The Reference Section

A collection of wealth improvement articles


Should you convert to a Roth IRA?
Roth Conversions

The Roth IRA has been widely discussed and analyzed. One of the most challenging questions this retirement vehicle brings up is whether or not you should convert your existing IRA to a Roth IRA.

How the Roth IRA works:

You're allowed to contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth IRA in 2018 ($6,000 in 2019) plus an additional $1,000 if you are 50 or older, the same as any other IRA, but your contributions aren't tax-deductible. However, there's an important, offsetting benefit: Principal and earnings in a Roth IRA may never again be subject to federal income tax, and a Roth IRA isn't subject to mandatory distribution requirements.

Example: Barbara contributes $5,500 to a Roth IRA. Although Barbara receives no tax deduction, this IRA can grow to any amount and it could never again be subject to tax. And for the rest of Barbara's life, withdrawals may be as large or small as desired, provided Barbara is at least 59 1/2 years old and she's had the IRA for at least five years.

What about a conversion?

The law also allows you to convert an existing IRA to a Roth IRA. If you convert to a Roth IRA, you'll have to pay regular income tax on your existing IRA. But once you pay the tax, your rollover Roth IRA will offer the benefits of a Roth IRA.

Fortunately, the conversion lends itself to a checklist approach. The checklist below is designed to give you a start in dealing with the conversion question, but it's not intended to be the last word.

Do you currently have an IRA? Yes______ No______
Use this checklist to help you decide if you should convert to a Roth:
Do you expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you retire? Yes______ No______
If you expect to be in the same or lower tax bracket when you retire, it may not make sense to pay the conversion tax today.
Will you be able to pay the resulting income tax with cash from outside your IRA? Yes______ No______
If you must tap into your IRA to pay the tax, conversion to a Roth IRA is unlikely to pencil out. But remember: you can reduce the potential tax bill by making a partial conversion.
Will you be able to leave the money in the rollover Roth IRA for at least five years? Yes______ No______
You could incur tax and a penalty if you tap your Roth IRA in less than five years.

If you checked "Yes" to all questions, you might be a good candidate for a rollover Roth IRA. However, even if the checklist indicates that you should convert to a Roth IRA, your personal situation may still point in the opposite direction.

Before you make a final decision - yes or no - be sure to contact an expert for investment and tax advise. Should you wish additional information please call.