Jim Lange in Kiplinger’s

Roth IRAs and Roth IRA conversions have been Jim Lange’s passion for the past decade and Jim is always happy to spread the word to the media. Jim’s latest appearance in print can be found in this month’s (September 2009) Kiplinger’s Retirement Report (Leave Your Kids a Tax-free Legacy on page 18).

To show the wealth-building potential of a Roth IRA conversion, Jim gives an example involving two 65-year old fathers.  They are both in the 28% tax bracket and both have IRAs valued at $100,000.  To simplify the example, both dads also have $28,000 in a taxable account.

The first dad decides to make a Roth IRA conversion and pays $28,000 in taxes up front.  The second dad decides to stick to his traditional IRA and will pay taxes upon withdrawal.  In Jim’s example, both dads live another 20 years and leave their IRAs to their children.

Thirty years after their parents die, the Roth IRA child has $1.8 million in future dollars.  The traditional IRA child only has $980,000.  Why the big difference?  For starters, the Roth parent never had to take required minimum distributions and the entire amount was able to grow tax-free for all of those years.  The traditional dad had to take an RMD starting at age 70 1/2 resulting in the parent and child paying taxes on the RMD every year.

This analysis really becomes powerful when you realize that a tax-law change starting on January 1, 2010 will make all taxpayers eligible for a Roth IRA conversion, regardless of income.  Considering that many wealthy taxpayers will be able to convert much more than the $100,000 in the example, the potential benefits of a Roth IRA conversion could be even more dramatic.

In the same Kiplinger’s article, Jim also stresses the importance of the beneficiary designation of your IRA.  If you hope to have your heirs stretch this tax-free shalter for their lifetimes, it’s important to get the wording correct.  Non-spouse heirs cannot roll an inherited IRA into their own Roth IRA.  Instead, they must set up an inherited IRA and the name of the deceased must remain on the account.  Jim advises using language along the order of “inherited IRA of Joe Sr. for the benefit of Joe Jr.”.  The money must then be transferred directly into the new IRA.

Remember – we are less than four months away from the big tax-law change.  Make sure that you’re up-to-speed on the benefits of Roth IRAs and Roth IRA conversions.  For a more detailed comparison between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, we offer another of Jim’s articles on this website.  Go to the homepage, click on articles and then click on Roth: Four Little Letters Lead to Long-term Financial Security.

As always, our excellent professional staff is available to help you with a complete Roth IRA analysis.  Get more details by calling our office at 800-387-1129.