A Roth IRA’s Many Benefits

by Rose Greene, CFP on November 19, 2014

Why do so many people choose them over traditional IRAs?

Provided by Rose Greene

The IRA that changed the whole retirement savings perspective. Since the Roth IRA was introduced in 1998, its popularity has soared. It has become a fixture in many retirement planning strategies, because it offers savers so many potential advantages.

The key argument for going Roth can be summed up in a sentence: Paying taxes on your retirement contributions today may be better than paying taxes on your retirement savings tomorrow.

Think about it. All other variables aside, would you like to pay more taxes in retirement or less?

What if federal tax rates are higher in the future than they are today? Would you like to see a) your retirement savings taxed at those higher rates tomorrow, when you may have medical bills or other emergency expenses to contend with, or b) have the dollars you are saving for retirement today taxed at possibly lower rates?

Here is a closer look at the trade-off you make when you open and contribute to a Roth IRA – a trade-off many savers are happy to make.

You contribute after-tax dollars. You have already paid federal income tax on the dollars going into the account. But in exchange for paying taxes on your retirement savings contributions today, you could potentially realize great benefits tomorrow.1

You position the money for tax-deferred growth. Roth IRA earnings aren’t taxed as they grow and compound. If, say, your account grows 6% a year, that growth will be even greater when you factor in compounding. The earlier in life that you open a Roth IRA, the greater compounding potential you have.2,*

You can arrange tax-free retirement income. Roth IRA earnings can be withdrawn tax-free as long as you are age 59½ or older and have owned the IRA for at least 5 years. (That 5-year clock starts on January 1 of the tax year in which you make your initial Roth IRA contribution.)3

The IRS calls such tax-free withdrawals qualified distributions. They may be made to you, to your estate after you are deceased, and/or to a beneficiary. (If you die before the Roth IRA meets the 5-year rule, your IRA beneficiary will see the IRA earnings taxed until it is met.)  Estate taxes may also apply.4

If you withdraw money from a Roth IRA before you reach age 59½, it is called a nonqualified distribution. If you do this, you can still withdraw an amount equivalent to your total IRA contributions to that point tax-free and penalty-free. If you withdraw more than that amount, though, the rest of the withdrawal may be fully taxable and subject to a 10% IRS penalty as well. (If you are younger than 59½ and have owned a Roth IRA for at least 5 years, you are allowed to withdraw 100% of your contributions and up to $10,000 of IRA earnings tax- and penalty-free to buy a principal residence, assuming the buyer has not owned a home within the past 2 years.)1,3

You never have to make a withdrawal. When you own a traditional IRA, you must start pulling money out of it in your in your seventies. These withdrawals are called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), and the amount is calculated for you using an IRS formula. These forced withdrawals saddle some traditional IRA owners with tax problems. In contrast, Roth IRA owners never have to take RMDs. They are never required to take a penny out of their IRAs.1

Withdrawals don’t affect taxation of Social Security benefits. If your total taxable income exceeds a certain threshold – $25,000 for single filers, $32,000 for joint filers – then your Social Security benefits may be taxed. (These limits are not adjusted for inflation, incidentally.) An RMD from a traditional IRA represents taxable income, and may push retirees over the threshold – but a qualified distribution from a Roth IRA isn’t taxable income, and doesn’t count toward it.5

You can direct Roth IRA assets into many different kinds of investments. Invest them as aggressively or as conservatively as you wish – but remember to practice diversification. The range of investment choices is often broader than that offered in a typical workplace retirement plan.1

You can shift dividend-producing investments into a Roth IRA from a taxable account. As dividends are being taxed at higher rates in 2013, keeping dividend-producing stocks out of a taxable account has definite virtues.

You can potentially “stretch” the assets. If an original Roth IRA owner passes away after owning the IRA for at least five years, then its earnings can be withdrawn tax-free by its beneficiaries. (Relevant estate taxes may need to be paid, of course.) If a Roth IRA beneficiary is not a spouse, then other factors come into play: that beneficiary cannot contribute to the inherited Roth IRA, or combine it with an IRA he or she owns. The non-spouse beneficiary can decide to a) receive a distribution of 100% of the inherited Roth IRA assets by December 31st of the fifth year following the year of the IRA owner’s death, or b) receive periodic payments from the IRA over the course of his or her life, an option which may potentially be “stretched” (given proper planning) and extended to subsequent beneficiaries.6

You have 16 months to make a Roth IRA contribution for a given tax year. For example, IRA contributions for the 2014 tax year may be made up until April 15, 2015. While April 15 is the annual deadline, many IRA owners who make lump sum contributions for a given tax year make them as soon as that year begins, not in the following year. Making your Roth IRA contributions earlier gives the funds in the account more time to potentially grow and compound with tax deferral.1

Who can open a Roth IRA? Contributions to a Roth IRA for 2014 are subject to income limits of $129,000 for single filers and $191,000 for married filing jointly. Reduced contribution amounts may apply if income is above $114,000 for single or $181,000 for married filing jointly. 1

How much can you contribute to a Roth IRA annually? The 2014 contribution limit is $5,500, with an additional $1,000 “catch-up” contribution allowed for those 50 and older. (The annual contribution limit is adjusted periodically for inflation.)7

You can keep making annual Roth IRA contributions all your life. You can’t make annual contributions to a traditional IRA once you reach age 70½.7

Does a Roth IRA have any drawbacks? Actually, yes. One, you will generally be hit with a 10% penalty by the IRS if you withdraw Roth IRA funds before age 59½ or you haven’t owned the IRA for at least five years. (This is in addition to the regular income tax you will pay on the funds withdrawn, of course.) Two, you can’t deduct Roth IRA contributions on your 1040 form as you can do with contributions to a traditional IRA or the typical workplace retirement plan. Three, you might not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA as a consequence of your filing status and income; if you earn a great deal of money, you may be able to make only a partial contribution or none at all.3,7

Conversions are permitted if you make too much to contribute. Even if your income prevents you from funding a Roth IRA, you can still convert traditional IRA assets into a Roth with the help of a financial professional. While this is a taxable event, you may realize significant long-term financial benefits as a result of it – tax-free retirement income withdrawals, and the potential for some of the Roth IRA assets to pass tax-free to your heirs with further growth and compounding potential. You also will gain the relief of never having to take an RMD each year.8

All this may have you thinking about opening up a Roth IRA or creating one from existing IRA assets. A chat with the financial professional you know and trust will help you evaluate whether a Roth IRA is right for you given your particular tax situation and retirement horizon.

* This is a hypothetical example and is not representative of any specific situation. Your results will vary. The hypothetical rates of return used do not reflect the deduction of fees and charges inherent to investing.

Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment can change.

Traditional IRA account holders should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.

”Stretch IRA” is a marketing term implying the ability of a beneficiary of a Decedent’s IRA to withdraw the least amount of money at the latest allowable time in order to maintain the inherited IRA assets for the longest time period possible. Beneficiary distribution options depend on a number of factors such as the type and age of the beneficiary, the relationship of the beneficiary to the decedent and the age of the decedent at death and may result in the inability to “stretch” a decedent’s IRA. Illustration values will greatly depend on the assumptions used which may not be predictable such as future tax laws, IRS rules, inflation and constant rates of return. Costs including custodial fees may be incurred on a specified frequency while the account remains open.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

Rose Greene is a Representative with LPL Financial and may be reached at 310 399 1200 or rose@rosegreene.com . www.rosegreene.com

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T046-C006-S001-8-reasons-you-need-a-roth-ira-now.html [4/5/12]
2 – www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/01/biz_brain_are_roth_iras_really.html [1/21/13]
3 – www.smartmoney.com/taxes/income/when-roth-ira-withdrawals-arent-taxfree-1293571638217/ [12/29/10]
4 – www.hrblock.com/free-tax-tips-calculators/tax-help-articles/Retirement-Plans/Early-Withdrawal-Penalties-Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs.html [1/2/13]
5 – www.investmentnews.com/article/20121216/REG/312169988 [12/16/12]
6 – www.investorguide.com/article/11816/understanding-the-tax-ramifications-of-an-inherited-roth-ira/ [1/8/13]
7 – www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Retirement-Topics-IRA-Contribution-Limits [11/28/12]
8 – www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/articles/2012/05/20/roth_ira_conversion_not_for_everybody/ [5/20/12]

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