Yesterday I wrote about retirement accounts, and talked about which ones are better for different situations. Today I want to talk about another issue that's been getting a lot of press lately, the 2010 Roth IRA conversion.
In the event you've been living under a rock and haven't heard about the Roth IRA conversion event this year, it is basically a one time event where people can convert their traditional IRA’s, SEP IRA’s, Simple IRA’s, old 401k’s, old 403b’s into a tax free Roth IRA account. Because of the conversion event, waves of people are expected to take advantage this year and convert their traditional taxable investment accounts into tax free Roth IRA accounts. Here are the details.
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Should I Convert My Traditional IRA To A Roth IRA?
The first thing you need to ask yourself before you even start going down this road of converting your taxable retirement accounts is whether or not it's even a good idea for you in your situation. A lot of people hve explained the benefits or a Roth IRA conversion, while others are saying that the conversion event has been overhyped. Cynics might say it's just a way for our government to collect on future tax money today – at a higher rate than most people would have paid in retirement. Regardless of whether that's the case, there are some things you should consider:
- Pay taxes now or later? Do you want to pay your taxes on the money you invest now, or when you retire? The amount of tax you pay can very quite a bit depending upon what tax bracket you fall into either now vs. when you retire. Problem with this – it's hard to know the future and know what tax rate you'll be paying in the future – and whether taxes will increase. (Where's my crystal ball when I need it?)
- Is my income too high to contribute or convert to a Roth IRA in the future? If you're a high income earner and you you want to do a bit of tax diversification, this year may be one of your few chances to convert your traditional taxable account to a Roth because of income restrictions.
- Do I want to spread out my tax liability from converting? As part of the conversion event people who convert will be able to spread out their tax liability over 2011 and 2012. More time to pay your taxes!
Reasons To Take Advantage Of The 2010 Roth IRA Conversion
Here are a few benefits of converting your taxable retiremenet account to a Roth IRA this year
- AGI limit of $100,000 – rule removed: Previously singles and married couples making less than $100,000 were the only ones able to convert their taxable accounts to a Roth IRA. 2010 is big for so many because the $100,000 MAGI rule is lifted, making a conversion possible for even higher earning singles and couples.
- Tax payments can be spread out: You'll convert to the Roth IRA in 2010, but the income to be claimed on your taxes and taxes owed can be deferred until 2011 and 2012. Converters can claim 50% of the conversion amount as income in 2011 and the other 50% in 2012. Remember, this is a one year provision for the 2010 tax year only.
- Old 401ks can be converted directly to a Roth IRA: Have an old 401k from an old job? You can convert those this year as well.
- Your assets grow tax free, and tax free withdrawals: Converting means the money will grow free of tax burdens, and you won’t have to have a minimum distribution requirement until you turn 70 1/2.
Contribution Income Limitations: Still There For New Roth IRA Contributions
One thing to remember about the Roth IRA conversion event is that just because high income earners can convert their taxable accounts, it doesn't mean they can also open and add new contributions to a new Roth IRA. If their income is over the IRA contribution phase out limits, they won’t be able to make new contributions to a Roth IRA.
How To Convert To A Roth IRA
Converting your taxable account to a Roth IRA will be alot like rolling over an old 401k to a Rollover IRA. If you’re not changing the investment company that your funds are with, it could be as easy as filling out a form. The key is to contact a financial professional who can give you advice for your specific situation.
Are you considering whether to rollover a traditional taxable account to a Roth IRA? Will you be deferring on the taxable income until 2011 and 2012? Have you decided not to convert? Tell us why in the comments!