By Alexis, In Her Own Words
This business of being a brand-new human person isn’t all fun and games, let me tell you. For example, there’s this thing about Time, down here in the World.
You see, up there in heaven there isn’t any such thing— not really. The angels call it “The Timelessness of Eternity,” which —as far as I can puzzle out— means that past, present and future are all mixed together in a sort of heavenly stew. I kind of get it: personally, I remember myself as a teenager, as a middle-aged lady, and as a great-grandmother.
Experiences that I haven’t yet had were as vivid to me as the warm milk I had at last night’s 3a.m. feeding, or as real as the corner of the blanket I’m gumming away on at this very moment.Back in heaven, depending on the mood I was in, it was as if I could blink… and be any age Iwanted to be, at any given ‘time.’
I don’t know for sure— but that time-fluidity may well be the reason you don’t see a lot of really old folks in heaven. Or many really young ones, either. Those of us who haven’t been born yet don’t have the “actual” memories of our life in the world to draw upon as of yet. The ones who have been down here and lived it all tend to fixate on whatever age seems to them to have been, literally, the best days of their lives… and that’s how they will themselves to look (and feel) now that they’re back Home.
Oh, you do get some Eternal Teenagers; people ‘peak’ at various times in their world lives, and some of my fellow heaven-dwellers apparently never wanted to leave high school; that bunch tends to get a tad rowdy, especially on Friday nights.
“They seem to have forgotten acne altogether,” I once overheard one angel mutter to another, in that musical aria they use for language. “Along with all the other so-called ‘joys’ of adolescence, am I right?” I suspect angels harbor more than a little sense of superiority when it comes to human souls, though they usually hide it well.
Most people I saw in heaven have settled into more seasoned age-appearances, though: their late 30s, or mid-40s, or even early 50s— whenever they had garnered enough wisdom-through-living that they had a rather good idea of who they were and what they wanted to do.
I apologize if it sounds like I already know so much, especially when you consider that I’m not yet a half-year old. But as I mentioned in my earlier Report to you guys, I’m going to have to re-learn all this as I go through life here in the World. You see, us babies start off remembering all we knew in heaven… and with each passing day, forget a bit of that as we learn new things —like, say, crawling (which I do look forward to, since I’m kind of immobile right now).
It’s more or less the price of living where there is this human thing called ‘time.’ The advantage new babies have in the World is that other people down here can teach us the trade of human-living, and pass along the tips we need… just to get back to where we started when we were born.
I have a number of these helpful folks in my life right now— Mom and Dad, presently engaged mostly in dealing with diapers and feedings and cuddles; Grandma, who comes bearing a ton of love and kisses; and Grandpa, whose main job seems to be talking to me about mysterious concepts and strategies involving something he calls “financial security.” It seems to be some sort of obsession with him, though he’s not bad in the love-’n-kisses department either.
His latest discussion with me came last Sunday, while everybody else was prep’ing for a family dinner and Sunday Football, whatever that is. Grandpa’s assigned task was to sit with me in the living room and (in Grandma’s words) “stay the heck out of the way until it’s time to eat.” Yep— there’s that ‘time’ business, again.
“You are a little young to care right now,” he said, settling back with me looking up from his lap. “But before you know it, you’re going to have to deal with things like retirement planning and investing. And because I’m helping a lot of people with them, I’m going to tell you about… Roth IRAs. Can you say ‘Roth IRA’?”
I couldn’t, not in human-talk yet, but that never really stops Grandpa. As he explained it, Roth IRAs are individual retirement accounts used to save towards retirement. A big reason people like them is because you can invest after-tax dollars, meaning money you've already paid taxes on and enjoy tax-free growth. “Moreover,” Grandpa said, “with a Roth IRA there’s tax-free growth on your investments. We like tax-free growth, don’t we!”
Sure, I shrugged, if only to myself. It’s only fair, right? I mean, you already paid taxes upfront.
“Better still, when the account holders reach retirement age, they won't have to pay taxes on withdrawals after age fifty-nine and a half years old. That can supercharge your savings, especially if your tax rate is higher in retirement. If you have an emergency, you can even take out what you’ve contributed without any early-withdrawal penalty. Talk to Grandpa about how that works.”
“There’s also no required minimum distributions with a Roth IRA,” he said. “With a traditional IRA, in most cases, starting at age 73 you must pull out a certain amount each year. Not so with a Roth: you can decide not to make any withdrawals for as long as you live. And each year —year after year after year— that money can grow and grow. Time is on your side, don’t you know?” There was that time-thing again. But I think maybe I was starting to get the concept down now.
Grandpa touched the tip of my nose, which always makes me giggle. “That means you can inherit it,” he winked. “And since the taxes have already been paid, you’re not going to have to give any of it to the bad, bad Tax Man, eh? We call that ‘an effective financial tool to pass on to heirs.”
The thought seemed to make Grandpa very happy, so I smiled back too. That encouraged him to continue, though I suspect Grandpa needed little encouragement in that area.
I’m learning that he also likes bullet points. Here are a few of the ones he had today:
• The Roth IRA contribution limit is $6,500 in 2023 —$7,500 if age 50 and older.
Traditional IRAs have the same contribution limits. For 2023, the IRS allows an annual maximum IRA contribution limit of $6,500 a year if you're under 50, or $7,500 if you're 50 or older. That total is for all IRA accounts you might have. If you have, for example, a Roth and a traditional IRA, you can put some money in one, and some in the other, but the combined contribution cannot equal more than $6,500 (or $7,500 for those 50-plus).
• If your taxable income is less than $138,000 in 2023 and you're a single filer, you can contribute the full amount. If your income is more than $138,000, but less than $153,000, you can contribute a reduced amount to a Roth.
• Sadly, if your income is too high, the yucky tax man won't let you contribute to a Roth IRA directly, but you do have an option to get around the Roth IRA income limit: a backdoor Roth IRA. This involves putting money in a traditional IRA and then converting the account to a Roth IRA. Ask Grandpa how that can work.
• If you have a 401(k), you could also consider a ‘mega backdoor Roth,’ though this process may be more involved and incur potential tax bills.
“Now, only people with income under specific amounts can contribute to a Roth IRA,” Grandpa cautioned. “But there’s no income limit on converting a traditional IRA account to a Roth, and under most circumstances, no penalty for doing it.”
One catch to the Roth IRA contribution limits, Grandpa noted, is that you can’t contribute more than your taxable compensation for the year. If, say, your earned income is $3,000, your Roth IRA contribution limit is also $3,000 for that year. No earned income during the year, no Roth IRA contribution is allowed— except for a spousal IRA, which allows a nonworking spouse to contribute to an IRA based on the taxable compensation of the working spouse.
This was starting to sound a little complicated. It must have shown on my face, because Grandpa laughed.
“That’s where a financial advisor —that’s me, cupcake— can help,” he smiled. “I can answer any question and help get the account set up.”
That was comforting. So much so that, without realizing it was coming, I yawned. “Ready for a little nap, are you?” Grandpa asked. “Well, you’ve earned a good nighty night.”
I guess he was right. After all, I had a schedule to keep. I had to be ready to get everybody up for a little breakfast —my breakfast, at least— at 3 a.m. Everybody likes an early start to the day, don’t they? If I get a little nap now, I’ll be well rested for that air-raid level crying and wailing, precisely at the appointed hour.
Yep, I nodded to myself, as my eyelids fell. I think I’m getting this time business down pat now.
— end —
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Alexis and her musings will return to these pages in future editions. But not right now: she’s sleeping.)