Monday, November 18, 2013

Traditional IRA or Roth IRA?

Even though individuals have until the tax filing deadline next April to make all of their contributions to a Traditional or Roth IRA, really it would be wiser to start thinking about that stuff now, before the holiday spending begins. Which one is best for you--Traditional IRA or Roth IRA?
Do you make a decent six-figure income? If so, the Roth is not an option. If not, however, the Roth IRA is a great option for people who want to put away some money now that will come out tax-free in retirement. So, basically, if you have a job and are making less than $100,000 your tax planner will likely concur that you can make your maximum contribution to a Roth IRA--at least $5,500 currently.
Are you covered by a retirement plan at work? If not, you could instead fund a Traditional IRA, and it doesn't even matter how much money you make. Seriously. If you work for a n employer with no retirement plan, you can almost certainly maximize and deduct your contribution to a Traditional IRA. As always, check with a CPA first.
Just yesterday I was talking to a woman who is 59 and has very little saved up for retirement. After an extended set-back after losing a job and then taking a new one that paid about 1/2 of what she used to make, she is about to get re-hired by a good company with a 401(k) plan. In order to catch up, she needs to maximize her 401(k) option, which would let her put aside up to around $20,000 between her and her employer's contributions. Since she'll never earn $100,000, she can also take advantage of a Roth IRA. The Traditional IRA for her is not attractive, as her 401(k) participation plus her income level (around $70,000) will remove her ability to deduct a contribution to a Traditional IRA.  She could  put an after-tax contribution into a Traditional IRA, but I see no reason to do that, not when her income is well south of the cut-off for Roth contributions. Need help with your Series 7