5 Roth IRA Facts That May Surprise You

By Sarah Brenner, JD
IRA Analyst
Follow Us on Twitter: @theslottreport
Do you think you understand all the rules that govern your Roth IRA? Not so fast! There are many misconceptions as to how these complicated accounts work. Here are 5 Roth IRA facts that might surprise you:

1. You are never too old to contribute. If you have earned income and your modified adjusted gross income is below a certain level, you can contribute to a Roth IRA. Your age does not matter. This often comes as a surprise to taxpayers because you cannot contribute to a traditional IRA once you reach the year you turn 70 ½. Roth IRAs are different. Age is never a barrier to making tax year contributions.

2.Your participation in an employer plan does not prevent you from making a Roth IRA contribution. Do you have a 401(k) at work? If you are concerned that participation in your employer plan makes you ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, don’t be! You can max out both. But what if your employer plan is Roth 401(k) plan? No worries! You can fully fund a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA for the same year.

3. Almost anyone with a traditional IRA can convert it to a Roth IRA. There used to be restrictions on conversions due to income or tax filing status. These restrictions went away back in 2010, opening the door to conversion for almost any taxpayer who owns a traditional IRA. The only exception would be traditional IRA beneficiaries. Unfortunately, conversion is not available for those beneficiaries.

If you haven’t converted, this might be the year for you to make that move. You will want to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable tax or financial advisor. Just because everyone with a traditional IRA can convert, does not mean that they should. Conversion is not one size fits all.

4. You can always access your contributions tax and penalty free. Are you avoiding contributing to a Roth IRA because you are worried you might need that money? Don’t let this fear stop you from making that Roth IRA contribution. Your tax year Roth IRA contributions are always available to you tax and penalty free regardless of your age and what you intend to do with the money. More good news is that the rules for Roth IRA distributions are very taxpayer friendly. Your contributions are not only always accessible tax and penalty free, they are also considered to be the first money distributed from your Roth IRA.

5. You don’t ever have to take distributions from your Roth IRA, but your beneficiaries do. During your lifetime, distributions are never required from your Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are not subject to the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules that apply to traditional IRAs while you are alive. Your money can grow tax-free for your entire lifetime. Your beneficiaries will have to take RMDs from the inherited Roth IRA. That is the bad news. However, the good news is that these distributions will almost always be tax and penalty free.


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