New Options for Leftover 529 Plan Funds – Convert to Roth IRA

The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 introduces a noteworthy change: a special rule allowing transfers from 529 plans to Roth IRAs. Effective in 2024, this rule enables unused college savings to shift to tax and penalty-free retirement accounts.

Why This Matters

Before this change, if a 529 plan wasn’t fully used for education, options were limited:

  • Changing the beneficiary within the family – maybe a younger sibling
  • Using up to $10,000 to pay off qualified loans
  • Pay taxes and a 10% penalty on earning of non-qualified withdrawals

Overfunding a 529 plan was not a great option. Many only funded a 529 plan for the amount they felt would be used and invested additional funds elsewhere, possibly losing any available state tax deduction. In Alabama, that’s an annual deduction of $10,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return.  

The new 529-to-Roth transfer alleviates fears of unintended taxation, encouraging families to invest early for tax-free growth on college savings. However, there are a few restrictions:


  1. The lifetime maximum transfer is $35,000.
  2. The 529 account must be at least 15 years old.
  3. No contributions or earnings from the last five years can be transferred.
  4. Transfers are subject to annual Roth IRA contribution limits.

A Practical Example

Jack’s 529 plan was established by his parents in 2001. They stopped funding the account in 2017 – nothing in the last five years. Jack still had $29,000 in the 529 account upon graduating in 2023. In 2024, Jack is working and has sufficient income to make the maximum Roth IRA contribution of $6,500. He can continue these transfers up to $35,000 or until the 529 account is exhausted.

Strategic Uses

Apart from retirement, Roth IRAs can be used for other strategic purposes like buying a first home.

Contact your Dent Moses advisor for additional information.