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Does a Roth IRA Conversion Make Sense at Age 80?

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Dear Carrie: At age 80, I've never put any money into my IRA since retirement. Can I roll my traditional IRA into a Roth IRA without penalty? --A Reader

Dear Reader: The simple answer to your question is yes; you can convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA without penalty. And since you're over 59 1/2, you'd be able to withdraw the assets you convert at any time, also with no penalty. Before age 59 1/2, a Roth must be open for five years before you can make withdrawals penalty-free. But in your case, only the earnings in the Roth would...