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Roth vs. Traditional IRA: Which is Better for Me?

Whether you’re a new college graduate or an established professional, it’s never too early to start saving for your retirement. As one might expect, the longer you live, the more resources you’ll need to sustain your lifestyle, so it’s always a good idea to start saving sooner rather than later.

When saving money for your retirement, there are two common types of individual retirement accounts (IRA) that you can invest in: a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA. When reviewing some of their key differences, it’s important to ask yourself: “When is the most advantageous time to pay tax on my income?” 

Key Differences Between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA

You may think the term “Roth” is an acronym for a complex financial term, but that’s surprisingly not the case. The origin of “Roth” derived from a person, William Roth, who was a Delaware senator when the Roth IRA was established by the Taxpayer Relief Act in 1997. When beginning the decision-making process, it’s important to determine how you prefer your contributions to be made. Never deductible, the contributions you make to your Roth IRA use after-tax dollars, which in turn affects the amount of investment income you will make. 

In regard to a Roth IRA’s tax implications, consider whether or not your tax rate during your retirement will be higher or lower than the current amount of taxes you’re paying each year. With a Roth IRA, you’re able to pay taxes sooner rather than later when compared to a traditional IRA, and you’ll receive distributions that are free of taxes once your income tax rate reaches a certain percentage.

If you’re concerned about when you’ll be able to take money out of your individual retirement account, there are rules for required minimum distributions (RMD) that Roth IRAs are not subject to. This may make the Roth IRA more appealing to those who do not want to be required to distribute their retirement assets before they’re ready. However, not everyone is able to fund a Roth IRA. Depending on your income, a traditional IRA may be more suitable.

Weighing Your Options

While Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs share similarities, such as being a way to save and invest your money, one of the key differences between the two retirement vehicles surrounds eligibility. Unlike a Roth IRA, your ability to deduct contributions from your traditional IRA depends on detailed requirements that are important to explore and consider before making your decision.

As long as you don’t contribute to a retirement plan offered by your employer (or even if you do, but your annual salary is less than $74,000), your traditional IRA is fully tax-deductible, while contributions to Roth IRAs aren’t. However, because you make contributions before paying any taxes, your distributions are treated as income, and could, therefore, lead to higher income taxes later on.

For people who are eager to withdraw their contributions, it’s important to note that you may be subject to a penalty if you withdraw IRA money before you are 59½. Because you’re required to withdraw these funds the year after you’re 72 (if you have not already reached age 70½ by the end of 2019), you will need to steadily reduce your balance and list the distribution amount as part of your income during tax filing season. This could be a deal-breaker for those who would like to contribute to their savings plan with no limits or restrictions, especially since Roth IRAs do not have an age limit.

Education is Key

When it comes to choosing between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA, like most aspects of personal financial planning, there is no right answer. The right answer will be unique to each person's financial situation. Everyone is going to have a different preference depending on when they want to pay their taxes, withdraw their distributions and more. However, it’s important to compare the pros and cons of each before making a decision if you want to make the optimal choice for you and your family. 

Preparing for your retirement may seem like a daunting task, at 80/20 Financial Services we are Retirement Planning Specialists. Contact us today for a review of your retirement strategy. For more article about retirement planning, click here.

Brian Coleman/Retirement Planner and Investment Adviser