ôô

Which is Best: A Roth or Traditional Retirement Account?

Money Girl details what to know when choosing between a Roth or traditional retirement account - no matter if you use an IRA, a retiremment plan at work, or both. Plus, get the Retirement Account Comparison Chart to see how all the accounts stack up.

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
Episode #393
Roth or Traditional Retirement Account—Which Is Best?

Last week, I wrote about common IRA mistakes that keep you from building wealth for retirement. One of the missteps is getting stuck on the choice between a traditional or Roth account.

As more employers add a Roth option their 401k, 403b, or 457 plans, you may also be faced with the traditional versus Roth dilemma for your workplace retirement plan. In fact, I recently received several questions on this topic from Money Girl Podcast listeners.

Choosing the right type of retirement account can be confusing—especially because the Roth rules for workplace plans are slightly different than the Roth rules for IRAs.

So in this episode, I’ll explain what you need to know about going with a Roth or traditional account, no matter if you invest for retirement using an IRA, a workplace account, or both.  

Click here to sign up for the Money Girl Newsletter for exclusive tips—it’s FREE!

Should I Have a Roth or Traditional Retirement Account?

There are several key differences between Roth and traditional retirement accounts. Which one you choose affects important issues like taxes on your contributions and withdrawals, and options for tapping funds early, if needed.

For a quick review, IRA is short for Individual Retirement Arrangement. You own one as an individual, and choose your own investments. For 2015, you can contribute up to $5,500 (or $6,500 if you’re over age 50) to one or a combination of IRAs.

Retirement plans through work, such as a 401k or 403b, are completely different from IRAs. They’re managed by employers only, offer a set menu of investment options, and require contributions to be deducted out of your paycheck. For 2015, you can contribute up to $18,000 (or $24,000 if you’re over age 50) to most workplace retirement plans.

Free Resource: Retirement Account Comparison Chart (PDF download)

To know whether you’re better off owning investments in a traditional or Roth retirement account, start by answering these 3 questions:

Question #1: What’s My Current Income?

This is the first question to answerm because there are annual income limits to qualify for a Roth IRA. However, this isn’t the case for a Roth account at work, or any type of traditional retirement account.

So, if your income is above the annual allowable limit, you’ll be locked out of opening up or contributing to a Roth IRA. Here are the thresholds by tax filing status for your modified adjusted gross income:

  • Married filing jointly: $193,000 
  • Qualifying widow(er): $193,000 
  • Single: $131,000 
  • Head of household: $131,000 
  • Married filing separately (not living together): $131,000 
  • Married filing separately (living together at any time during the year): $10,000

Pages

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.