William Reichenstein , CFA, holds the Pat and Thomas R. Powers Chair in Investment Management at Baylor University and is head of research at Social Security Solutions, Inc .
Alicia Waltenberger is an estate and tax planning attorney and wealth planning specialist at TIAA-CREF. awaltenberger@tiaa-cref.org.
Douglas Rothermich is an estate and tax planning attorney and vice president, wealth planning strategies, at TIAA-CREF. drothermich@tiaa-cref.org.


Discussion

John from AL posted over 3 years ago:

Is it true that future gains in a Roth are also tax-exempt? If so, why was this not mentioned as a factor to consider in the article? Assuming a 10% annual return and being 20 yrs from retirement, the taxable amount could be over 400% higher if not converted. Wouldn't this then reduce the total tax burden by 75% if converted?
Thanks!


Marie from NY posted over 3 years ago:

Yes, gains are also tax exempt. That's why they say the longer you leave money in a Roth IRA, the more advantageous it is. There is a break-even point, and after that, the advantage grows as the gains grow.


Don from TX posted over 3 years ago:

If you take the conversion in 2010 and then apply the conversion 50/50 over 2011 and 2012 what paperwork is required by the IRS on your filing on the 2010 returns and likewise on the 2011 and 2012? Diluting the conversion income over 2011 and 2012 should make for a better tax senario shouldn't it (all things remaining equal hopefully...)


Philip from OH posted over 3 years ago:

John,

Yes, it's true that the gains in the Roth are exempt. However, in practice that's not really a difference between the Roth and the Traditional IRA. To illustrate, consider the following example (using round numbers for simplicity).

Suppose that someone 10 years from retirement, has $10,000 to invest, their tax rate is 25%, and you're trying to decide between a Roth and a traditional IRA. Also, assume that their tax rate will be 25% when they withdraw the money in 10 years. Now assume that over that 10 year period their IRA investment grows to 3x its original size.

If they invest in a Roth, they will pay $2500 in taxes this year, so they will have $7500 left to invest in the Roth. At the end of 10 years, this will have grown 3x and will be worth $22,500, which they can withdraw tax-free.

If they invest in a traditional IRA, they will pay no taxes this year, so they can invest the whole $10,000. After 10 years it will have grown 3x to $30,000. At withdrawal, they will pay 25% tax, so they will net 75% of $30,000, which is $22,500--same as the Roth.

Net: As the article points out, the critical decision factor is whether the tax rate is higher or lower now vs. at withdrawal. The fact that earnings are tax-free is a wash.


David from IN posted over 3 years ago:

The recommendation to keep five funds of $5,000 in separate Roth accounts reminds me of grandma's budget-keeping with envelopes of cash for each of the utility companies. If there are five funds i want to bet on over a period of a potential recharacterization and i leave dividends reinvested in each of the five, the bookkeeping doesn't sound too complex. Is there some other complexity?


Eric from OH posted over 2 years ago:

In the example used in the last paragraph preceding the Conclusion, it states that the $6000 would be considered as part of the $30,000 in traditional IRAs (including $6000 non-deductable contribution for 2009). This would result in the following, "So, the $6,000 withdrawal in early 2010 would be considered $1,200 or 20% tax-free return of principal and $4,800 taxable."

Based on the above, are the $24,000 in the traditional IRA (excluding the 2009 $6,000 contribution) composed of contributions only or contributions and returns?

For example, if the $24,000 was represented by a prior period $4,000 deducted contribution, $6,000 nondeducted contribution and $14,000 of gains on the contributed, $10,000, how would the taxed be calculated?

Will taxes be due on $18,000 of the $24,000 or some other amount? If some other amount, how would this amount be calculated?

Thank you in advance,


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