Even Ed Slott is wrong about Roth IRA conversionsArticle added by Roccy DeFrancesco on July 1, 2009
Roccy Defrancesco

Roccy DeFrancesco


Joined: May 24, 2006

Correctly or not, in the IRA world, Ed Slott is seen as the IRA guru. My opinion is that much of that has to do with the terrific marketing of his image as an expert (which I can appreciate) and some of it has to do with the fact that he has some very good basic information on IRAs and some marketing tools/materials agents can use.

Because my newsletters go out to nearly 100k advisors, I get several questions a day about various issues. The one that's driven me to write this is, "Why is your opinion on Roth IRA conversion different than Ed Slott's (and some IMOs who are touting it as a way to sell FIAs)?"

Roth IRA conversions do not work

I'm not going to explain again in this article why Roth IRA conversions do not work. I wrote a very detailed article on it a few months ago that you can by clicking here.

Using real-world math, the conclusions from this article are that, not only do Roth IRA conversions not work, they really don't work for the average person.

What did Ed say when I contacted him?

I wanted to give Ed the benefit of the doubt before I ran this article, so I contacted him and asked him his opinion of Roth IRA conversions and told him my opinion (which is that they do not work to generate more after-tax income in retirement for the vast majority of people they are pitched to). I indicated to Ed that I created what I believe to be the only honest Roth conversion calculator in the industry and wondered if he wanted to discuss the numbers. I wanted to let him know that, if the numbers from my previous article weren't accurate, I will run a new one telling everyone so.

Here is the e-mail response I got from Ed after asking him his opinion on Roth IRA conversions (emphasis added):
    I received your message and e-mail below. There are certainly numerous opinions on this critical issue.

    I believe each case has to be evaluated on the facts and circumstances for that client. I also believe that the only sure way to have more savings for use in retirement or to pass on to loved ones is to have those funds be income tax free when you need them most. The Roth IRA accomplishes that. You cannot beat a zero percent tax rate.

    Ed Slott
I couldn't believe the above is what he wrote back to me. I was expecting something of substance. Quoting from my e-mail back to Ed, I wrote (emphasis added):
    I really can't believe you want me to quote from your e-mail below. A facts and circumstances equivocating response is, in my opinion, not going to make you look like a guru; it's going to make you look like someone who's trying to avoid giving an answer or someone who doesn't know the answer.
Is it possible Ed just didn't have the time to explain his position to me and blew me off? I suppose, but I made it very clear that an industry newsletter was going out to nearly 100k advisors on this issue.

My opinion of his response is that Ed really has not run the "real-world math" with the Roth IRA conversion. If that is the case, it's too bad for the hundreds if not thousands of advisors who look to him as the expert.

It is inexcusable for an IRA "guru" to be telling people that you "can't beat a zero percent tax rate" with a Roth and leaving that as your answer for whether or not a Roth IRA conversion works.

The fact of the matter is that Roth IRA conversions do not work in virtually all real- world fact patterns and, therefore, you can beat a "zero percent tax rate" with a Roth by not converting when it doesn't make financial sense. Again, I strongly recommend you read my previous article where I go over the math specifically and illustrate why Roth IRA conversions do not work.

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