Retirement is a fascinating topic don’t you think?
Millions of people long for it, plan for it and obsess over it.
On a daily basis, people ask themselves questions like these: when can I retire?; how much money do I need to retire?; and which retirement account should I be saving into as I get ready for that big day?.
The last question is what we want to tackle today – which retirement account is right for you?
We certainly won’t cover every single type of retirement account out there today, but I do want to tackle the big four – 401ks, Traditional IRAs, Non-Deductible IRAs & Roth IRAs to see which one(s) make sense for you.
Let’s take a look:
401k Retirement Account
401k legislation was written in 1978 and finally passed in 1980. 401k’s allow employees to choose to receive deferred compensation rather than direct compensation. That compensation gets put into a 401k account that is invested.
401ks are tax-deferred retirement savings accounts. Basically they allow you to reduce your taxable income, which gives you a tax-break now.
They also grow tax-deferred – meaning you are not taxed on the growth of the investments each year.
When you pull the money out in retirement, however, you must pay the Piper! Uncle Sam will ask for all that deferral to be taxed.
Every dollar you pull out will be included in your taxable income for the year – it’s as if you earned that money.
401ks – The Right Retirement Account for You?
401k retirement accounts are right for folks who like having an easy way to save for retirement (deductions are taken from your payroll), who want to reduce their taxes now and who are getting an employer match on their 401k contributions.
Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
A Traditional IRA works much the same way as a 401k except for the payroll deduction. The limits are much lower in terms of what you can contribute as well.
If you are covered by a retirement plan at work and making between $56,000 and $66,000 for singles and $89,000 and $109,000 for joint-filers then the deductibility of your contributions are phased out.
That means you cannot deduct the entire amount of your contributions from your income.
If you are making under that amount or you are not covered by an employer retirement plan at all, then you are able to fully deduct your IRA contributions.
Traditional IRAs – The Right Retirement Account for You?
A Traditional IRA is a great retirement account for those who may not have a 401k or other employer plan, or who perhaps do have one, but are making less than the phase-out limits and want to get tax advantages now.
Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
Roth IRAs are Individual Retirement Accounts that do not give you a tax break up front. Rather, they allow you to put in after-tax money, which then grows tax-deferred.
When you reach 59 1/2, you can take out your contributions and your earnings completely tax-free!
Like the Traditional IRA, the IRS has phase out rules for Roth IRAs. For single filers, your Roth IRA contributions are phased out when your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is between $105,000 and $120,000. Above $120,000 you are ineligible for a Roth IRA contribution.
For married filers, the phase-out limits are between $167,000 and $176,000 and above that you are ineligible for contributions.
Roth IRAs – The Right Retirement Account for You?
Who should open a Roth IRA? Basically anyone who falls under the phase-out limits, wants to diversify themselves from a tax-standpoint and has ran the numbers and feels that income or tax rates will be higher in the future and their potential for tax savings is greater down the road than it is now.
Non-Deductible Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
A Non-Deductible IRA is simply an IRA that you contribute to when you are phased out of your deductiblility. Remember how we said that if you are covered by an employer plan and make too much money you can’t deduct your contributions?
A Non-Deductible IRA is the result.
Last year I would never have given the non-deductible IRA a second thought. It made very little sense to contribute to them.
This year, however, it may make a lot of sense for folks. Here’s why:
The income limits for Roth IRA conversions have been lifted, meaning anyone can convert money to a Roth IRA!
I won’t get into the details of this strategy here, since I talked about covnerting non-deductible IRA contributions at length in this post - but quickly, here is the strategy:
Make Non-Deductible IRA contributions (no tax write off); convert those contributions to a Roth IRA (no taxes owed); let your money grow tax-free in the Roth IRA (no taxes owed) and then pull out the money in retirement (no taxes due!)
Non-Deductible IRAs – The Right Retirement Account for You?
This strategy is right for those who make too much money to simply contribute to Roth IRAs, but still want to take advantage of tax diversification by getting money into a Roth.
Which Retirement Account is Right For You?
Readers, let’s hear from you – which is your favorite retirement account and why?