I’m sure that you’ve already heard the buzz at the water cooler about converting your IRA to a Roth IRA this year. Roth IRA’s are an important part of personal financial planning for many individuals. So what’s all the excitement about converting to a Roth IRA you ask?
When you convert part of your IRA or 401(k) to a Roth, you have to pay taxes now on the amount you convert. Many people feel that tax rates are likely to go higher in the future (especially since our tax rates today are the lowest we’ve seen in decades). Everyone knows about our government’s debt situation…it’s not good, not to mention social security and Medicare. To pay for all these things, they’re going to have to increase taxes at some point. So to pay your taxes now may end being a pretty good deal.
Paying taxes at a lower rate today may sound nice, but the real benefits of the Roth IRA conversion are long term. As you know, Roth IRA’s grow tax free. That means that when you eventually pull your money out of the Roth at some point down the road, you don’t have to pay any taxes on ANY of the earnings! This is especially attractive for younger individuals who have time to let the money grow and compound tax free. In general you need to plan on the money growing for about 10 years or longer before you plan to use it in order to benefit from paying the taxes now. The more tax rates go up in the future, the sooner you will “break even” so to speak, and come out ahead.
Out of Pocket, But Spread Out Over Two Years
When you convert part of your IRA or 401(k) to the Roth you have to pay the taxes out of your pocket. You cannot have the taxes taken out of your IRA account. This can limit the amount you may realistically be able to afford to convert. If you have savings in an after-tax account, you could use money from that to pay the taxes also. The best part is, you can spread that tax payment over the next 2 tax years! So you don’t have to pay them all this year, which helps.
A Higher Tax Bracket?
Be careful as to how much you convert. Not only do you have to pay the taxes on it out of pocket, but converting to the Roth could bump you into a higher tax bracket for this year. Whatever amount you convert will be added as taxable income to the rest of your taxable income for the year. So if you make $80,000 at your job, and you convert $20,000 to a Roth, your taxable income is now $100,000 for the year. Be sure to consult a tax professional before you make a conversion so that you don’t regret doing it later.
Here are the 2010 tax rates:
||Married Couples Filing Jointly
||Most Single Filers
|10%||Not over $16,750||Not over $8,375|
|15%||$16,750 – $68,000||$8,375 – $34,000|
|25%||$68,000 – $137,300||$34,000 – $82,400|
|28%||$137,300 – $209,250||$82,400 – $171,850|
|33%||$209,250 – $373,650||$171,850 – $373,650|
|35%||Over $373,650||Over $373,650|
Talk to your personal financial planner today to see if making a Roth IRA conversion might make sense for you in 2010.