taxes

With Taxes on Sale, Consider a Roth Conversion to Make the Most of Lower Rates

Judging whether you’re a good candidate for a Roth IRA conversion requires some thought, but if you answer yes to these three questions, it could be worth considering.

Financial professionals have long debated the pros and cons, timing and how-tos of converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.

Is it a good idea for you? Unfortunately, the short answer is, “It depends.” The longer answer involves predicting your income and income-tax bracket over many years — something that isn’t easy to do.

3 Questions to Assess Your Own Situation

You’d be wise to tap into the knowledge of your own tax and financial advisers, maybe even your estate attorney, to help you look at your personal situation. But you can start by asking yourself these questions:

If, like most people I talk to, your answer to all three questions is yes, then now may very well be the right time to explore converting some of your traditional IRA dollars to a Roth. Because, thanks to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxes are on sale.

No matter what you think about these tax reforms and what the long-range consequences will be for the country, the fact is that many people will pay less in taxes this year and until at least 2025. All the marginal tax brackets have been lowered except for couples and singles in the $400,000 range. And standard deduction amounts have increased to $12,000 for individuals, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and surviving spouses.

Fill Up Your Tax ‘Buckets’

Which means it’s time to take another look at your nest egg and how it’s built around the three tax “buckets” with taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free investments and savings.

If you’re like many savers, your tax-deferred bucket has been filling up slowly but surely over the years, as you’ve contributed regularly to a 401(k), 403(b) or some other workplace plan. And that’s great — except, depending on your future income, you could face weighty tax bills in the future, when you start withdrawals. Meanwhile, your tax-free bucket — which holds Roth accounts, most municipal bonds and properly structured cash-value life insurance — is likely lacking.

By converting some of the money in your tax-deferred bucket to your tax-free bucket, you can even things up. Yes, you’ll pay taxes now on the money you move, but with today’s lower tax rates, the bite might not be nearly as bad as it could be later. And in exchange, your Roth will give you tax-free growth and withdrawals going forward.

Final Thoughts

Your advisers may have preached before about eventually diversifying across all three tax buckets, but with these recent tax reforms, the concept takes on a bit of urgency. There are no limits on how much money you can move to a Roth IRA each year, but with careful planning you can avoid bumping yourself into the next tax bracket as you convert those savings. (Retirees also will want to be mindful about what extra withdrawals could do to the cost of Medicare.)

As a member of Ed Slott’s Master Elite IRA Advisor Group, I’m always trying to help people create tax-efficient strategies with their retirement income savings. Looking at a Roth conversion now is just one more way to do that. Take some time, do the math and see if it fits with your plan.

Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article.

Securities offered through Kalos Capital Inc. and Investment Advisory Services offered through Kalos Management Inc. Retirement Income Strategies is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Kalos Capita, Inc. or Kalos Management Inc.

Individuals should consult with a qualified professional for guidance before making any purchasing decisions.

  1. Do you think, between now and your death, tax rates will go higher?
  2. Do you expect the value of your retirement accounts to increase?
  3. If you had the opportunity to pay taxes on your retirement savings at a lower rate right now, would you grab it?

About the Author

Kristian L. Finfrock, Investment Adviser

Founder, Retirement Income Strategies

Kristian L. Finfrock is the founder of and a financial adviser at Retirement Income Strategies. He is an Investment Adviser Representative of Kalos Capital and a licensed insurance professional. He resides in Evansville, Wisconsin, with his two daughters.

The appearances in Kiplinger were obtained through a PR program. The columnist received assistance from a public relations firm in preparing this piece for submission to Kiplinger.com. Kiplinger was not compensated in any way.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom
commodities

7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom

These seven commodity stocks are poised to take advantage of a unique confluence of events. Just mind the volatility.
September 8, 2021
Stock Market Holidays in 2021
Markets

Stock Market Holidays in 2021

Is the stock market open today? Take a look at which days the NYSE, Nasdaq and bond markets take off in 2021.
September 2, 2021

Recommended

Child Tax Credit Payment Schedule for the Rest of 2021
Tax Breaks

Child Tax Credit Payment Schedule for the Rest of 2021

The IRS has already sent three batches of monthly child tax credit payments. Here's when you can expect the rest of your payments.
September 16, 2021
What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2021 vs. 2020?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2021 vs. 2020?

There are seven different federal income tax brackets for your 2021 tax return – each with its own marginal tax rate. Which bracket you end up in for …
September 14, 2021
When Are 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due?
tax deadline

When Are 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due?

If you're self-employed or don't have taxes withheld from other sources of taxable income, it's up to you to periodically pay the IRS by making estima…
September 14, 2021
The RMD Solution to the Hassle of Filing Estimated Taxes in Retirement
required minimum distributions (RMDs)

The RMD Solution to the Hassle of Filing Estimated Taxes in Retirement

If you don't need the money to live on, wait until December to take your RMD and ask the sponsor to withhold a big chunk for the IRS.
September 14, 2021