What we’ll cover:
You’ve probably at least heard of the two main types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): Traditional and Roth.
The reason there’s a lot of hype around these? Both could help you save money for the future while potentially offering some tax advantages. It’s a win-win.
With IRAs, like all retirement accounts, the goal is the same: You put money into that account (contributions), that money generally grows over time (your earnings), and then you take that money out (withdrawals) in retirement so you can pay for all those golf rounds (or whatever you want).
When it comes to taxes, here’s the main difference between a Roth vs. Traditional IRA:
There are other differences between a Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA outlined below. If you’re considering opening one, first check your eligibility.
If you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, a Roth IRA might work in your favor because you’re paying taxes upfront at a lower rate.
You might also just enjoy the thought of not paying taxes on your retirement income. Assuming you follow the rules associated with a Roth IRA, the money you withdraw is tax-free.
With a traditional IRA, once you turn 72, you're required to withdraw a certain amount of money each year. These withdrawals are known as required minimum distributions (RMDs). With a Roth IRA, you’re not subject to RMDs and are free to withdraw at your own pace.
If you contribute pre-tax earnings to other retirement plans, such as a 401(k), withdrawals from those accounts will generally be considered taxable income. If eligible, having a Roth IRA in the mix might be a good way to diversify your retirement income since you’ll be able to withdraw from that account without paying tax.
Although you should proceed with caution if you’re considering an early withdrawal, accessing money in a Roth IRA ahead of retirement can be a little easier than it would be with a Traditional IRA. Contributions to your Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time, for whatever reason, tax-free and penalty-free.
That being said, you may have to pay taxes and penalties on your earnings (the money you’ve made on your contributions). The IRS outlines everything you need to know (including any exceptions), but two main factors are whether you are over or under age 59, and if you’ve held the account for at least five years.
Depending on your circumstances, your contributions to a Traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, which effectively lowers your taxable income.
A lot of this depends on your annual income, tax filing status (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately), and whether or not you’re covered by a retirement plan at work. We know reading up on the IRS rules probably makes your eyes glaze over, but...we’d recommend doing so if you’re hoping for a tax-deduction. Otherwise, talk to your tax advisor.
You’re only allowed to contribute to a Roth IRA if you make less than $139,000 individually, or less than $206,000 married, filing jointly (for the 2020 tax year). With a Traditional IRA, you can contribute up to the full amount permitted regardless of your income. However, keep in mind that above a certain income, you may not qualify for a tax-deduction on your contributions.
If you think your income will be lower in retirement than it is now, your effective tax rate may be lower as well. For instance, this could be true if you are in the peak of your career and expect a lower income in retirement. If that’s the case, the potential benefit of a tax deduction today may be worth more than tax-free withdrawals from a Roth IRA.
For some, a Roth IRA can be an obvious choice because of the tax-free withdraws in retirement and overall flexibility. On the flip side, the biggest draw for a Traditional IRA is the upfront tax break. This may be a great incentive to save for retirement since the tax-deduction potentially offsets the “cost” of your contributions.
At the end of the day, choosing between a Roth IRA vs. Traditional IRA is your call (just remember to check your eligibility first). Once you have a solid grasp on the differences between the two, you’ll probably be able to decide what’s best for you.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. This article was prepared by and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs, but does not reflect the institutional opinions of Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or division. Goldman Sachs Bank USA is not providing any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other recommendation in this article. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice. Information contained in this article does not constitute the provision of investment advice by Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any its affiliates. Neither Goldman Sachs Bank USA nor any of its affiliates makes any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the statements or any information contained in this document and any liability therefore is expressly disclaimed.
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