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Investing Specialists

The Ins and Outs of IRA Conversions

Answering your questions on this hot topic.

IRA-conversion mania is in full swing. That's because in 2010, savers of all income levels can convert their IRAs from a traditional to a Roth. Many financial-services companies are clearly using conversions as an opportunity to get their mitts on your assets--that is, stop in to see if a conversion makes sense, and while you're here we'll sell you some of our wares. Your portfolio may well benefit from the help, but in this instance I'd rather see you get the conversion advice from a completely neutral party, such as an accountant, rather than from someone who stands to benefit from your decision to convert.

I've written articles on conversion, but I've also been receiving some more-specialized questions, which I'll tackle today.

Q: I've heard there is a five-year waiting period to begin withdrawing assets once I've converted my IRA. I'm a 77-year-old retiree who's taking distributions from my IRA for living expenses. Does that rule apply to me, too?