Monday, December 14, 2009

Why It May Pay To Convert to a Roth IRA

From the Wall Street Journal:

Investors and financial advisers are preparing to take advantage of a new tax law that makes it easier to gain access to Roth IRAs—even if it means breaking a sacrosanct rule about Roth conversions.

Starting, Jan. 1, the $100,000 income limit disappears for converting traditional individual retirement accounts and employer-sponsored retirement plans to Roth IRAs, one of the biggest changes on the IRA landscape in years. Roths, of course, have long been viewed as one of the best deals in retirement planning; after investors meet holding requirements, virtually all withdrawals are tax-free.

Just how many investors will make the leap is unclear. Converting to a Roth can be expensive; it requires paying income tax on all pretax contributions and earnings included in the amount converted. What's more, financial advisers have long argued that converting makes sense only if an investor can pay the tax from funds outside the IRA itself - an admonition that seemingly limits the strategy to the very wealthy.

That said, some financial advisers say growing numbers of their clients are leaning toward a Roth conversion, even if they have to tap their traditional IRAs to pay the taxes. The primary reasons: new, contrarian analyses of taxes and conversions—and a desire to gain more control over nest eggs in the years ahead. With a traditional IRA, investors must begin tapping their accounts after reaching age 701/2, which increases taxable income. With a Roth, there are no required distributions, giving retirees more flexibility in managing their investments and cash flow.

Blog Archive