Dear Harry: We are in our early 40s, and I work for a company that has a Roth alternative in our company pension plan. We are being told that younger workers should consider very carefully the advantages of the Roth. No one ever told us just what they are. I know that there's no tax on the withdrawals, but that's offset by not getting a tax deduction for the contributions. Help!

What Harry says: You will be able to make contributions to the Roth after you hit 70 1/2 (unlike a regular IRA). You will not have any mandatory distributions. Your estate will be lower by the tax already paid on the contributions to the plan. Your heirs will be able to take tax-free distributions during their own life expectancies. Thus, you will be able to make more contributions than to a regular IRA. The money in the Roth can continue to earn money totally tax free for a longer period. Any estate tax due will be lower if you have a Roth. In cases of conversions of existing plans to a Roth, the younger you are, the greater the advantage. Once you hit 65, the advantages decline, so you have to do some detailed calculations to see if it pays. There are programs available free on the Internet from brokers and mutual-fund companies that will help you decide. And keep in mind that the probabilities are that future tax rates will be higher. This increases the value of future tax-free income.

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