The Pros and Cons of Converting to a Roth IRA

Converting a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) to a Roth IRA may appeal to some investors because they have no withdrawal requirements – withdrawals from them are tax-free. But Roth IRAs aren’t for everyone.

First, the reason for converting may be flawed. Many investors want to convert to a Roth IRA because they anticipate higher U.S. tax rates, but regardless of the tax rates, most people fall into a lower tax bracket when they retire.

Second, the tax bite may hurt. Investors converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA have to pay income tax on any money they move.

Third, it can take 15 to 20 years for the tax-free growth of a Roth IRA to make up for the taxes paid at the time of conversion. Many investors interested in converting don’t have that much time until retirement, when they’ll start taking withdrawals.

Finally, converting can put you in a higher tax bracket right now – and the impact can be far-reaching. The money converted to a Roth IRA from a traditional IRA is considered income from a tax perspective, so if you aren’t already in the highest bracket, converting could increase your tax rate.

That, in turn, could have many implications. For example, if you’re collecting Social Security benefits, the rise in income could force you to pay taxes on those benefits.

Or if you have a child applying for college financial aid, that aid could be reduced.

Roth IRAs can be compelling investment options for many investors.

Your financial advisor can help you determine if a conversion is right for you.

The tax information in this article is merely a summary of our understanding and interpretation of some of the current laws and regulations and is not exhaustive.

Investors should consult their tax advisor for advice and information concerning their particular circumstances.

What You Should Know About Your 401(k)

The market downturn left many investors wary of putting money into 401(k) investments. Such investments fell to $50.5 million in 2010, compared to $60.6 million in 2007.

Following are some things to consider when putting money back into a 401(k) plan:

•    Most 401(k) providers get a cut of the expense ratio on the funds in which you invest, and it is often difficult for you to know exactly what fees the 401(k) plan is charging.

•    When you leave your job, you may have to pay to keep your 401(k) plan at your old company. Some employers pay the fee to administer your plan while you work for them, but they pull the plug once you are off the payroll.

•    Your fund choices may be poorer than you think. Average 401(k) investors have 18 fund options, according to the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, but they may not be the optimal fund options. Ideally, a 401(k) plan should offer a handful of  “core” funds, like a money market fund as well as bond index, domestic equity index and international equity index funds.

If you aren’t happy with your plan, you may be able to transfer your 401(k) assets to an individual retirement account (IRA). Your financial advisor can help you determine if you are eligible for such a transfer.