments can vary widely over time, especially for long-term investments. This includes the potential loss of principal on your investment. It is not possible to invest directly in an index and the compounded rate of return noted above does not reflect sales charges and other fees that investment funds and/or investment companies may charge.


Current tax rate

The current marginal income tax rate you expect to pay on your taxable investments. Use the table below to assist you in determining your current tax rate. Use the ‘Filing Status and Federal Income Tax Rates’ table to assist you in estimating your federal tax rate.

Filing Status and Federal Income Tax Rates 2021*
Tax RateMarried Filing Jointly or Qualified Widow(er)SingleHead of HouseholdMarried Filing Separately
*Caution: Do not use these tax rate schedules to figure 2020 taxes. Use only to figure 2021 estimates. Source: Rev. Proc. 2020-45
10%$0 - $19,900$0 - $9,950$0 - $14,200$0 - $9,950
12%$19,900 - $81,050$9,950 - $40,525$14,200 - $54,200$9,950 - $40,525
22%$81,050 - $172,750$40,525 - $86,375$54,200 - $86,350$40,525 - $86,375
24%$172,750 - $329,850$86,375 - $164,925$86,350 - $164,900$86,375 - $164,925
32%$329,850 - $418,850$164,925 - $209,425$164,900 - $209,400$164,925 - $209,425
35%$418,850 - $628,300$209,425 - $523,600$209,400 - $523,600$209,425 - $314,150
37%Over  $628,300Over  $523,600Over  $523,600Over  $314,150


Retirement tax rate

The marginal tax rate you expect to pay on your investments at retirement.


After tax total at retirement

For the Roth 401(k), this is the total value of the account. For the traditional 401(k), this is the sum of two parts: 1) The value of the account after you pay income taxes on all earnings and tax-deductible contributions and 2) what you would have earned if you had invested (in an ordinary taxable account) any income tax savings.