Death of the Stretch IRA: Should You Convert Your IRA to a Roth IRA?

The SECURE Act killed the Stretch IRA. This could mean a nice tax bill for someone you care about. The big question that has come from this: “Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA?”

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Death of the Stretch IRA

In December, the federal government passed the SECURE Act. And one of the biggest provisions of that bill was the elimination of the Stretch IRA. This impacts non-spouse beneficiaries of your IRA, 401k or other retirement plan accounts. That means your kids, grandkids, etc. It doesn’t affect spouses.

Under the old rules, your kids could spread out the distributions from an inherited IRA over a long period of time. Now, your kids will have to liquidate those accounts within 10 years.

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Converting Your IRA to a Roth IRA

One strategy you can use to address this is to convert your IRA to Roth IRAs. This means you pay taxes on the amounts you convert now, and the money then grows tax-free. And when certain conditions are met, your kids won’t pay any taxes on their distributions.

Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA? The answer is very complicated and will be different for everyone. Here are the key considerations

1. Who Pays Higher Taxes?

Who has the higher tax rate? Converting your IRA to a Roth IRA means you pay the taxes. You have to understand who has the higher tax rate. If your tax bracket is the same as your kids, the conversion may not be worth it. But, if your kids pay taxes at a higher rate, the math changes.

State taxes also matter in this.  If your kids live in Florida where there is no state income tax, that needs to be considered.  Likewise if they live in a high-tax state—like New York—it changes the math.

2. Watch the Hidden Taxes

Pay attention to the hidden taxes? Converting your IRA could impact the taxes on your Social Security benefits. It could also trigger taxes on your Medicare premiums due to the income related adjustments. You’ll want to look at those elements too.

3. Can't Convert Your Required Minimum Distributions

If you are older than 72, you have to be careful. The rules won’t allow you to convert your required minimum distributions. You have to satisfy those before you convert.  This may make it more expensive than you think.

4. Know the Total Costs

Look at the total cost of your strategy. There are some complex strategies you can use to preserve some of the “stretch provisions.” They use some advanced trust planning. You have to weigh the cost of the trust, plus the tax costs of setting them up.

Should you convert your IRA to a Roth IRA? It’s a good question to ask and consider in your plans. But there are a lot of complexities. You should talk to a tax expert and a financial planner to help you look at all aspects.

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Financial Planning

About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors  He typically works with people who are planning for retirement.  Fleming Watson is a Registered Investment Advisory firm located in Marietta Ohio.  Our firm primarily serves Marietta, Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys, Belpre, Vienna and the surrounding communities in Washington and Noble Counties in Ohio and Wood and Pleasants county in West Virginia.

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