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What Bad Things happen if you accidentally contribute more than the yearly limit to a Roth IRA? Can you just change part of it to the current year?

My story:

I decided to be Foolish this year and open my first Roth IRA. I decided that I should also beat the rush and send in my application and $2000 check (for 2001) the first week in March.

Two weeks later, the company (a large mutual fund company) send me a letter about my account, pointing out I don't have any beneficiary listed. I didn't want to list one, but at least it shows they got my application. But I look at my checking account and the check hasn't come through.

I called and asked a CSR what was wrong and she said that the account was open but contained no money because I'd forgotten to sign my check. A real embarrassing Homer Simpson Moment "DOH!"

She said they'd be sending the check back with an appropriate letter so I could sign it and send it back. Fair enough.

But that was almost a week ago now, and 10 days since the date on their other letter. Maybe I'm getting too impatient, but I'm worrying that I may not get the check back in time to get it back to them before April 15th. And of course I'm sure this is a very busy time in the mutual fund business, with all the people trying to do things at the last minute like me. So even if the signed check gets there in time will it be processed in time?

I'm wondering if I should open a separate Roth IRA here at my credit union, just to be sure I get the money in for 2001. The upside is I can go into their office and do it face to face, and there is no delay waiting on checks to clear, so delays will be minimized.
The downside is that they don't offer index funds, just various flavors of CD and money funds.

(Yes, I have enough money to make both $2000 payments, although just barely.)

Of course, if I do this, I'd have to hold back the check for the mutual fund co. until
April 16. Or would I? If I really want to push things, I could send the check to the mutual fund co. and then check if they'd gotten it by April 12th, and then go fight crowds at the credit union if they haven't.

The motivation for wanting to go down to the wire this way is to avoid any hassles or penalties involved in moving the credit union Roth IRA into the mutual fund co. Roth IRA. Plus I'd feel like a jerk for putting the credit union to the trouble of setting up a Roth IRA account for only a month or so.

If things work out such that I have contributed $4000 to Roth IRAs for 2001, what bad things happen when? Can I just have one or the other relabeled as being contributions for 2002 and how difficult is that?

Trying to decide how much worrying to do and about what.

Comments or suggestions?
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