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Rules on Roth conversions and required minimum distributions

A Roth IRA can enhance your retirement security.

A Roth IRA can enhance your retirement security. Credit: iStock

Every year, I do a Roth conversion. I transfer money from my traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, and pay taxes on the converted amount. What's the last possible date I can do this before my Required Minimum Distribution [known as RMD] kicks in? My birthday is July 12, 1945, so I was 69½ on Jan. 12.


Your last date for a pre-RMD Roth conversion is Dec. 31, 2015. But you can do post-RMD Roth conversions. You just can't convert the RMD.

Let's say you have a $300,000 IRA. Your first RMD will be $11,320.75 (see my calculation below). After you withdraw the RMD of $11,320.75, you can convert an additional amount to a Roth, says Barry C. Picker, a Brooklyn tax accountant. Let's say you convert $20,000, paying the tax on the conversion from a non-retirement account. Your traditional IRA balance, reduced by the $11,320.75 RMD and the $20,000 conversion, is now $268,679.25. And you have a $20,000 Roth IRA.

To determine your first RMD, you divide your IRA balance on Dec. 31 of the year before you turned 70½ — in your case, that will be the balance on Dec. 31, 2015 — by your life expectancy factor, which is listed in the "Uniform Lifetime" table in IRS Publication 590.

If your birthday is between Jan. 1 and June 30, calculate your first RMD using the Uniform Lifetime table's life expectancy factor for age 70. If your birthday is between July 1 and Dec. 31, you must use the life expectancy factor for age 71. Your birthday is July 12. The life expectancy factor for age 71 is 26.5. The hypothetical $300,000 IRA balance divided by 26.5 is $11,320.75.

The bottom line There's no age limit on Roth conversions.

Websites with more information and

CORRECTION: You don’t need to have earned income to convert money from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. An earlier version of this column misstated a Roth Ira conversion rule.

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert /Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.


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