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My sister's husband died last year and his insurance left her $125,000. ... I'm thinking a Roth IRA would have better served her ...

Just a clarification. Insurance proceeds are not earned income and would not qualify as a basis for an IRA. In the year he died, she might be able to make an IRA contribution based on your BIL's earnings. At best, that would be for $3500, so it really wouldn't do a whole lot for her.

Roth's are useful, but they are not a cure-all.

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