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Across My Desk: Roth IRAs

I'm a huge fan of Roth IRAs. Why? Because it just makes good sense to me to pay taxes sooner rather than later. What follows below are pieces about the advantages of Roth IRAs from Newsmax.com:


"If you don't have retirement savings in Roth IRAs, it's time you considered the benefit of these tax-savings accounts....

But first, you may be wondering what's so great about Roth IRAs. Roth IRA contributions are always made with after-tax dollars. That's right; you won't get a tax deduction for contributing. However, the principle grows tax-free and the account holder may make tax-free withdrawals at 59 1/2.

Furthermore, there are no required minimum distributions for a Roth, which makes them ideal for funding the latter years of retirement.

Conversely, a traditional IRA allows before-tax contributions to grow tax-deferred, but not tax-free. So, although you can usually deduct your contribution to a traditional IRA, you pay ordinary income tax on the withdrawals. Furthermore, the IRS will require you to take minimum distributions, whether you need the money or not.

However, Roth IRAs may not provide tax savings for everyone. Remember, contributions to Roths are made with after-tax dollars whereas traditional IRAs are made with pre-tax dollars.

Roth IRAs provide tax savings for individuals who expect to be in a higher tax bracket later in life. The tax benefits of a Roth are created by the tax disparity between your tax bracket when you put your money in versus your tax bracket in retirement. The lower your tax rate and the longer you have until retirement, the more likely a Roth conversion will play in your favor.

Imagine John, age 60, owns two traditional IRA accounts. Each is funded with $5,000. Let's assume he keeps the $5,000 in one IRA. But with the other, he uses some of the funds to pay the taxes due and then converts it to a Roth. Assuming John remains in the same tax bracket and the accounts deliver the same return on investment, each account will generate the same spending money in retirement, after taxes are paid on the traditional IRA. If John drops into a lower tax bracket after his retirement, the traditional IRA would have been the better bet. But if John's taxes rise, the Roth IRA proves to be the better option.

Guessing your future tax rates is nearly impossible. Traditionally, it was thought your tax rate in retirement would be less than when you were working, but this is increasingly not the case. Tax rates are not adjusted for inflation, so many retired couples continue to creep into higher tax brackets.

Also, tax rates are at a historic low and likely to rise if the political winds change.

If you expect to see your tax bracket increase significantly -- from say, 15 percent to 25 percent -- you will likely benefit from a Roth conversion. This is true for younger workers and also for new retirees. In the early retirement years, many couples dip into a lower tax bracket just after retirement but before Social Security checks start arriving."

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