With retirement 12 years away, Roth's a good deal

DEAR BRUCE: At age 51, does it make sense to open a Roth IRA account? I plan to retire in 12 years. — G.H., via e-mail

DEAR G.H.: If you have no need for the money for the next 12 years, why not? Since you are older than 50, you can put in a maximum of $6,000 a year. Investing this money for 12 years, while it is a lot less than if you had started when the Roth was established a little more than 10 years ago, you would still have a nice nest egg, tax-free. You can leave it there as long as you wish. In other words, if you have other retirement monies that you can draw upon, use them first and leave the money in the Roth IRA. It's a shame that you didn't get started a bit earlier, but it sure isn't going to hurt you to take advantage of what I consider to be the best tax break that America offers.

DEAR BRUCE: I am living in my mother's house that she has conveyed to my sister and me. She is in a nursing home and has life rights to this place. I bring her home on the weekends. How can I make modernizations to the home and be able to recoup my money when the house is sold? My sister does not want to financially share in the repairs. — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: There is nothing you can do to recover the money. Since the repairs are done gratuitously, when the home is sold, without your sister's agreement, you will receive no reimbursement whatsoever. If you are going to live there for a substantial period of time and these repairs will make your life more comfortable, all well and good. Do not look to receive any credit for that from your sister upon the sale of the property.

DEAR BRUCE: We have looked into 55-plus retirement communities where they rent the lot to you and put your manufactured home on it. The monthly fees include the lot, activities fees, water, trash, lawn maintenance, etc. Most of the homes sell for $70,000 to $120,000, but you don't own the land. What do you think? — Reader in Kentucky

DEAR READER: You are describing a relatively common thing in Florida. While I'm not wildly enthusiastic about renting the property, the likelihood is that they'll give you a 100-year lease and, 100 years from now, I don't think it's going to matter to either one of us. If you put the numbers together and you are satisfied with the way the community is maintained, I have no quarrel with this. I have a friend who lives in one of these homes, and he is delighted.

Send your questions to Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680, or e-mail bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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