Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

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john0608
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Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

what is the 'sweet spot' for roth conversions post retirement but pre-rmd?

for instance if your income from non IRA investments is $30k - up to what income level should you convert IRA to Roth IRA?

i am planning to convert in phases beginning next year but can't get a straight answer regarding what income tax 'band' to stay below. I am assuming you can't convert $200K per year due to tax implications - (the tax on $200k has to be paid from somewhere).

not sure i fully understand the 5 year rule - once you convert you cannot withdraw earnings or principle for 5 years?

and is it true the mostly main benefit of converting to roth is to leave heirs a nice tax free bundle of joy down the road?

also - do you think its always best to wait till 70 for full SS? wondering if its better just to take full SS at 66 ......the diff being negligible since the tipping point is in your early 80's......i almost think the extra money would not really be noticeable but not sure....

any recommendations or experiences to share?
Admiral
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Admiral »

john0608 wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:52 am what is the 'sweet spot' for roth conversions post retirement but pre-rmd?

for instance if your income from non IRA investments is $30k - up to what income level should you convert IRA to Roth IRA?

i am planning to convert in phases beginning next year but can't get a straight answer regarding what income tax 'band' to stay below. I am assuming you can't convert $200K per year due to tax implications - (the tax on $200k has to be paid from somewhere).

not sure i fully understand the 5 year rule - once you convert you cannot withdraw earnings or principle for 5 years?

and is it true the mostly main benefit of converting to roth is to leave heirs a nice tax free bundle of joy down the road?

also - do you think its always best to wait till 70 for full SS? wondering if its better just to take full SS at 66 ......the diff being negligible since the tipping point is in your early 80's......i almost think the extra money would not really be noticeable but not sure....

any recommendations or experiences to share?
Here's a better explanation than I could give on the five year rule(s):

https://www.kitces.com/blog/understandi ... nversions/

You have many related questions. We can't know about delaying SS w/o a full picture of your finances. (In general terms, the advice is to delay if you can afford to do so. But, that is VERY general.)

In terms of a "ceiling" for conversions, the answer is "it depends." In general, if RMDs from a pre-tax account are going to push you into a higher marginal tax bracket, then you can pay less tax by converting to Roth at a lower marginal bracket. Without actual numbers we can't give a more accurate answer.

But, for example, if a $80k RMD at 72 is going to mean you're paying 24% tax due to two SS payments, and you have enough space to covert $100k @ 22% before SS, then it can be beneficial. (This is one good reason to delay SS, because it leaves the lower brackets with more room.) It gets much more complicated because of the way SS is taxed, so that is also a factor.

The other benefit, of course, is to heirs.

I recommend you spend some time using i-ORP (Google it) and Retiree Portfolio Model (available on Bhs)
HeelaMonster
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by HeelaMonster »

As Admiral said, the answer will depend on your personal circumstances, and will not be the same for all. Those circumstances include other sources of income, current vs future tax rates, size of eventual RMDs, etc, etc.

For my (our) personal circumstances, the "sweet spot" (cutoff) is to stay below $170k in taxable income. This is intended to accomplish two things: (1) Keep us in the 22% bracket (MFJ), and (2) avoid the IRMAA penalty for medicare (based on MAGI two years prior, on a rolling basis).

YMMV. But there are people here who can help you understand how much "your mileage may vary," with more details.
nbseer
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by nbseer »

I've been converting $50,000/year from pre-tax IRA to my Roth for the last few years (I'm 68 and am taking SS which pays for the tax on the conversions). Taking advantage of the current low tax rates, and before my RMDs start along with a pension I have delayed taking. Rather than leave the Roth to my kids (they'll get enough from the pre-tax IRA), I use the Roth money as an emergency fund, or take a few thousand out a year to supplement my SS income. It's tax free to withdraw.
Dinosaur Dad
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Dinosaur Dad »

this is really a question with a different answer for each individual.

I've been looking at various conversion scenarios using Pralana software I purchased this year. I'm considering some significant conversions (e.g. 50-75% of my pretax IRA) between ages 65 and 72 (I'm 64 in July). Based on what I'm seeing, I can smooth out my marginal tax bracket over time and avoid going into higher tax brackets later by moving the money now. In some scenarios, at age 90 I have the same inflation-adjusted total, but because most is in Roth it has a longer term benefit for my son when he inherits...assuming there's money leftover....since it will be tax free. The SECURE act has influenced my thinking on that issue.
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Big Dog
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Big Dog »

HeelaMonster wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:43 pm As Admiral said, the answer will depend on your personal circumstances, and will not be the same for all. Those circumstances include other sources of income, current vs future tax rates, size of eventual RMDs, etc, etc.

For my (our) personal circumstances, the "sweet spot" (cutoff) is to stay below $170k in taxable income. This is intended to accomplish two things: (1) Keep us in the 22% bracket (MFJ), and (2) avoid the IRMAA penalty for medicare (based on MAGI two years prior, on a rolling basis).
Ditto.
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john0608
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

great info -

i am turning 64 in june retiring in july - wife is 60 and will have moderate income for a couple more years till she retires at 63.
we still will be able to covert approx $75K to roth annually and stay below $170
currently holding little over $2m in IRA plus $2m in non-IRA so in 8 yrs RMDs could be large without some roth activity.
HeelaMonster
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by HeelaMonster »

john0608 wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 3:56 pm currently holding little over $2m in IRA plus $2m in non-IRA so in 8 yrs RMDs could be large without some roth activity.
John,

Just to be clear, does the "...$2m in non-IRA..." mean $2m in taxable accounts, or $2m in tax-advantaged accounts other than IRA (e.g., 401k or 403b)? In either case, $2m in IRA will generate some sizeable RMDS, even more with continued growth over 8 years, and even STILL more if that second $2m is also tax-deferred. You do seem to be a candidate for Roth conversions, during what some call the "Golden Window" between retirement and age 70.
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Eagle33
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Eagle33 »

John,

You should also factor in the Medicare premium increases when crossing the various IRMAA thresholds and the 2-year look back that is used by Medicare.
Rocket science is not “rocket science” to a rocket scientist, just as personal finance is not “rocket science” to a Boglehead.
DSInvestor
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by DSInvestor »

john0608 wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 3:56 pm great info -

i am turning 64 in june retiring in july - wife is 60 and will have moderate income for a couple more years till she retires at 63.
we still will be able to covert approx $75K to roth annually and stay below $170
currently holding little over $2m in IRA plus $2m in non-IRA so in 8 yrs RMDs could be large without some roth activity.
Are you expecting to buy your health insurance through the healthcare exchange once you are both retired to get the premium tax credit? Roth conversion could cause you to lose a very valuable premium tax credit ($10-20+K). Run your numbers carefully with tax software.
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john0608
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

more details
- current portfolio is $2M (taxable) plus $2.3M (traditional IRA) - both split 70-30 (equity funds-fixed) with fixed portion split 50/50 bond funds/CDs

it is a bit confusing to understand cutoff rules and levels of conversions and lookbacks - this forum is very helpful. I will look for tax software or links for more information - i find that doing my own research is more thorough than paying advisors.....

in the past 3 months i have had fairly detailed free investment planning meetings with Vanguard, Fidelity, Personal Capital, PlanVision(only one i paid for $96), Rick Ferri (30 min), Alan Roth (30 min)......mostly they have interesting but somewhat cookie cutter answers but don't get into the details i am hearing now. mostly they just validated my overall philosophy, said i was in good shape, said i should be in international funds (I am not nor do i plan to be anytime soon)

when i retire this mid-year at 64 i was planning to use wifes health insurance from 64 to 65 and then go to medicare. however if she works till i am 67 i am thinking i would be better to register for medicare but stay on her private insurance till she retires at age 63.
- at that time i would go to medicare at age 67.5 - also will need a part b and part c policy i assume.
- she would need private insurance for 2 years until age 65
heyyou
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by heyyou »

planning to convert in phases beginning next year but can't get a straight answer regarding what income tax 'band' to stay below
Pay your tax person to run some annual numbers for you, after their late April vacation is over.

The first conversions seemed complicated but they became easier with more experience. Your tax person cannot advise someone to pay extra tax early, you have to initiate the idea to them.
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Eagle33
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Eagle33 »

john0608 wrote: Sat Feb 22, 2020 7:58 am when i retire this mid-year at 64 i was planning to use wifes health insurance from 64 to 65 and then go to medicare. however if she works till i am 67 i am thinking i would be better to register for medicare but stay on her private insurance till she retires at age 63.
- at that time i would go to medicare at age 67.5 - also will need a part b and part c policy i assume.
- she would need private insurance for 2 years until age 65
You need to to get up to speed on the facts and myths regarding Medicare. I am the same age as you and finding the information the current book "The Traps Within Medicare" I am reading very informative.

Also visit your local SHIP representative or at least one of their presentations for a more unbiased explanation of Medicare options.
Rocket science is not “rocket science” to a rocket scientist, just as personal finance is not “rocket science” to a Boglehead.
ralph124cf
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by ralph124cf »

Most company medical insurance requires anybody over 65 start Medicare, and then the company medical insurance becomes the secondary insurance for what Medicare does not cover. Your's might be different, but check very carefully, as mistakes can have long term financial consequences.

Ralph
TheRealJohnDoe
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by TheRealJohnDoe »

ralph124cf wrote: Sat Feb 22, 2020 3:21 pm Most company medical insurance requires anybody over 65 start Medicare, and then the company medical insurance becomes the secondary insurance for what Medicare does not cover
Not accurate unless you are only considering companies with fewer than 20 employees. Employers with 20 or more employees are generally primary to Medicare. [Source: https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-ot ... -insurance]
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by ochotona »

HeelaMonster wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:43 pm For my (our) personal circumstances, the "sweet spot" (cutoff) is to stay below $170k in taxable income. This is intended to accomplish two things: (1) Keep us in the 22% bracket (MFJ), and (2) avoid the IRMAA penalty for medicare (based on MAGI two years prior, on a rolling basis).
I totally agree with the above. You don't want to get your Medicare premium raised. You want to fill that 22% bracket, but not go into the next one. And you want space to make new Roth contributions, too. You have to worry about IRMAA two tax years before you are Medicare eligible. I'm Medicare eligible in mid-2026, therefore I'm going to try to pare down my taxable income beginning in tax year 2024.
Peter W., MBA, CRPC
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Horsefly »

ochotona wrote: Sat Feb 22, 2020 4:18 pm
HeelaMonster wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:43 pm For my (our) personal circumstances, the "sweet spot" (cutoff) is to stay below $170k in taxable income. This is intended to accomplish two things: (1) Keep us in the 22% bracket (MFJ), and (2) avoid the IRMAA penalty for medicare (based on MAGI two years prior, on a rolling basis).
I totally agree with the above. You don't want to get your Medicare premium raised. You want to fill that 22% bracket, but not go into the next one. And you want space to make new Roth contributions, too. You have to worry about IRMAA two tax years before you are Medicare eligible. I'm Medicare eligible in mid-2026, therefore I'm going to try to pare down my taxable income beginning in tax year 2024.
I think this still varies by the individual circumstances. We only had about about $30K of space in the 22% bracket, with way too much in tax deferred. Since taxes are right now "on sale" (the 24% bracket is very wide, and only 2% higher), we're doing pretty big Roth conversions for the next few years, pushing us into the 24% bracket. DW and I are 62/61, so we'll have to evaluate the IRMAA impacts after this years conversion (which again will be a big one).
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FiveK
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by FiveK »

john0608 wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:52 am what is the 'sweet spot' for roth conversions post retirement but pre-rmd?
Depends in part on what you expect for marginal tax rates post-rmd.

You could see a marginal rate chart for tIRA withdrawals (converted to Roth or not) for your current situation using the personal finance toolbox Excel spreadsheet, and compare that with what you expect (perhaps by using the same tool) when RMDs start (by which time you will also be taking SS).

See Calculating marginal tax rate (both for now and future) for more details.
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john0608
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

ochotona wrote: Sat Feb 22, 2020 4:18 pm
HeelaMonster wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 12:43 pm For my (our) personal circumstances, the "sweet spot" (cutoff) is to stay below $170k in taxable income. This is intended to accomplish two things: (1) Keep us in the 22% bracket (MFJ), and (2) avoid the IRMAA penalty for medicare (based on MAGI two years prior, on a rolling basis).
I totally agree with the above. You don't want to get your Medicare premium raised. You want to fill that 22% bracket, but not go into the next one. And you want space to make new Roth contributions, too. You have to worry about IRMAA two tax years before you are Medicare eligible. I'm Medicare eligible in mid-2026, therefore I'm going to try to pare down my taxable income beginning in tax year 2024.
since i will be 64 this year - it may be too late to impact first couple years of medicaid
for 2018 - taxable income was $233k - for 2019 it will be $250k - for 2020 it will prob be $175 - for 2021 (year i turn 65) it will be ~$170k(with anticipated roth conversions)
retiredjg
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by retiredjg »

Medicare, not Medicaid. Not the same thing. :happy

It may not be "too late". If you have a life change such as retirement, you can appeal your Medicare premium and ask that it be based on your expected income, not the income when you were working.
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john0608
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

retiredjg wrote: Sun Feb 23, 2020 9:07 am Medicare, not Medicaid. Not the same thing. :happy

It may not be "too late". If you have a life change such as retirement, you can appeal your Medicare premium and ask that it be based on your expected income, not the income when you were working.
yep....i am aware and thanks for pointing that out and also for the appeal tip.
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john0608
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by john0608 »

checking back in - haven't been on for a while - back during the early covid days i was posting not to panic but some on bogleheads swore covid was the big meltdown no doubt about it, sell everything, interesting to read them now....., didn't quite turn out to be Armageddon.

anyway i am 65.5 - retiring end of this year - wife 62 -
- portfolio little over $5m - 65% of that is traditional IRA - we have no Roth IRAs
next years income will be about $75k - she will prob retire end of next year
i will start taking SS full benefit Oct 2022 maybe - seems like i should just wait till 70 with my roth conversion strategy below?

I was doing some tax modeling with a tax guy (from PlanVision) -
- he says when RMD hit in 7 years then for both at 10 years - no roth will cost me $200K to $300K because we will be in the 24% bracket.
- he says begin to convert in 2022 up to the 22% cap ($170K)
- so that means convert approx $80k in 2022 - then convert up to approx $130K in 2023 thru 2028 (when i turn 72) then RMD's hit me in 2029
- so i have to add up all the yearly tax bills for 7 years = year by year and compare to expected spending year by year
- also need to figure in Medicare and IRMA level impact - but the IRMA doesn't seem to big of a penalty.

any comments or advice on any of the above would be welcome - thanks bogleheads
BigJohn
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by BigJohn »

My strategy is to convert the amount required to keep my taxable income about level with what I expect it to be after RMDs and SS kick in. I update for actual performance and tax la changes every year and tweak the amount near year end as necessary.
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retire2022
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by retire2022 »

john0608 wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 5:23 pm checking back in - haven't been on for a while - back during the early covid days i was posting not to panic but some on bogleheads swore covid was the big meltdown no doubt about it, sell everything, interesting to read them now....., didn't quite turn out to be Armageddon.

any comments or advice on any of the above would be welcome - thanks bogleheads
Here is tax form estimator for modeling, pick the one for your state:

https://www.taxformcalculator.com/state-tax

here is the one from AARP

https://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/1040_t ... lator.html

I have just retired at 61, and attempting to model my tax obligation for this year, expect two pension check which amounts may change to either Roth Convert or withdraw remaining 24% tax bracket for single filers.

What I plan to do annually depending on my pretax balance, is sell some gains, or wait for a correction and use some pretax cash 220k to convert to Roth or withdraw to pay for living expenses and lifestyle.
smitcat
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by smitcat »

john0608 wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 5:23 pm checking back in - haven't been on for a while - back during the early covid days i was posting not to panic but some on bogleheads swore covid was the big meltdown no doubt about it, sell everything, interesting to read them now....., didn't quite turn out to be Armageddon.

anyway i am 65.5 - retiring end of this year - wife 62 -
- portfolio little over $5m - 65% of that is traditional IRA - we have no Roth IRAs
next years income will be about $75k - she will prob retire end of next year
i will start taking SS full benefit Oct 2022 maybe - seems like i should just wait till 70 with my roth conversion strategy below?

I was doing some tax modeling with a tax guy (from PlanVision) -
- he says when RMD hit in 7 years then for both at 10 years - no roth will cost me $200K to $300K because we will be in the 24% bracket.
- he says begin to convert in 2022 up to the 22% cap ($170K)
- so that means convert approx $80k in 2022 - then convert up to approx $130K in 2023 thru 2028 (when i turn 72) then RMD's hit me in 2029
- so i have to add up all the yearly tax bills for 7 years = year by year and compare to expected spending year by year
- also need to figure in Medicare and IRMA level impact - but the IRMA doesn't seem to big of a penalty.

any comments or advice on any of the above would be welcome - thanks bogleheads

This was posted above last year...
"more details
- current portfolio is $2M (taxable) plus $2.3M (traditional IRA) - both split 70-30 (equity funds-fixed) with fixed portion split 50/50 bond funds/CDs"

If you have not done so already try and move most or all of your fixed income investments to the 401K accounts to relieve them of as much growth as possible. Hold your equity in your taxable accounts and try to choose funds with low divs/gains.
The IRMA can be a very big penalty if you just barely pass the next IRMA level as the penalty will apply in full even if you are over by $1. If you have two people of the same age affected by IRMA the penalties in parts A & D do add up.
JohnDoh
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by JohnDoh »

john0608 wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:52 am what is the 'sweet spot' for roth conversions post retirement but pre-rmd?

for instance if your income from non IRA investments is $30k - up to what income level should you convert IRA to Roth IRA?

i am planning to convert in phases beginning next year but can't get a straight answer regarding what income tax 'band' to stay below. I am assuming you can't convert $200K per year due to tax implications - (the tax on $200k has to be paid from somewhere).

not sure i fully understand the 5 year rule - once you convert you cannot withdraw earnings or principle for 5 years?

and is it true the mostly main benefit of converting to roth is to leave heirs a nice tax free bundle of joy down the road?

also - do you think its always best to wait till 70 for full SS? wondering if its better just to take full SS at 66 ......the diff being negligible since the tipping point is in your early 80's......i almost think the extra money would not really be noticeable but not sure....

any recommendations or experiences to share?
In general, I highly recommend this really excellent 24 Sep 2021 Bogleheads Chapter Series presentation by Wade Pfau:

Investing for Distribution in Retirement is Different from Accumulation

It's perhaps at a higher level than what you are specifically asking but quite pertinent (especially the second half) I think from a strategy perspective. I found it very helpful in doing my pre-retirement planning.

Good luck.
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Mullins
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Re: Roth Conversions - income levels/tax % levels - is there a cutoff rule?

Post by Mullins »

Everyone's details are different but it may be smart converting up to the top of the bracket you're in. That's almost a no-brainer, given that tax rates are due to sunset and go back to slightly larger rates. Do some years of those to bring down your future RMDs.

The 5 year conversion rule doesn't apply to ages over 59.5. It's just that most people writing on that topic are writing to people younger than that and so they tend to not mention it. I think.

There is a tax free benefit to beneficiaries regarding inherited Roths, and also consider that if the funds stayed in a traditional IRA, inheriting that sum may be a tax burden. So, that's a plus for converting. But I'd say the main benefit is compounded tax free growth and totally tax free withdrawals later on in your life for YOU. Withdrawals that will also not impact your other income as to increase taxes.

Yes and no on waiting until you're 70 to start SS - aside from considering the needs and tax situation of the surviving spouse which is one reason people delay taking benefits, yes, you get a larger benefit, but hey, that also increases your provisional income, which makes more of that SS taxable, which also may push up your cap gains tax bracket... everything affects something.

As I wrote above, everyone's details are different, so I think you do have to run the numbers out into the future with several "what if?" scenarios.
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