Roth IRA Recharacterizations and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Are Roth IRA Conversions legal? How can you change your mind after making a Roth IRA conversion?

Roth IRA Recharacterizations and The Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

This is one in a series of posts about Roth IRA conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you have not visited my blog before, it might be helpful to back up and read a few of the preceding posts.

Roth IRA Conversions – a Legal Way to Beat the Death of the Stretch IRA?

As you might know, I do a lot of presentations for legal and financial professionals, as well as plain old normal people, about Roth IRA conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA.  One question that comes up a lot in my presentations involves the legality of Roth IRA conversions.  People look at the numbers I show them and say, “It doesn’t seem right that you can do this because your family is so much better off.  It seems too good to be true.  Is it legal to do this?”

In order to answer that question, I’d like to refer you to this quote from Judge Learned Hand said “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the Treasury.  There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.  Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible.  Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

I definitely do not advocate doing anything illegal – in fact, I applaud you if you were one of the people who asked the question – but, like Judge Learned Hand, I certainly believe that you should take advantage of every tax break that you’re allowed to.  Would you worry about taking a tax deduction for a Traditional IRA contribution that you made, or for a donation to a charity?  Of course not!  Roth IRA conversions are no different.  They’re definitely legal – they’re permitted by the US Tax Code, and the IRS even has a specific form that your CPA has to use when you do one.  The problem is that they’re very complicated, and most people don’t like the idea of having to deal with even the most basic tax maneuvers – much less the complicated ones.   So yes, Roth IRA conversions are definitely legal, and you don’t have to worry about bringing the IRS down on your head if you do one.  But I still want to talk to you about how you can possibly get hurt when you go through the process.

Roth IRA Recharacterizations – Your Safety Net

Suppose you’ve read my books and my blog, and you’re rightly concerned about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  You convert $100,000 of your Traditional IRA, and, because you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you paid $25,000 from your after-tax money.  You now have a Roth IRA worth $100,000 and your savings account is $25,000 lighter.  Then the market crashes, and suddenly your Roth IRA is worth only $60,000.  You paid all those taxes for nothing!  Or did you?

At the risk of making a complicated topic even more complicated, you need to know about Roth IRA recharacterizations.  If you make a Roth IRA conversion, the IRS gives you until October 15th of the year following the year that you made the conversion, to change your mind.  So if you make a Roth IRA conversion in 2017, and the value of your account goes immediately down, you have a fairly long time where you can wait it out and see if the market recovers.  But suppose it doesn’t recover?  Well, as long as you act by October 15th of 2018, you can recharacterize, or “undo”, your conversion.  I like to give my clients as much time as possible to decide whether or not the Roth conversion was a good idea, so I generally suggest that they ask for an extension on their tax return so that they don’t file it before that October 15th date.  In most cases, a drop in the stock market that happens right after a Roth conversion and causes so much chagrin will work itself out within a year, and my client is happy that they made the change after all.  But if there is a long-term drop in the stock market, like there was in 2008, it is good to know that you can change your mind.  There is one thing I do want to point out, though.  If you recharacterize your Roth conversion, you’ll get back the money you paid in taxes.  You won’t get back the money you lost in the market – at least not because of the recharacterization.  You might get your money back eventually, but you’ll have to wait until the market comes back up.

Like Judge Learned Hand said, you are not obligated to pay more tax than the law requires.  Roth IRA conversions can provide you with a hedge against the Death of the Stretch IRA, and save your family an enormous amount of money in taxes over the long term.  And the ability to recharacterize, or “undo” your conversion should give you the peace of mind in knowing that you do not pay a nickel more in tax than you have to.

Stop back soon for more Roth IRA Conversion talk!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass
The Death of the Stretch IRA: Will the Rich Get Richer?
The Best Time for Roth IRA conversions: Before or After the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: How Roth IRA Conversions Can Help Protect You Against the Death of the Stretch IRA

Part II: How Roth IRA Conversions Can Help Protect You Against the Death of the Stretch IRA

Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Part II How Roth IRA Conversions Can Help Protect You Against the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

This post is part of a series about using Roth IRA conversions as a defense against the legislation that I call the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you are new to my blog, you might find it beneficial to back up and read my earlier posts.

The Best Time to Convert a Traditional IRA to Roth

One of the reasons that people can be reluctant to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth is because they have to pay tax on the transaction.  Nobody wants to give the IRS one more cent than they’re entitled to, right?  And it’s true – any amount that you convert from a traditional IRA to a Roth is taxed, just like a normal withdrawal.  But here’s the bigger problem. Not only do Roth conversions increase the amount of tax you owe at the end of the year, it can also increase the rate at which you pay tax.   Managing the tax implications of Roth IRA conversions can be a huge problem for people who are looking to protect themselves against the Death of the Stretch IRA, so I want to tell you about the sweet spot that you should look for if you are considering a conversion.

First, I want to clarify that the examples that follow are based on the 2016 tax tables.  The IRS has not published the 2017 tables as of this writing, so for purposes of illustration, we’re going to use the 2016 tax tables.  But as an example: if you’re married and file a joint tax return with your spouse, you can earn up to $75,300 and stay within a 15% tax bracket.  If you earn $1 more – $75,301 – you’ll shoot up to a 25% tax bracket.  If you’re a high earner, you can earn up to $231,450 and pay 28% in taxes.  If you earn $231,451, you’ll move up a tax bracket, to 33%.

The best way to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth, therefore, is to first project how much income you’ll have during the year.  Let’s say that you’re 64 and still working and, after adding up all of your income sources, you think you’ll end up with $131,450.  And then let’s say that you have $1 million in a Traditional IRA.  Should you convert all of that into a Roth?  For most people, that would be a very bad move.  But what you might be able to do is convert $100,000 because, when that amount is added to your other income, you’d still be in a 25% tax bracket.   We generally recommend that our clients do series of small Roth IRA conversions that consider their other income sources so that they do not increase their tax bracket.  For many people, the sweet spot for their conversion amount will be the difference between their normal income, and the top of their tax bracket.

I gave a workshop recently where someone was really having difficulty understanding why you’d want to pay taxes one moment before you had to.  He asked, “Why does it matter when I pay the taxes if I’m going to be in the same tax bracket now or later?”  And while he was (technically) correct about the amount that he was considering converting, what he’d forgotten about was the future gains.  If he doesn’t convert, the gain earned inside his traditional IRA will be taxed when it is withdrawn.  If that gain is earned inside a Roth IRA because he converted, the withdrawals will be tax-free.  And when the Death of the Stretch IRA finally passes, having that pot of Roth IRA money that you can dip in to without having to worry about the tax consequences can give you enormous flexibility in retirement.

Future Income Sources Affect Roth Conversions

There’s one other point about taxes that I want to make.  They frequently change after retirement!  Let’s consider another example.  Joe’s 65 years old and has just retired from his job.  He also took my advice about Social Security and is waiting until age 70 to apply.  From the IRS’s perspective, Joe doesn’t have a lot of income.  Actually, he’s pretty comfortable because he’s just living on a savings account, but he has no wage income or Social Security income.  These are the years when it might be a really good idea for Joe to consider a series of Roth IRA conversions and the best way for him to save some money in taxes!   Why?  Because when Joe is 70, he’s going to have income from Social Security that is higher because he waited, and he’s also going to have to take required minimum distributions from his retirement accounts.  Taxes, taxes, taxes!  If he is able to convert some of his traditional IRA to a Roth now, while he is in a low tax bracket, the required minimum distributions from his traditional IRA (if he has any left) will be less.  And if he needs more income, he can always tap into his Roth.

Roth IRA conversions can be a great defense against changes in your personal tax situation, and against the Death of the Stretch IRA.

Thanks for reading, and stop back soon!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass
The Death of the Stretch IRA: Will the Rich Get Richer?
The Best Time for Roth IRA conversions: Before or After the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Roth IRA Conversions Can Help Protect You Against the Death of the Stretch IRA

Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange Pgh

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Death of Stretch IRA, and some ideas that you can take advantage of that could provide some defense for your own family.  The next few posts will continue my discussion about Roth IRA conversions, and how they might benefit your heirs after the Stretch IRA is eliminated.

When Will the Stretch IRA Be Eliminated?

Some of my critics have said that I’m making a lot of noise about something that might never happen.  They say that the Stretch IRA won’t be eliminated, and all of this discussion is for naught.  I have two responses to that.  First, I think it’s completely unrealistic to expect that our legislators will maintain the status quo.  We have reached the point where our spending is no longer sustainable.  Our national debt is estimated at about $20 trillion, but an even scarier statistic is how it relates to our gross domestic product (GDP).  That number is about 106 percent – meaning that we owe more than what the entire country produces.   At one point, President Trump suggested that we follow the lead of other countries and simply default on our debt.  I would be surprised if he could get that proposal through Congress, but if he plans to return the country to solvency as he promised, he’ll need a lot of revenue to do it.  With more than $25 trillion being held in tax-deferred retirement accounts, eliminating the Stretch IRA is a quick and relatively painless way to pump a lot of tax money into the government’s coffers.  And that, my friends, is why I believe that the Death of the Stretch IRA will happen soon – possibly before the end of 2017.  More than likely, the Death of the Stretch IRA will be included as part of a major tax reform – which, as you might recall, was part of President Trump’s campaign platform.  Remember, he promised a simplification of the tax code – and there’s nothing simpler than grabbing all your money by eliminating the Stretch IRA!

Roth IRA conversions – A Great Defense Against the Death of the Stretch IRA

Let’s suppose you die before the Stretch IRA is eliminated.   Your family will be in a better financial position because they can withdraw your IRAs using the old rules – and stretch it over their lifetimes.  But even if they are able to use the old rules, you could still be better off by doing a series of Roth IRA conversions.  In my previous posts, I talked about the concept of purchasing power, and how you and your spouse can be better off during your lifetimes if you convert.  We’ve proven this to hundreds of our clients by running the numbers for them, and collectively they’re better off by millions of dollars because they took our advice.

But what if the Death of the Stretch IRA happens during your lifetime?  Do you believe, as I do, that the Stretch IRA will be eliminated so that the Congress can put one finger in to the country’s fiscal dyke that is already bursting at the seams?  Well, when I give talks about possible solutions to the Death of the Stretch IRA, I tell people that Roth IRA conversions are a tool that can be beneficial in either situation.  So it doesn’t matter if you die before or after the Stretch IRA is eliminated – Roth IRA conversions can still be beneficial to your family.

Waiting for the Death of the Stretch IRA

It was less than a year ago that the Senate Finance Committee voted 26-0 to eliminate the Stretch IRA.  Congress never got a chance to vote on their proposal because they were consumed by one of the most bitter and contentious election processes in recent history.  Well, we’ve been watching Congress’s actions all summer long, and have had ongoing discussions with some individuals who are in the know about the status of the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be among the first to know when it finally happens.

Stop back later for the latest updates on the Death of the Stretch IRA!

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass
The Death of the Stretch IRA: Will the Rich Get Richer?
The Best Time for Roth IRA conversions: Before or After the Death of the Stretch IRA?

The Best Time for Roth IRA conversions: Before or After the Death of the Stretch IRA?

For many individuals, a series of well-timed Roth IRA conversions can be the best defense against the Death of the Stretch IRA.

The Best Time for Roth IRA conversions: Before or After the Death of the Stretch IRA?

A lot of clients ask me if I manage my own finances the way I recommend they manage theirs, and the answer is definitely “yes”.   I realized though, that I have not told you my own Roth IRA conversion story, and how my decision will affect my own family after the Death of the Stretch IRA.

Roth IRA Conversions – The Best Time is in Years of Low Income

Think back to 1998.  It was long before we ever had to worry about the Death of the Stretch IRA, and it was the first year you were permitted to make Roth IRA conversions.  Back then, if your Modified Adjusted Gross Income was more than $100,000 you were restricted from making Roth IRA conversions.  Our family’s income was over $100,000, so I thought my income restricted me and never imagined I’d be eligible to do Roth IRA conversions myself.  Then on February 16, 1998, our office was wiped out by a devastating fire that started in a pizza shop located directly below us.  Can you imagine this happening to a CPA firm in the middle of tax season?

I learned some valuable lessons from this experience.  First, never put your office above a pizza shop.  Second, I learned more about the insurance process than I ever cared to know.  We had extremely high expenses because everything needed fixed and, even though I was well insured, I didn’t get the check for the damage until 1999. That meant that 1998 was a very tough year for the business financially.   I couldn’t take a salary, and for the first time our family’s income was far less than $100,000.  Did I get upset?  No.  I said to my wonderful wife, “Cindy, I think we have an opportunity here”.

My wife and I had about $250,000 in Traditional IRAs between us.  I told her that our normal income level would restrict us from making Roth IRA conversions, but our income in 1998 was far below normal – making that year the best time for us to do Roth IRA conversions.  I told her that I thought we should convert the entire amount to Roth IRAs and voluntarily pay the tax due the $250,000 conversion amount.  After she got over her initial shock, she looked at the mathematical calculations I had done and, being an extremely intelligent woman, she immediately understood that our family would be better off by hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.  And so we did it – we converted every last dime of our IRAs to Roths.  And those Roth IRAs are now worth quite a lot more than they were in 1998.

The law has since changed, and there are no longer any income restrictions on Roth IRA conversions.  This means that you can do smaller Roth IRA conversions over a series of years rather than all at once like I did, and by doing so you can convert them at a lower tax rate than I was able to.  The best time for many retired individuals is the period after you’ve stopped working, but before you are required to take minimum distributions from your IRAs and retirement plans.  And with the Death of the Stretch IRA looming, there are probably even more reasons now for you to consider Roth IRA conversions than I had when my office caught fire in 1998.

Transferring my Roth IRA to My Child

Twenty years later, it is likely that Cindy and I will never spend those Roth IRAs.  Some people will argue that, if that’s the case, there was no benefit to us converting our IRAs to Roths.  Why pay tax when you didn’t have to, they ask?  Well, I guess it’s because, in the long run, I was thinking of what would happen when I die and my Roth IRA is transferred to my child.  My daughter Erica was only three years old when we did those Roth IRA conversions.  If I die tomorrow and my Roth IRA is transferred to her, she’ll be hundreds of thousands of dollars better off because I did that conversion.  And if I live for another twenty years, it’s not unreasonable to think that she’ll be more than a million dollars better off when I die.

When my Roth IRA is transferred to her after my death, Erica will still be required to take minimum distributions from the account every year.  If I die before the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is passed, those minimum distributions can be stretched over her lifetime and the bulk of the IRA can continue to grow in a tax-free environment.  If I die after the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is passed, she’ll be required to withdraw the entire IRA within five years.  Although the money will be forced from the tax shelter more quickly, at least the withdrawals will be tax-free to her.  And I can’t think of a better present for my little girl.

Stop back soon for more Roth IRA talk!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass
The Death of the Stretch IRA: Will the Rich Get Richer?

The Death of the Stretch IRA: Will the Rich Get Richer?

Do Roth IRA Conversions Make the Rich even Richer? Will This Change After the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Do Roth IRA Conversions Make the Rich even Richer? Will This Change After the Death of the Stretch IRA?

My most recent blog posts have been about Roth IRA conversions, and how they might benefit you under both existing law and the proposed law that would spell the Death of the Stretch IRA.  This post continues this discussion, and outlines the benefits of transferring Roth IRAs to your children.

How Do the Rich Get Rich? 

There’s been a lot of media coverage about rich people lately, have you noticed?  The rich don’t pay taxes!  The rich are getting richer!  And so on.  Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there are many rich people who don’t deserve all of the abuse they get about their wealth.  Are there rich people who get their money from stealing and cheating?  Certainly, and I hope the long arm of the law finds every one of them and brings them to justice.  But I have many clients who are, by most people’s standards, rich – and not one of them ever failed to pay their taxes, or stole their money from someone else.  Most of them had decent but not high-paying jobs, and the vast majority of them didn’t inherit their wealth either.  So how do the rich get rich, and how do they continue to get richer?

In the late 1960’s, Stanford University conducted a study where the children who participated could receive a small reward (a marshmallow) immediately, or choose to receive a larger reward (two marshmallows) after waiting a short period of time.  Some of the kids, of course, ate the marshmallow immediately.  Others, though, waited for what probably felt like a lifetime, and were rewarded with the second marshmallow.

Most of my clients are two-marshmallow people.  This means that during their lifetimes, every financial decision they made considered both the short-term and long-term benefits.  Could they afford the monthly payment on a Cadillac?  Probably, but they opted for Fords instead and banked the difference between the monthly payments.  Could they use credit to buy new living room furniture?  Yes, but they waited until they had enough money saved up to pay cash because they wanted to avoid paying interest on their purchase.  Two-marshmallow people understand that sometimes it makes sense to do with less now, in exchange for a bigger payoff in the future.  That’s how many of the rich get rich in the first place, and could be why the rich continue to get richer.  And a similar mind set could be a lifesaver for you when the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is passed, and you are scrambling to find ways to keep your hard-earned money out of the hands of the government.

Roth IRA Conversions: Not Just For Rich People Who Don’t Want to Pay Taxes

Many uninformed individuals think that strategies like Roth IRA conversions are simply tools designed to allow rich people to get richer, and to avoid paying taxes.   That’s not exactly true.  Roth IRA conversions can help anyone, not just rich people, get richer and avoid paying more taxes than necessary.    In fact, I would argue that Roth IRA conversions can be of more benefit to someone who isn’t rich, because an additional $50,000 over the course of their lifetime would probably be far more important than it would be to someone who has more money than they can ever spend.  But Roth IRA conversions can make a lot of sense if you are a two-marshmallow person, regardless of how much money you have.  And it’s especially true if your money lasts longer than you do, and you end up transferring your IRAs and retirement plans to your children.  Roth IRAs can make a significant difference for your heirs in light of the Death of the Stretch IRA.

Transferring Roth IRAs to Your Children

The video in this post compares two individuals – one makes a Roth IRA conversion of $100,000 and the other does not.  The conversion provides a small benefit during the Roth IRA owner’s lifetime – so even though he pays taxes on the conversion amount, he still ends up with two marshmallows.  But suppose he never spends the money and, at his death, the Roth IRA is transferred to his children?   Over the course of their lifetimes, the children get ten marshmallows.  And suppose his children don’t spend the Roth IRA, and instead transfer it to their own children (preferably by disclaiming it to a trust).  Over the course of their lifetimes, the grandchildren get an entire bag of marshmallows!

So did the rich get richer?  Yes.  Did they do anything illegal, or anything that you can’t do yourself?  No.  Roth IRA conversions were the brainchild of the government – they want you to pay taxes sooner than you have to so that they have more money to spend.  You may have change your way of thinking to that of a two-marshmallow person, and possibly do with less now in exchange for a greater payoff down the road.  But doing so can enable you to create your own family dynasty that will benefit your heirs for generations to come, and help them offset the devastating effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA.

Stop back soon for more Roth IRA conversion talk!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass

How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even if The Death of Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass

How Roth IRA Conversions Can Benefit You Even If the Death of the Stretch IRA Doesn’t Pass

In my last post, I talked about a concept called purchasing power.  If you missed that post, I’d go back and read it because the information contained in it is the key to understanding the benefits of Roth IRA conversions.  In short, it explains why you need to consider more than just the dollar value of Roth and Traditional IRAs, in order to determine if a Roth conversion can benefit you.

Las week, we discussed that, if you measure your accounts in terms of their purchasing power rather than their dollar value, it is quite possible that you and your spouse can benefit from Roth IRA conversions.  The greater benefit, though, is likely to be recognized by your children and grandchildren.  This is true even if the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation does not pass, although I believe it will.

When Roth IRA conversions were first introduced, I believed that they could provide a huge benefit to my clients who had large IRAs.  It wasn’t just a feeling that I had, I did the math to support my position.  Unfortunately, many people were still afraid of this new-fangled idea, and they just didn’t want to hear about it no matter how much it might benefit their families. So I thought to myself, how can I get people to believe me?  In 1997, I published the very first peer-reviewed article on Roth IRA conversions.  Submitting a paper for peer-review is a daunting process.  Imagine a team of CPA’s who are just waiting to find fault with everything you say.  Well, guess what?  After they read it, they all said “He’s right!” – and my article on Roth IRA conversions was accepted for peer-reviewed publication. It was a ground-breaking idea, and I received a lot of attention by the mainstream media because I was a pioneer.  Even to this day I continue to advise several prestigious publications on this topic.  But for many individuals who have large IRAs, a series of Roth IRA conversions can provide an enormous benefit when used as part of a well thought out estate plan.

Roth IRA Conversions and Changing Tax Law

Some of you may think that a concept that was peer-reviewed twenty years ago has little relevance in today’s world.  Well, it’s true that back then, the tax rates were higher than they are now.  That means that, back then, Roth IRA conversions offered a greater benefit than they can under the current tax structure.  And now we are facing the possibility that the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation will pass, which would accelerate the income tax due on inherited IRAs.

The changing tax rules are the reason that you must measure your IRAs, whether they are Traditional or Roth, in terms of their purchasing power.   For many individuals, paying tax on the amount that you convert to a Roth IRA can provide a benefit to you, and an even greater benefit to your heirs.   It goes against my grain to pay income tax even a day sooner than I have to, but I put my own money where my mouth is.  Years ago, I paid the income tax due and converted a significant amount of both my own and wife’s Traditional IRAs to Roths.  I’m glad I did, because those IRAs have grown tax-free for decades.

Roth IRA Conversion Calculators

So let’s talk about those Roth IRA conversion calculators that are available online.  Are they accurate?  Well, if you want to try one out, please make sure that you find a calculator that uses the current tax rates.  Your results will not be accurate if you unknowingly choose a calculator that uses tax rates from ten years ago!  When personal computers first hit the scene, there was a popular saying about them:  “garbage in, garbage out”.  This was the developer’s way of saying that, while their programs were accurate, they couldn’t prevent you from making errors.  So if you were preparing your tax return using a well-known software and accidentally checked a box that said you were single when you were actually married, your tax return would still be right – if only you were single.

Ultimately, all an online calculator can do is estimate whether or not a Roth IRA conversion can benefit you.  In my opinion, an estimate is not good enough.  Before we make the recommendation to a client that they do Roth IRA conversions, our CPAs do actuarial calculations using several different scenarios.  They also calculate your tax return (and the tax returns of your beneficiaries) so that we know for certain whether Roth IRA conversions can benefit you.  If the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation passes as I believe it will, Roth IRA conversions will likely become a more important part of many estate plans.

Stop back soon for more Roth IRA talk!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Roth IRA Conversions can help Minimize the Effects of the Death of the Stretch IRA

The Roth IRA Conversion Breakeven Point and the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

This post is part of a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA, and some ideas that you can use to minimize the effects of it.

Are Roth IRA Contributions and Conversions a Good Idea for Older Investors?

There is a lot of debate about whether or not Roth IRAs are a good idea and, in particular, whether or not they are a good idea for older investors.  In my opinion, Roth IRAs and Roth IRA conversions are a good idea for both young and old investors.  I also believe that Roth IRAs will become even more important after the Death of the Stretch IRA.    Why do I believe this?  In order to explain it, I have to ask you to change your paradigm about the way you perceive money.  And if you can understand the concept I’m about to introduce, you’ll be way ahead of most lawyers, CPAs and financial advisors.

The Roth IRA Advantage: Purchasing Power

Suppose that John and Jim both want to buy a $600,000 vacation home.  Jim has $900,000, and to keep things simple, I’m going to assume that his money is invested in a bank certificate of deposit, where there would be no capital gains generated if he cashed it in.  John has $1,000,000 in his Traditional IRA and, when measured in dollars, he has an advantage because he clearly has more money than Jim.  But John will have to pay tax when he withdraws money from his Traditional IRA, and, in this example, I’m going to assume that John doesn’t have any money outside of his retirement plan to pay the income tax due.  That means he has to withdraw even more from his IRA in order to have $600,000 left to spend on his vacation home.  Well, since the top tax rate is 39.6 percent, John will have to withdraw his entire $1 million IRA because he’ll owe the IRS almost $400,000.  Jim’s vacation home cost him $600,000 because he didn’t have to worry about taxes, but John’s vacation home actually cost him closer to $1 million.  So even though Jim didn’t have as much money as John, he had the advantage over him.  He had more purchasing power than John because he already paid the income tax that was due on the money he used to buy the house.

That is the way that I would like you to think about your money – not in terms of the amount of dollars you have, but how much purchasing power you have.  If you can understand the advantages of purchasing power, you will have the key to unlocking the secret of the Roth IRA treasure.

The Breakeven Point for Roth IRA Conversions

Some professionals insist that there is no advantage to an older investor doing a Roth IRA conversion.  This is because they think of the conversion in terms of dollars rather than purchasing power – which means that an older investor may not have a long enough life expectancy to recoup the income taxes he prepaid.  Well, that is like comparing apples to oranges.  I believe that the breakeven point of a Roth IRA conversion happens on Day 1, and here’s why.     Suppose Jim and John both own Traditional IRA s worth $100,000 plus $25,000 in after-tax accounts.  If John cashes in his Traditional IRA he will have $100,000 to spend, but he has to use the $25,000 to pay the income tax due on the withdrawal.  Jim, on the other hand, does a Roth IRA conversion.  He converts his $100,000 to a Roth IRA and, yes, he also uses his $25,000 to pay income tax.   On the day he makes the conversion, he has $100,000 – the same amount of money, and the same amount of purchasing power, as John.  This means that the breakeven point of a Roth IRA conversion is the day of the conversion. The most significant difference happens in the future.  For the rest of his life, all of the gains that Jim earns in his Roth IRA account will be tax free.  And even if John just reinvests his $100,000 in a regular brokerage account, all of the future gains that are earned in the account will be taxable.

Roth IRAs can be a great idea for older investors.  If you compare apples to apples and measure your purchasing power, rather than your money, the breakeven point for a Roth IRA conversion will happen on Day 1.  And better yet, the tax-free feature of your Roth IRA can offer an excellent defense against the Death of the Stretch IRA.

Stop back soon for more Roth IRA talk!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?
Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?
Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?
How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?
Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?
The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA
Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA
How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA
President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You
Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA
The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA
Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex
Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?
Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Learn About Roth IRA Conversions & the Death of the Stretch IRA in this Video Blog Post

Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

You’ve been hearing a lot from me about the Death of the Stretch IRA, and so might be happy to hear that the next couple of posts I do will concentrate on Roth IRAs and Roth IRA conversions.  Is this because I want you to start thinking about your income tax planning for 2017?  Not really – it’s because a series of Roth IRA conversions can, for some people, be the best defense against the Death of the Stretch IRA.

The Most Important Financial Fact About Retirement

If you’re new to my blog, though, I want to take a moment and emphasize what I believe is one of the most important facts that retirees should know about their finances.  So here it is.  Above all, you should understand that a positive financial outlook in retirement involves far more than just the rate of return you earn on your portfolio.

Surprised?  One of my favorite illustrations that demonstrates this involves two hypothetical couples who are the exact same age, have the exact same amount of money when they retire and who invest their money exactly the same way.  Everything about these two couples is exactly the same, except for one thing.  One couple uses the optimal strategies when applying for Social Security and makes a series of Roth IRA conversions, but the other couple doesn’t.  The illustration shows the scope of difference between the couple’s financial outlook during retirement.  The couple who understood the most important financial fact about retirement invested in the exact same assets that the other couple did – so they did not earn a higher rate of return.  But because they used the optimal strategies for Social Security and Roth IRA conversions, their retirement savings outlived them both and they passed a sizable estate on to their children.  The other couple, unfortunately, went broke during their lifetimes.

Understanding the most important financial fact about retirement – that a secure retirement can depend on far more than just the rate of return you earn – can make a huge difference in your financial security.

The Benefits of Roth IRA Conversions

We’ve talked about how Social Security can give you a hedge against the Death of the Stretch IRA, so now let’s look at how Roth IRA conversions might benefit you.

What is a Roth IRA conversion?  The simplest way to explain it is with an analogy.   Suppose you are a farmer, and the IRS gives you a choice.  You can deduct the cost of your seed and pay tax on your entire harvest, or you can forgo the deduction for your seed and reap your entire harvest tax-free.   The second option shows the benefit of the Roth IRA.  Would you rather deduct the contribution to your retirement plan and pay tax on withdrawals, or forgo the deduction so that you don’t have to pay tax on withdrawals?

In order to make a Roth IRA conversion, you have to enlist the assistance of the custodian who handles your traditional IRA.  They transfer all or part of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and file some paperwork with the IRS.  The paperwork tells the IRS that you owe them tax on the amount you converted, and that all of the money you earn in your new Roth IRA will be tax free.  Some individuals are critical of Roth IRA conversions because you pay taxes before you’re legally required to.  That’s very true.  But even though nobody wants to give the IRS a helping hand, is there a benefit to prepaying the tax bill that will eventually be due on your traditional retirement plan?  Let’s review the Roth IRA rules.

You know that Roth IRAs grow tax-free for the rest of your life.  But did you know that they also grow tax-free for the rest of your spouse’s life, and under existing law, your children’s lives too?  For those of you who aren’t all that motivated to leave your children in the best possible position because you think they should be happy with whatever you leave them, there’s another feature to the Roth that can provide an enormous benefit just for you.    The Roth IRA rules specify that there is no Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for the original owner or surviving spouse, as there is with a Traditional IRA.  This benefit alone can provide you with enormous flexibility and control over your tax picture, especially after you turn 70 ½.  Your children will be required to take RMD’s from any IRA that they inherit from you, whether it is a Roth or Traditional account.  The difference is that the withdrawals from the Roth are tax free.  That is beauty of the Roth IRA for your non-spousal heirs.

If you are concerned about your heirs, the tax-free benefit of the Roth will make all the difference after the Death of the Stretch IRA.  This is because the Death of the Stretch IRA will accelerate the RMDs that your non-spousal heirs must take from the IRAs they inherit from you.  The entire account must be withdrawn from the IRA within five years.  And if you have a large IRA – $1 million or more – your children will have to take very large withdrawals.  These withdrawals can potentially throw your children into a much higher tax bracket during those years, unless you had the foresight to convert your traditional retirement plans to a Roth.

We’ll talk more about Roth conversions next week.  Stop back soon!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You

Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA

The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA

Part II: The Best Age to Apply for Social Security Benefits after the Death of the Stretch IRA

Social Security Options After Divorce: Don’t Overlook the Possibilities Just Because You Hate Your Ex

Is Your Health the Best Reason to Wait to Apply for Social Security?

Getting Social Security Benefits Right with the Death of the Stretch IRA

Social Security Planning, Roth IRAs & Death of the Stretch IRA

Social Security Planning Roth IRA Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA James Lange

First, I wanted to thank you for your comments and questions about my previous posts.  It’s gratifying to know that my readers apparently care more about the financial future of their families than the latest wardrobe malfunction in Hollywood!  And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send them over because I will do my best to address them.

I’ve had a number of people who wrote in to ask about a comment I made in a workshop, in which I said that, with the Death of the Stretch IRA likely being imminent, it’s more important than ever to “get Social Security right”.  Those of you who have been subscribing to this blog for a while probably know the answer but, for the benefit of new readers, I want to back up and explain what I meant by “getting it right”.

Social Security Options Are Changing

There were major changes made to the Social Security rules last year – changes that could potentially mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of difference in your retirement income.  When I learned that these changes were coming, I did everything I could possibly do to get the word out that if you did not get grandfathered under the old Social Security rules by April 26, 2016, you could lose out on a lot of money.  Well, if you didn’t get grandfathered last year in time to take advantage of one excellent Social Security strategy called “Apply and Suspend”, it’s too late.  It’s no longer an option, and people who apply for Social Security benefits after April 29, 2016 can’t do it.  Another technique involving the filing of a Restricted Application for benefits will be going away in 2020.  And while I’m not trying to rub salt in any wounds, the reason I’m reminding you about it is because the Social Security options for many people continue to disappear as Congress tries to fix the nation’s financial problems.  The point that I want to make is that if you do not have the ability to take advantage of the same Social Security strategies as someone – maybe an older friend or family member – who was able to get grandfathered under the old rules, you will probably not be able to collect as much money from Social Security as they did – even if you have similar earnings records.

Social Security and Roth IRA Conversions Work Together

One idea that might benefit you is to consider a series of Roth IRA conversions.  I’ve had people tell me that Roth IRA conversions won’t benefit them because they checked it out using an online calculator.
Well, online calculators are fine if your only source of income is from your IRA – but for most people, it isn’t.  Most people collect Social Security, too. It’s important to understand that Social Security and Roth IRA conversions are complementary, not competing strategies.

The Death of the Stretch IRA Spells Changes Too

Getting Social Security right and using Roth IRA conversions effectively will be even more important if Congress finally does enact the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.

Don’t think it’s that big a deal?  This short video shows you just how much of a difference “getting Social Security right” and blowing it can make.  The posts that follow this one will address some things that you can still do to maximize your own benefits even if you are not grandfathered under the old rules.  Then I’ll show you how these ideas can be integrated with a series of Roth IRA conversions.  With the possibility of the Death of the Stretch IRA hanging over our heads, it’s important to do what you can to defend your retirement savings!

Please stop back soon!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post? Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

President Trump’s Tax Reform Proposal and How it Might Affect You

Using Roth IRA Conversions as a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

Concerning the Death of the Stretch IRA, are Roth IRA conversions right for you? 

Roth IRA Conversions are a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA, James Lange

This post is the tenth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  It discusses how Roth IRA conversions work, and how they might be able to benefit your family under the current law.  It also explains how Roth IRA conversions might be beneficial to your family if the Stretch IRA is eliminated.

How Roth IRA Conversions Work

Before we get into the benefits, I want to explain the process of how Roth IRA conversions work.  In order to do a Roth IRA conversion, you take money that you have in a traditional tax-deferred IRA account and transfer it to a tax-free Roth IRA account.  There’s paperwork that your IRA custodian has to file so that the IRS knows to expect some tax money from you.

When you contributed to that traditional IRA, you probably received a tax deduction for it.  The IRS obviously won’t let you take a tax deduction for the contribution that you made to your traditional IRA and then get your future earnings tax-free too.  So when you do a conversion, you have to pay tax on the amount that you transfer out of your traditional IRA.  The benefit to converting, rather than simply withdrawing the money and putting it in a standard brokerage account, is that the future gains on the earnings will be tax-free.  But is it worth it to convert?

Roth IRA Conversions and Purchasing Power

In my opinion, the key to understanding the benefits of Roth conversions is to understand the concept of purchasing power.  So let’s look at an example.  You have $100,000 traditional IRA plus $25,000 non-IRA money – for a total of $125,000.  I have $100,000 in a Roth IRA.  Even though I have less money than you, I will argue that we have the same amount of purchasing power.  Here’s why.

Let’s say you want to buy a boat – better yet, a really big boat.  In order to get the money to pay for it, you have to cash in your $100,000 IRA.  Since it’s a traditional IRA, you’ll be required to pay taxes on your withdrawal.  If you’re in a 25% tax bracket, you’ll also be required to liquidate your $25,000 non-IRA account to pay the tax due. Now let’s say that I want to buy the same boat.   I cash in my $100,000 Roth IRA, but I don’t have to have to send money to the IRS for a tax payment like you did.  So even though your account balances were higher than mine when we started, you had to spend more money than I did to buy the same boat.  Because my money was in a tax-free account and yours wasn’t, I had the exact same amount of purchasing power that you did, from the very start.

Is it Worth it to Convert Your Traditional IRA to a Roth?

But is it worth it to pay taxes that you don’t owe right now, just to end up in a tie?  It’s a great question.  For many people, it IS worth it.  I cover Roth conversions in great detail in Chapter 7 of my book, Retire Secure!  One point that I make in the book is that it is very important to actually “run the numbers” to see if it will be advantageous for you to go through the process yourself.  And while there are several online calculators that claim to demonstrate the value of Roth conversions, the truth is that the process is just not as simple as they make it out to be.   The reasons for this are too complicated to get into on this blog, but you can read about them in my book.  The book demonstrates several scenarios where Roth conversions can save families a significant amount of money, and also somewhere it was a bad idea.

Roth Conversions and the Death of the Stretch IRA

Roth conversions can be a very effective solution for many individuals who have large IRAs.  When the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation is finalized, they may become even more important.  Stop back soon to learn why.

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post?  Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Gifting and Life Insurance as a Solution to the Death of the Stretch IRA

Using Roth Conversions as a Possible Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA

How Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan can help protect your family against the Death of the Stretch IRA

How Flexible Estate Planning Can be a Solution for Death of the Stretch IRA