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

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

The Third Edition of Retire Secure has Finally Arrived!

The new edition of Retire Secure! A Guide to Getting The Most out Of What You’ve Got is the distilled and concentrated version of the recommendations we have developed over 30 years. It is particularly useful for IRA and retirement plan owners.

We will soon be sending our clients a copy with a personalized note directing you to what we think will be the most relevant sections for you to read. This personalization has been a huge project, but it’s something that I think will be enormously helpful to you.

Retire Secure! will be available for purchase in bookstores and on Amazon in October. However, if you absolutely cannot wait, the book is available for Kindle and Amazon pre-order here.

Amazon Kindle Pre-Order Retire Secure! James Lange

The core concepts of the current edition are similar to the two previous editions (Wiley, 2006 and 2009). Recent legislative changes, however, have led to important strategy adjustments that are incorporated in the latest edition.

  • In Part 1, The Accumulation Years, we include some new strategies that were not available in 2009.
  • In Part 2, The Distribution Years, we cover how to spend down retirement funds in the right order to manage your assets wisely, but that area is more complicated than ever because of some of the new tax laws. We have also updated recommendations for Roth conversions, and the impact of a potential new law for IRA and retirement plan owners and their families — the death of the stretch IRA. It could be devastating for your children. Though there is no perfect answer, I do address some of the best strategies I know to reduce the pain of the likely changes in the IRA law.
  • In Part 3, we’ve updated the Eddie and Emily Estate Planning case study. Essentially, it incorporates the updated Lange’s Cascading Beneficiary Plan, which many of you already have in your wills and trusts.

If you’ve read previous versions of Retire Secure!, I hope you’ll find the updates and changes enlightening. To make the new material easier to find, I have included a section that highlights the changes. And if you’re new to the book, I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to really educate yourself on these principles and sound practices. There’s mathematical proof that optimizing the strategies you use to approach saving, investing, estate planning, and distributing assets could mean a dierence of millions of dollars over your lifetime and for your heirs.

It’s my fervent wish that Retire Secure! will help you live a happier, healthier, and more secure life!

Jim

The Death of the Stretch IRA: It’s Time to Review the Retirement Plan Beneficiary Rules

The Death of the Stretch IRA, James LangeThose of you who have been following me for a while know that that one of my most cherished mantras is “Pay Taxes Later!” An extension of that mantra was my recommendation that, upon your death, your beneficiaries continue to take advantage of the minimum distribution rules to “stretch” your IRA for as long as possible so that they could achieve the maximum tax-deferred growth possible. This used to be a fairly straightforward concept but, with the increase in second and third marriages, as well as non-traditional marriages, it has become much more complicated.

To add to the confusion, there is increasing pressure from Congress to eliminate the Stretch IRA. This would be a very good time to review your retirement plan beneficiary rules, because you might want to change your designations. Non-spousal beneficiaries may soon be required to withdraw and pay taxes on inherited IRAs within five years. This idea was first introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus in 2013, and was thankfully withdrawn for lack of support. It reappeared in 2013 as part of President Obama’s budget proposals, and again in 2013 as part of a bill to reduce student loan debt. Killing the Stretch IRA, they felt, would provide enough revenue to reduce student loan rates for college tuition for one year. That bill was passed by the House but died in the Senate by only two votes. Then in 2014 and 2015, President Obama’s budget proposals again included a provision to kill the Stretch IRA. It seems clear to me that this measure, or a similar one, may eventually pass.

So who should be named the beneficiary of your retirement plan? Is one option better than another? Chapter 13 answers these questions assuming that the benefits of the Stretch IRA will continue under the current rules, and also presents some options that you can consider if the Stretch IRA is eventually eliminated. This chapter also offers some guidance in naming trusts as beneficiaries. If done properly, this can protect your assets from your child’s creditors, including their former spouses.

Don’t forget to stop back soon for a sneak peek at Chapter 14, which expands on some concepts critical to understanding the benefits of the Stretch IRA!

Jim

P.S. Here’s a video on The Death of the Stretch:

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

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Ways to Cut Taxes for the Next Generation – Consider Gifting Money to Children

gifting money to children lange financial groupIn January of 2015, President Obama proposed eliminating the tax-free benefits of Section 529 college savings plans. Under his proposal, savings would grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals would be taxed as income to the beneficiary (usually the student). His belief was that taxpayers who save in 529 plans are families who can better afford the cost of college than everyone else. In reality, it is estimated that close to ten percent of 529 accounts are owned by households having income below $50,000, and over 70 percent are owned by households with income below $150,000. What isn’t surprising, though, is that the tax revenue realized by this action would have been significant, because as of the end of the 4th quarter of 2014, the assets held in 529 and other college savings plans reached almost a quarter of a trillion dollars. How many students would have been forced to apply for loans if they had been required to pay tax on withdrawals from their college savings plans? Fortunately, the House of Representatives thought differently than the President and, in February of 2015, they passed HR 529. This bill not only maintains the tax-free status of 529 plans, but also makes them more flexible and easier to use. Hopefully the Senate will follow the House’s lead and pass a companion bill with similar provisions.

Do you have college savings plans established for your children or grandchildren and, if so, were you aware of this attack on their tax-free status?

Gifting money to children

Contributing to college savings plans for children and grandchildren is a form of gifting, which is a topic that I discuss in detail in Chapter 11 of Retire Secure!. Gifting money to children is an excellent way to minimize taxes at your death, and, depending on the amount gifted, can also provide the recipient with tax-free income. Unfortunately, strategies that reduce taxes frequently come under fire and it is critical that you stay on top of the rules. Also discussed in this chapter are the perils of gifting to relatives in an attempt to avoid seizure of your to pay for nursing home care. It’s a bad idea – don’t even think about it – but it is still beneficial to understand the laws on this subject.

Many couples are not aware that the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 introduced a concept called portability that makes estate taxes less of a concern for many individuals than in the past. If you have not had your estate plan reviewed since 2012, you should read Chapter 11 to learn about the potential pitfalls of what I call “The Cruelest Trap of All”. Since the passage of this act, many estate plans are outdated and could cause the surviving spouse to be disinherited at the first spouse’s death.

Gifting money to children strategies, and the tax implications of gifting, should be a critical part of every estate plan. Changes in legislation that were not anticipated at the time the plan was established, though, can make your plan ineffective and in some cases disastrous. As much has changed in this area; please read Chapter 11 thoroughly to see how you might be affected.

Stop back soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

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Retirement and Estate Planning Case Study: Plan with the Big Picture in Mind

Knowing that many people aren’t as enthusiastic as I am about topics like taxes, interest rates and so on, I tried to make Retire Secure! as reader friendly as possible.  Even so, I know there are still folks out there who find it difficult to apply the concepts outlined in the book to their own personal situations.  It’s for those people that I wrote Chapter 10, a Retirement and Estate Planning Case Study on Eddie & Emily.  It is a real life retirement story loosely based on an actual client who came to me with some concerns.

Chapter 10 is written from this couple’s point of view.  It walks the reader through the thought process that these clients went through as they entered retirement, and how we helped them achieve peace of mind about their concerns.  Every client’s situation is different, so it would wrong to imply that one course of action is always better than another.  Since we helped them plan with the big picture in mind, though, they were confident that the decisions that they made were the best possible for themselves and their children.

Stop back soon for a peek at Chapter 11.  It’s a lot more technical than Chapter 10, but contains important information on the best ways to transfer wealth to your heirs.

See you soon!

Jim

Jim Lange, Retirement and Estate Planning A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

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Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA): Don’t Pay More Taxes Than You Need To

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) Don’t Pay More Taxes Than You Need To, James LangeSome employees have Stock Options, or the option to buy the stock of the company that they work for within their retirement plans. A unanimous Supreme Court decision in 2014 might discourage employers from offering their employees a stake in the business in future years, because they can now be held liable if the value of the stock drops. Employers can now also be held liable under insider trading laws for certain actions they make within the retirement plan, with respects to company stock.

But what if you do happen to have some company stock in your retirement plan? If you do, be sure to read Chapter 9 for some very important tax planning tips! When you retire and take a lump sum distribution from your retirement plan, the distribution may include employer stock that is (hopefully) worth more than the fair market value at the time it was purchased in your plan. The difference between the value of the company stock at the time you take your lump sum distribution and its value at the time it was purchased is called Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA).

If you own company stock within your retirement plans, you should make sure that you understand Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) rules outlined in Chapter 9 before you roll over or take distributions from the plan. Many financial advisors don’t understand these rules and, if you don’t, you could end up paying significantly more in taxes than you need to. This is especially true if the company stock in your 401(k) has increased in value!

Stay tuned for an update on our classic case study of Eddie & Emily from Chapter 10!

– Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

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Tax Free Roth IRAs: Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Tax Free Roth IRA, Don't Believe Everything You Read, James Lange, The Lange Financial GroupMy wife recently told me that she didn’t think that there was anything that could keep me from blogging about my upcoming book, Retire Secure!  While she was joking, she was also right, I thought. But then, an article that was published in US News and World Report yesterday (April 20, 2015) was inaccurate on so many points that I could not let it go without commenting on it. I submitted a comment to the article and asked that the article be retracted. I can only hope that the magazine will publish a retraction, and quickly, before an unsuspecting reader takes the writer’s recommendations to heart.

The writer is a certified financial planner and registered investment advisor, as well as a published author, from Virginia. He begins by telling readers about Roth IRAs. He says that you can contribute $5,000 to a Roth IRA – that limit was increased $5,500 in 2013. If you have a Roth account in your 401(k), he claims you can add $6,000 to it if you are over 50 years old. (If you are over 50, you can add $24,000 to a Roth 401(k) in 2015this is made up of the $18,000 basic contribution limit plus a $6,000 “catch-up” contribution limit.) He claims that, if you contribute to a Roth, “the money you invest will be taxed”. (Everyone knows that, if you follow the rules, Roth accounts aren’t taxable, right? I sincerely hope that what he was trying to say was that there is no tax deduction for Roth contributions!) Then he tells readers that, after age 59 ½, “when you begin to take distributions” from the Roth, they will be tax-free”. That statement is not inaccurate, but it does omit the very important fact that your contributions can be withdrawn from a tax free Roth IRA before age 59 1/2.  (Earnings on your contributions are treated differently.) It is the traditional IRA that, in most cases, you cannot withdraw from without penalty until age 59 1/2.

The worst advice, though, came when he tried to present the pros and cons of Roth conversions.

He recommends that you take one of your existing IRAs or qualified plans and convert the entire thing to a Roth, but then warns you that you will need to pay tax on that entire conversion at once.What is omitted here is that, if you convert your entire account at once, your tax bill may be so large that you move up in to a higher tax bracket. It would be imprudent to make such a recommendation to a client! What generally makes more sense is to make several smaller conversions, in amounts that ensure that you stay in the same tax bracket. He recommends not making tax free Roth IRA conversions later in life, on the basis that you will not live long enough to enjoy the tax-free benefits. Tongue in cheek, I might argue that that’s a risk at any age, but even if you don’t live long enough to enjoy them, the tax-free benefits to your heirs, who are likely much younger than you, are indisputable. The strangest statement against Roth conversions, I thought, was that “you will potentially have to write a big check to the IRS”. It is true that you will have to pay tax on any amount converted from a traditional to a Roth IRA. But even if you don’t need your retirement money to live on, you will have to start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRAs every year once you turn age 70 ½. Those mandatory withdrawals will be taxable, and at that point you will be writing a big check to the IRS. The question is, does it make more sense to make Roth conversions while your retirement account balance is likely to be smaller, pay tax on a smaller amount of money, and generate tax-free income on all of the future earnings on the converted amount? Or, does it make more sense to wait twenty or thirty years, let the taxable traditional IRA grow as large as possible, and then pay the tax on the larger mandatory withdrawals?

In this age of electronic communications it’s easier to offer opposing points of view, and I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the sheer volume of dissenting opinions that the article produced within hours of its publication. I also wondered if there were other individuals who read it and took the advice to heart. That made me think of another question – what would my readers have thought about that article, especially after receiving such dramatically different advice from me? Who are you supposed to trust?

My advice to you is this – trust yourself first. If a financial professional says something that does not make sense to you, ask for clarification. If the answer you are given still doesn’t make sense to you, trust your instincts. Get a second, third, fourth or fifth opinion before you act. Or, look up the answer yourself. There are number of resources that my staff and I use all the time, that are also available to you.   These include the Internal Revenue Service’s website (www.irs.gov), the Social Secure Administration’s website (www.ssa.gov), and the website established by Medicare (www.medicare.gov). Educating yourself about your options is the best defense against making a potential mistake that you have available to you.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Stop back soon for another update on my book.

Jim

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Annuities: Good or Bad?

Annuities, Retirement Planning, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, James LangeThe Center for Disease Control annually publishes a document called the National Vital Statistics Report. This report estimates the life expectancy of men and women in the United States. At birth, the life expectancy for a male is 76.7 years and, for a female, 81.4 years. What is interesting about the report, however, is that it shows that, the longer you do live, the more your life expectancy increases. If you’ve already made it to age 65 and are male, you are likely to continue to live until age 83. If you’re a 65-year old female, you can be expected to live until age 85.5. If you’re a male and you’ve already made it to age 80, you can expect to live until age 88.3; an 80-year old female can expect to live until age 89.7. When your life expectancy continues to increase, how can you possibly make sure that the money you’ve saved for retirement lasts for your entire life?

Financial professionals are sharply divided on the topic of annuities. Some love them, and some hate them.  My goal in the Third Edition of Retire Secure! is to point out the advantages and disadvantages of annuities, and let you make up your own mind as to whether they would be good or bad for your own retirement. There are many different kinds of annuities, but most can be used to provide a guaranteed lifetime income for both you and your spouse. This can provide peace of mind to individuals who are concerned that the Social Security system might go bankrupt after they retire and are no longer able to earn income. As of June 2014, employees are permitted to buy a specific type of annuity called a qualified longevity annuity contract (or QLAC) within their retirement plan. While you can’t avoid taking Required Minimum Distributions completely, this type of annuity allows owners to defer retirement distributions until age 85. This means that owners would receive the maximum pension benefit possible for the rest of their lives. Once distributions are started, the owner receives a guaranteed income for the rest of his or her life. Being able to exempt a portion of retirement income from minimum required distributions from age 70 ½ to age 85 can be a powerful estate planning tool, however, there are rules you have to follow. Those rules are covered in Chapter 8.

Annuities are also playing a growing role in estate planning for adult children. Many retirees have adult children who have been financially devastated because they were not adequately prepared for the cost of sending their own children to college. Others simply live beyond their means and believe that balancing their budget means robbing Peter to pay Paul. For some, the unexpected loss of a steady income from a job can spell financial disaster. Chapter 8 contains some tips on how you can use annuities to put your spendthrift children on a budget or, if necessary, even protect them from their creditors.   In some cases, annuities can offer the means to provide your children with the highest possible degree of financial security.

Check back soon for a tip on how to avoid a common and expensive mistake when taking distributions from a retirement plan that includes company stock!

– Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

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Is It a Good Idea to Roll Over Your 401K to a Traditional or Roth IRA?

Earlier this year, President Obama announced that he wants to create new rules that give financial advisors a “fiduciary” status under the law. I welcome this wholeheartedly because a fiduciary is required to always put his clients’ interests ahead of his own. This means that a financial advisor cannot make investment recommendations based on the commission they would receive from the investment, and that they must first consider the benefits that would be received by their client. As a fee-based advisor I have always served as a fiduciary to my clients and believe that it is an immensely important role.

I find it sad that we have to pass laws to make sure that the client’s interests are protected, but think that the President is on the right track with this one. More often than not, I hear of financial advisors who are only looking for a commission telling retirees that there’s no reason to not roll their old retirement plans to an IRA. That is simply not true and, in fact, there are circumstances where a retiree will be well served by keeping all or part of his or her retirement money in the original work plan.

These scenariosare discussed in detail in Chapter 6 of the new edition of Retire Secure! If you’ve wondered if rollingyour old 401(k) to an IRA is a good idea, you may very well find that you could save yourself from making a terrible financial decision by weighing all the potential advantages and disadvantages.

Many work plans give employees the opportunity to contribute to both pre-tax and after-tax accounts. If you ultimately decide that rolling your 401(k) to an IRA is the best course of action, you should make sure that you read Chapter 6 to educate yourself about the brand new IRS ruling that applies to your after-tax contributions. This ruling gives retirees an unprecedented opportunity to roll part of your 401(k) to a Roth IRA and, if done properly, the transaction will be completely tax free.

Check back soon for the latest information on Roth conversions!

Thanks for Reading!

Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

Thank you.

Save

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