If you’re in the early stages of your career, you’re probably not thinking much about retirement. Nonetheless, it’s never too soon to start preparing for it, as time may be your most valuable asset. So, you may want to consider retirement savings vehicles, one of which is an IRA. Depending on your income, you might have the choice between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. Which is better for you?
There’s no one correct answer for everyone. But the more you know about the two IRAs, the more confident you’ll be when choosing one.
First of all, the IRAs share some similarities. You can fund either one with many types of investments — stocks, bonds, mutual funds and so on. And the contribution limit is also the same — you can put in up to $6,000 a year. (Those older than 50 can put in an additional $1,000.) If you earn over a certain amount, though, your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is reduced. In 2021, you can put in the full $6,000 if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $125,000 and you’re single, or $198,000 if you’re married and file jointly. The amount you can contribute gradually declines, and is eventually limited, at higher income levels.
But the two IRAs differ greatly in how they are taxed. Traditional IRA contributions are typically tax-deductible (subject to income limitations), and any earnings growth is tax-deferred, with taxes due when you take withdrawals. With a Roth IRA, though, your contributions are never tax-deductible — instead, you contribute after-tax dollars. Any earnings growth is tax-free when withdrawn, provided you’ve had your account at least five years and you don’t take withdrawals until you’re at least 59½.