Which Is Better the Traditional or the Roth IRA

Retire Secure! Third Edition, A Guide To Making The Most Out Of What You've Got, James Lange
A theme which appears consistently throughout the third edition of Retire Secure! is the question of which is better – the traditional or Roth IRA. Changes in the law since Edition Two was written, as well as additional changes that our current administration is pressing for, make it the million dollar question.

In order to answer the question, we dedicated Chapter 2 to comparing the pros and cons of each type of account as they exist under the current law. If you are not familiar with the rules of each IRA account, it is probably worth your time to read this chapter. Subsequent chapters address the proposed changes to the rules, and how they might affect your decision when reviewing your retirement plan options. And, due to popular demand, I’ve added a section about the IRS ordering rules, which explains how to avoid tax and penalty if you need to withdraw money from a Roth account before five years has passed.

The IRA illustrations were calculated using a 6% rate of return, and the maximum contribution amount as established by the IRS. We also ran an illustration that shows, for those who don’t have a lot of time left to save, the difference in the accounts when contributions are made for a very limited number of years.

A final note about tax brackets: when Edition Two was written, the maximum tax rate was 35%. Subsequent changes in the tax laws increased the maximum rate to 39.6%. This difference of almost 5% is more significant than you might think. The impact of the increased tax brackets is discussed in detail in subsequent chapters, but the concept is first introduced in Chapter 2.

Check back soon for an update on Chapter 3!

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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Last Minute Tax Tips

Big thanks to Lange team member Steve Kohman for being a part of our radio show The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks on Wednesday night, April 8th on KQV am 1410. Steve is so dedicated to his clients that we had trouble prying him away from the office to do the show.

We’re glad that Steve finally agreed because his tax advice was excellent. He’s a technical machine – answering questions off the top of his head with no notes!

So is it too late to do something about your 2008 tax return?  Not according to Jim and Steve. For starters, you can still fund an IRA for 2008.  Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 — $6,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Steve also pointed out that many tax deductible medical expenses are overlooked.  Double-check to make sure you haven’t forgotten long-term care insurance premiums, prescription expenses, Medicare insurance premiums, prescribed weight-loss programs, therapy and even miscellaneous improvements to your house (adding a wheelchair ramp, for instance).

The tax code can be tricky to navigate. This year, there are several new developments, including The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. First-time home buyers will have until December 1, 2009 to claim a new refundable tax credit for a qualifying home purchase.  There are certain restrictions, so make sure you check with your tax professional.

The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 allows retirees to suspend their Required Minimum Distribution for 2009.  Jim and Steve believe this has created an ideal opportunity for seniors to make a Roth IRA conversion.

What should you do if you realize you’ve made a mistake on your return?  Simply file an amended return.  To make it even easier, you have three years to take care of the paperwork.

If you think you could work night and day on your return and still not get it done by April 15th, you can always file an extension. It’s important to note, though, that it’s an extension to file – not an extension to pay.  Uncle Sam still wants you to estimate your taxes and, if you miscalculate, you could be subject to a penalty and interest.

We don’t know what came over Jim and Steve, but they offered listeners who are PA residents a free tax extension!   The Lange team is offering to take care of all of the paperwork and will even deliver your return hand-stamped. Then, after April 15th (and some much needed R&R), one of the accountants will meet with you and take a closer look at your return. If you’re interested, call the office at 800-387-1129.

Jim and Steve also covered various strategies for Roth IRA conversions, ideas for 2009 tax planning, what documents your tax professional really wants you to bring to the office and which one of them has already finished his personal tax return and which one hasn’t.

If you missed any part of the show, a rebroadcast is set for Sunday, April 12th from 9-10 a.m. ET and the audio will be available on retiresecure.com early next week.

The next show is set for Wednesday, April 22nd from 7-8 p.m. ET with special guest, author and money manager, Paul Merriman. Paul promises to make his prediction on when the economy will recover and explain the common mistakes that investors make.