Should I move all my money from a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA?

I'll be 62 this year and receiving my pension of $1500 per month due to being retired after my job closed down, and I'm now working out of my home doing child care making between $480-$560 per month. I'm afraid that the cost of managed service with fidelity at $280 quarterly, is costing me more then the growth of my money now at a low of $87,148.00. My mortgage is $67,000.00 & I also have a $31,000.00 annuity with another company.. Also I have regular savings from another bank at about $250.00 and my monthly expenses are covered by my pension. I also plan to apply for Social Security at 62.

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Answered by Steve Stanganelli , CFP®, CRPC® in Amesbury, MA
Because you have a whole lot of moving pieces, I strongly suggest that you consider consulting with a planner, preferably a fiduciary like a CFP(r) professional and someone skilled at retirement planning issues.

But let me see if I can provide some insight here.

In your original question, you mention converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. First, a little background. In a traditional IRA, you pay taxes on the money you withdraw because it was funded with before-tax money (from IRA contributions or 401k employee deferrals). In a Roth IRA, you get to make your withdrawals and not pay any tax on the distributions. Another nice feature is that you are not required to take minimum distributions (called RMDs) like you are with a traditional IRA.

But in order to make this conversion, you will need to pay the tax man his due before you get these benefits. And the question is, Where will the money come from to pay the income taxes due at the time of conversion? Let's take a back-of-the-envelope calculation here. If you're in a low tax bracket (let's say marginal rate of 10%), you may need to come up with $8,700 more or less for federal taxes plus possible state income taxes.

You might consider using the principal in your IRA to pay for this. But that sort of defeats the purpose.of doing the conversion. Your remaining investment has to work harder to get back to where it was before the conversion just to break even with the 'cost' of the taxes.

You'd be better off using funds from outside the IRA to pay the taxes. But if you did have such funds, I would be concerned with whether or not this drains your emergency cash reserve.

One of the reasons that folks opt for Roth IRAs is that you can get 'tax diversification'. There's an assumption that many who retire will be in lower tax brackets after retiring than they were in before. But folks may also be rightly concerned that in order to close the gap on persistent budget deficits, Congress may choose to raise tax rates even on those in retirement. So a Roth is one way to cover your bases and lock in lower tax rates now. You're making a bet that tax rates in the future for your bracket and situation may be higher so you pay a little now to avoid paying more later.

But given what you've described in your question, you're not in a high tax bracket now.

And you mentioned that you're planning on taking your Social Security benefit now at age 62. If you opt to take your benefits early, you're leaving a big chunk of cash on the table. For every year before your Full Retirement Age (which is probably 66), your benefit is 8% lower ... per year. So you're locking your future benefits in at a lower rate ... in your case probably about 1/3 less per year for life.

(Let's not discount the impact of inflation on your other expenses and the fact that you can get a Cost of Living Increase on your Social Security benefits starting at a higher base if you wait).

If your expenses are already covered by your pension and you have self-employment income and this additional amount of $250 per month from the bank (not sure what that is though), you're better off holding out and not claiming Social Security. At the very least, you should get educated about your options. You can find some of this available through the Social Security website or www.MySSA.gov.

One other issue to consider is the potential for having Social Security benefits withheld. If you're claiming before your full retirement age (and at age 62 you are), you will have $1 in benefits reduced for every $2 in income you earn above certain limits (used to be $14,160/year).

As to the issue about the cost of managed services through Fidelity, I believe that may be the least of your issues. The cost works out to be about 1.25% per year which is rather reasonable for what it is. You're paying Fidelity to choose the investments and rebalance them periodically. Research indicates that 90%+ of the success of a portfolio is explained by the asset allocation and rebalancing decision. And most consumers will not likely do this on their own.

Now, you may not be getting "growth" of your money depending on what Fidelity is including in your investment mix. And that mix is based on your personal situation and risk profile. If you haven't updated your risk profile with Fidelity, they may be investing for you in a way that is not appropriate for your age, risk tolerance, goals and changed income situation. So you should start with a call to their client service line to update this and see if this affects the portfolio they choose for you. My guess is that it will.

Your alternative is to find a different lower-cost provider. There are a number of automated investing service platforms that offer globally-diversified portfolios that are automatically rebalanced for costs anywhere from 0.25% to 0.75% per year. Even some advisors (like myself) use such services for clients saving them easily 40% per year in expenses.

So how and where you're invested is probably more important and impactful to you than whether you retain a traditional IRA or convert to a Roth IRA.



| 08.18.15 @ 19:49
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 12.04.16 @ 16:41
Answered by Steve Stanganelli , CFP®, CRPC® in Amesbury, MA
Instead of taking Social Security early - which permanently reduces your lifetime benefits - you may want to delay until at least your Full Retirement Age and in the meantime improve your cash flow with a government-insured Reverse Mortgage. With a Reverse Mortgage you can cash out to pay off your existing loan but not be required to make any payments. This will reduce your cash outflow each month. And there is no tax impact for tapping a Reverse Mortgage. | 08.20.15 @ 19:08
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 12.04.16 @ 16:41
Answered by Larry Gilmore, Insurance Agent in Marysville, WA
Trying to find why the desire to go Roth here and I can't see a compelling argument to make that kind of move. To move to a Roth you have to take your fidelity balance as income in the year you do it, so you would pay taxes on those funds, so you'd be starting behind.

A suggestion might be to look at using your fidelity money for current income and holding off on SS for a bit longer. There is a difference in what you get at 62 and 65. So see what the fidelity account would swing to you on a monthly basis. They may offer immediate annuities that will provide you a lifetime income stream.

But actually moving to a Roth really doesn't make sense for what you're talking about. | 06.29.16 @ 18:26
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 12.04.16 @ 16:41
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