A Roth IRA allows you to save tax deferred money like a regular IRA, and withdraw money tax free. The catch is that instead of paying taxes when you are retired and withdrawing money, you pay tax before you make your contribution.

Besides tax free withdrawals, one of the best features of a Roth IRA is that there is NO required minimum distribution (RMD) at age 70 ½. This works great for extending the life of your nest egg, which is crucial in down years like 2008, when many IRA owners age 70 ½ would rather let their portfolios recover. Lower IRA values after the 2008 recession is partially why Congress passed a law allowing retirees to skip their required minimum distribution last year.

Because of the benefits, Congress limits those who can have a Roth IRA. If your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is above $120,000 (single) or $176,000 (married), under most circumstances, you cannot benefit from a Roth. If your MAGI is below these figures you can make up to a $5,000 contribution to a Roth in 2010 ($6,000 if you are over age 50).

When does a Roth make sense?

1.    You don’t want to be forced to take required minimum distributions at 70 ½.
2.    You will be in a higher tax bracket during retirement
3.    You think tax rates will increase

There are other times a Roth IRA makes sense, but these are a few of the main reasons. Some other questions you may have are:

· If I make 401k contributions, can I still make Roth contributions? Yes. You can make Roth IRA AND 401k contributions as long as your MAGI is below the limits discussed above.

· How can I get a Roth IRA if my MAGI is too high? In 2010 Congress is giving us a gift. They are allowing anyone with an IRA, regardless of income, to convert to a Roth IRAs. The catch is that you have to pay ordinary income tax on the converted money. Fortunately, the provisions in the law allows you to spread the tax due over your 2011 and 2012 tax bill. For some this may allow you to stay in the same tax bracket, assuming tax brackets aren’t raised.

Example: Jean has $100,000 in her IRA. She is in the 25% tax bracket, but expects to be in the 28% bracket when she retires in 10 years. She is planning on being retired for 30 years. My analysis shows that if she converts now, she’ll owe $25,000 in taxes, but will increase her total value of after tax distributions by $83,622.

This is an overly simplistic example, but it illustrates the point that Roth IRAs can save you money on tax in the long run depending on your situation. You may even be able to convert 401ks or 403bs with past employers to Roth IRAs as long as they are rolled into a traditional IRA and converted to a Roth before the end of the year. Also remember that this analysis is based on variables that may change over time. There is no guarantee you will benefit.

In summary, Roth IRAs are retirement accounts where you pay no income tax on withdrawals. This year, investors who were previously unable to get access to Roth IRAs, have the ability to convert their current IRA to a Roth regardless of income.

Rich Feight, CFP
Rich Feight, CFP

Hi, I'm Rich Feight I'm a fee-only Certified Financial Planner, successful business owner, and self-made millionaire that knows how to beat the system and become wealthy. I have a lot of clients that have done it too. I'm also pretty good at finding that ever-elusive work/life balance so many of us strive for. Lucky for you I have an abundant mindset and give all my knowledge away on my blog. So if you want to know what it takes to become a millionaire, follow me.

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