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8 reasons to open a Roth IRA

A couple learns why they should open a Roth IRA
January 29, 2019

By Kathryn Pins

What is an IRA? An IRA or Individual Retirement Account is a financial account that allows you to save for retirement. There are two types of IRAs that offer tax advantages: traditional IRA and Roth IRA. Contributions to a traditional IRA are typically tax-deductible the year you contribute. Withdrawals from your Roth IRA (in retirement and on other occasions listed below) are not taxed. The type of IRA you contribute to will depend on your personal needs. Plus, it’s always advisable to talk to a tax professional. Before your meeting, make sure you’re in the know about your options. We break down the advantages of a Roth IRA below.

A Roth IRA is a fantastic investment tool for retirement. The flexibility of a Roth IRA can help you accomplish many goals. Do you know all the ways you can use a Roth IRA to your advantage? We’ve come up with eight reasons why a Roth IRA could be a good investment for your future.

1. Tax advantages of an IRA

Even if you’ve already maxed out your 401(k), it’s likely you can also contribute to a Roth IRA for even more tax-advantaged savings. You won’t see the tax breaks now. Instead, you’ll get a tax break in the future, as Roth earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free. Why? Contributions to a Roth IRA are made after your income is taxed. Since you have already paid taxes on this money, you do not need to pay them again as you withdraw. Your earnings can build tax free.

The tax advantages of a Roth IRA are especially beneficial to young earners. You will most likely earn more as you age, which means that your tax bracket will also increase. The benefit to paying taxes now is that your income tax could be at a higher rate in future years.

2. Backup emergency fund

If a crisis hits, your Roth IRA can provide additional emergency funds. Contributions (not earnings) can be withdrawn without penalty. Plus, withdrawals of contributions are tax-free at any time. Although a Roth is usually used as a retirement account, you will not get penalized for taking out your contributions prior to retirement. This means you could have an emergency fund in case of job loss, injury or anything else unexpected.

3. Fund the purchase of your first home

Use your contributions – and up to $10,000 of earnings – to buy your first home (or to gift your child or grandchild money for their first home). Again, this withdrawal is tax-free.

First-time home buyers can use this money if the account has been open for five years and if the funds will be used directly toward the home purchase. That includes the down payment and closing costs. If the funds do not go directly to the home purchase, earnings will be taxed and you will be hit with a 10 percent penalty.

If you’re a young earner, we recommend only doing this if you’ve set aside this Roth IRA for buying a home. If you’re planning to use this money for retirement, you could wipe out a significant contribution that would otherwise grow through decades of compounding interest.

4. Fund your education

Your Roth IRA can pay qualified educational expenses for you, your spouse, your child or your grandchild. As an alternative to a 529 college savings plan, you can set up a Roth IRA to pay for future college expenses. The withdrawal of your contributions for educational expenses is tax-free, as in the scenarios above. However, earnings withdrawals are subject to tax. It’s important that the funds go directly toward educational expenses. If they’re not used for education, you’ll be hit with a 10 percent penalty.

A Roth IRA is also a great way to save for an education because of the spending flexibility. If you do not use all the funds for education, the money can continue to compound until your retirement or be used for other expenses, like the ones we’ve talked about in this article.

5. No required minimum distributions (RMDs)

A required minimum distribution (RMD) is the minimum amount you must withdraw from an account each year. Other retirement accounts force you to take distributions after age 70.5 – whether you need the money or not. In those retirement accounts, you’ll get penalized for not taking the required withdrawal. Unlike these accounts, your Roth IRA can grow tax-free until you need it. In short, you will not get penalized for only withdrawing what you need each year after you’re 70.5. This means you can keep the money in the account so it continues to grow.

6. Continue to contribute past age 70.5

You can contribute to your Roth IRA after age 70.5. Other retirement accounts (where your withdrawals are taxed) force you to stop contributing and start taking RMDs at 70.5 unless you’re still employed by the company where you have your 401(k). Why is this important? If you want to help fund a grandchild’s education or help a child buy their first home, you can continue to contribute to your Roth IRA to help you reach that financial goal. Whoever said 70.5 is old? As long as you’re still earning compensation, you can invest your money wisely in a Roth IRA.

7. Control taxable income in retirement

Tax-free Roth funds give you the flexibility to manage your taxable income during retirement, potentially reducing Medicare premiums and income taxes. Many economists predict that income taxes will rise. If that is the case, then you will be saving money on taxes with a Roth IRA. As we mentioned earlier, your contributions to a Roth IRA are made after income taxes. This means you do not have to pay taxes when you withdraw those contributions. After age 59.5 and five years after you first opened your Roth IRA, your earnings are also tax-free.

8. Tax-free income for heirs

Roth IRAs are a valuable estate planning tool, especially if you have significant savings and may not need all of it to fund your retirement. Those beneficiaries inheriting a Roth IRA do not need to pay income taxes on their withdrawals (unless your estate is subject to estate taxes). It would be a wonderful gift to the ones you love and would help ensure they are set up for success.


Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.