A pending rule change in the eligibility requirements for a Roth individual retirement account could encourage more people to seek out guidance from their financial advisors, according to a new survey.

In less than 90 days, many investors will have a new IRA opportunity when the income restriction for converting to a Roth IRA is lifted. The rule change will make all investors eligible to convert assets from certain retirement savings accounts, such as a traditional IRA or a 401(k) with a previous employer, to a Roth IRA, regardless of income level. Until Jan. 1, 2010, only people with modified adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or less are eligible to convert.

A recent survey from Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., finds that 72 percent of Americans making more than $100,000 annually are not planning to convert to a Roth IRA, despite the pending changes in eligibility. But a lack of certainty about the benefits of a Roth IRA and confusion over the pending Roth IRA conversion rule changes appear to be leading a significant number of investors to seek help and guidance from professional advisors.

“While the Roth IRA conversion rule changes will present an opportunity for certain investors, people should weigh the costs and the benefits unique to their own specific situation before deciding if a conversion is right for them,” said Bryan Olson, vice president and head of portfolio consulting for Schwab.


Of the 400 Americans surveyed with incomes of $100,000 or more, only 14 percent indicate that they are extremely confident in explaining the Roth IRA conversion rule changes set to take effect, but 71 percent say they would be likely to consult with a financial advisor. Forty-nine percent say they would consult a tax planner.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of high-income Americans surveyed are unaware of the 2010 Roth conversion rule changes. Twenty-six percent of those who are aware of the conversion opportunity find it more confusing than health care reform.

Thirty-four percent of respondents say that they are unsure of the general benefits of a Roth IRA versus a traditional IRA. Thirty-two percent of respondents currently have a Roth IRA as part of their retirement savings strategy. Of the survey respondents that currently have a Roth IRA, 50 percent say their primary motivation is the benefit of tax-free investment growth.

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