Since no one can predict the future, the only thing you can do is plan for it. You work hard your entire life so that at some point you can have the choice to do what you want. That could mean kicking back and relaxing, sailing around the world, devoting yourself to your children, grandchildren or a worthy cause or even starting a whole new career. People who retire today can expect to live longer than their parents and grandparents, so here’s a good rule of thumb: live comfortably and plan accordingly. One option that can help you meet your retirement goals is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
What is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)?
An IRA is a stand-alone tax deferred account that enables you to save money for retirement. It can also act as an investment account that gives you a place in which to roll over any employer-sponsored retirement plan assets like from a 401(k) when changing jobs or retiring. Many people open IRAs in addition to any employer-sponsored retirement plans they might have to save for their futures.
How does an IRA work?
You establish an IRA by opening an account through an insurance company, employer, a bank or financial services firm. Your contributions to the account can be made by depositing money from your savings periodically, through payroll deductions or by making a lump sum deposit. Most plans offer you a choice of various funding options including annuities, stocks, bonds and mutual funds tailored to different styles of investors. At age 59½ you become eligible to begin taking distributions from the account which, depending on the account type, may be taxed at that time. Generally there is a 10% penalty for withdrawing funds before you turn 59½.
What are the benefits of an IRA?
While each type of IRA has unique benefits, the overwhelming advantage of all IRAs is their tax-deferred growth potential.
What kind of IRA should I purchase?
There are a number of different IRAs available, but for most people it comes down to a choice of two: the Traditional IRA and the Roth IRA.
With contribution limits increased for people 50 and over, availability to non-working spouses and the possibility of penalty-free withdrawals for certain non-retirement purposes, Traditional IRAs have been an overwhelmingly popular vehicle to help achieve retirement goals for nearly 30 years.
Contributions made to this account may be tax-deductible, and any individual who has earned income, or whose spouse has earned income, may contribute as long as the IRA account holder has not reached age 70½ by the end of the contribution year.
ADVANTAGES TO A TRADITIONAL IRA INCLUDE:
Contributions may be tax deductible at the time they’re made depending on income.
IRA earnings grow tax-deferred.
Liberal income limits for contribution deductibility if you or your spouse is not a participant in a qualified plan.
Availability to non-working spouses of wage earners.
The primary disadvantage to a Traditional IRA is if you are under age 59½ and decide you want to take distribution, you will have to pay an additional 10% tax along with regular income taxes.
While a Roth IRA is similar to a traditional IRA in many ways, there are also some significant differences.
Contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible from current income, but earnings may generally be withdrawn tax-free as long as the account has been in place for at least five years and the distribution takes place after age 59½. Depending upon state law, Roth IRA distributions may be subject to state taxes. There is no minimum distribution requirement and contributions are still allowed after you reach age 70½.
Under certain circumstances you can convert some or all of your holdings in other IRAs to a Roth IRA, but bear in mind the converted amounts may be taxable as current income.
ADVANTAGES TO A ROTH IRA INCLUDE:
There is no age limit to how long you can contribute.
There are no required minimum distributions.
Distributions may be received income tax-free.
Which IRA do you choose? It all depends upon your preferences.
If you’re like most people, one of your most valuable assets you have is your earning power. An IRA can let you put that asset to work efficiently and effectively to give you added peace of mind during your retirement years. Even if you have other retirement plans in place, an IRA may still be a great benefit because of the added tax advantages it offers. The most important thing is to start now to make the most of the life you want later.