Search
line drawing document and pencil

File a claim

Need to file an insurance claim? We’ll make the process as supportive, simple and swift as possible.
Illustration of person sitting at laptop

Need advice?

The best financial guidance should focus on your personal goals and dreams. And that takes a personal connection.
Illustration of stairs and arrow pointing upward

Contact support

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Need to discuss a complex question? Let us know—we’re happy to help.
Use the search bar above to find information throughout our website. Or choose a topic you want to learn more about.
Insights & guidance
Retirement planning

Pros & cons: Roth IRA conversions

Senior grandfather and granddaughter preparing food indoors in kitchen.
A small girl with grandparent cooking, midsection.
Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

You might have heard someone talking about a Roth IRA conversion this time of year and wondered what it’s all about: What is a Roth IRA conversion, and should you consider converting your traditional IRA (or another qualified retirement plan) to a Roth?

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and your best bet is to talk to your financial advisor before making any big decisions. But this guide can outline a few of the pros and cons of Roth IRA conversion to help you get the conversation started.

Here are some good reasons to consider converting your IRA, and a few reasons not to. First up, we’ll cover what a Roth IRA conversion is.

What’s a Roth IRA conversion?

A Roth IRA conversion involves taking a tax-deferred retirement savings account, such as a traditional IRA or 401(k), and moving that money into a Roth IRA, an account that won’t be taxed again after you pay taxes on the amount you convert.1,2,3 Earnings can be withdrawn tax-free, but only if you are at least 59 ½ and have had the Roth IRA for five years or more.

(Have questions about IRAs? See our IRA guide.)

gold line

What are the pros of converting to a Roth IRA?

Roth IRA conversions have several advantages: portfolio diversification, alleviating concerns of future tax rates, keeping your current tax bracket, and having no required minimum distributions.

Converting a Roth IRA can help to diversify your portfolio

One way to have a diverse investment portfolio is to vary the times when you will be required to pay taxes on your investments, so you’re paying some taxes now and some taxes later.

For example, traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement accounts, such as 401(k) or 403(b), allow you to defer the taxes on any money you contribute for many years until you begin making withdrawals, at which point you are taxed on earnings as well.

Strategically converting tax-deferred accounts to a Roth IRA can help you diversify your holdings by reducing or even eliminating your eventual tax bill on those investments.

When you convert to a Roth IRA, you don’t have to worry about future tax rates

Because you’re paying taxes now when you convert to a Roth IRA, you don’t have to predict what the tax rates will be in the future. While American taxpayers currently pay some of the lowest marginal tax rates since the federal income tax was instituted in 1913, there’s no way to know what tax rates will be during your retirement.

Furthermore, tax reductions resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 are set to expire at the end of 2025 unless Congress extends them.

When you convert to a Roth IRA, you pay in your current tax bracket

If you expect your income—and thus your tax bracket—to rise, completing a Roth conversion may be a good idea. Learn more about working tax efficiency into your financial strategy.

Depending on your age and current tax laws, money you have converted to a Roth IRA could benefit from decades of potential growth before you begin withdrawals—and you won’t be taxed on those earnings.1

When you convert to a Roth IRA, you aren’t required to take the money at a specific time

While you must begin taking withdrawals from a traditional IRA at age 72, there are no required minimum distributions (RMD) with Roth IRAs during your lifetime. You can leave the money there as long as you like, growing tax free. And, if you have had the account for at least five years, your beneficiary will receive proceeds tax free.

gold line

What are the cons of a Roth IRA conversion?

When you convert to a Roth IRA, you have to wait to withdraw the money

While you can begin taking distributions from your Roth IRA at any time, any earnings you withdraw are considered ‘qualified'—or tax free and penalty free—if the account is at least five years old and you are older than 59½, disabled, buying your first home or you inherited the Roth IRA.1,2,3

If you convert and are under 59½, there is a separate five-year rule on your conversion dollars in order to avoid the 10% penalty. This five-year rule applies separately for each Roth conversion. If you withdraw your conversion dollars (the earlier of) five years or a penalty exception applying, then the IRS will assess a 10% penalty on those dollars.

When you convert to a Roth IRA, your taxable income for the year rises

A Roth IRA conversion isn’t for everyone. It may not make sense for you if you are in your peak earning years. Recall that when you convert money to a Roth IRA, your taxable income for that year increases, which could bump you into a higher tax bracket. Therefore, you may want to wait to complete the conversion until a year when your taxable income is not as high.

gold line

Next steps

First, try out our Roth IRA calculator. Then, consider meeting with a financial advisor. They can help you determine when or if a Roth IRA conversion is right for you and create a plan for strategically using your assets in tax-efficient ways.

Share
Get more insights like this in your inbox
You have been successfully subscribed to our newsletter.
An error has occurred, please try again.
Distributions of earnings are tax free as long as your Roth IRA is at least five years old and one of the following requirements is met: (1) you are at least age 59½; (2) you are disabled; (3) you are purchasing your first home ($10,000 lifetime maximum); or (4) the money is being paid to a beneficiary.

2 Non-qualified distributions of earnings prior to age 59-1/2 may incur a 10% premature distribution penalty and are taxable.

3 State tax rules may differ from federal rules governing the tax treatment of Roth IRAs and there may be conflicts between federal and state tax treatment of IRA conversions. Consult your tax professional for your state's tax rules.

Thrivent and its financial professionals do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional.
4.7.13