5 Reasons why Everyone Needs a Traditional IRA
Traditional IRA’s are my favorite investment vehicle. Why? They are highly flexible. If you don’t have one, you should. They are easy to set up and depending on the broker, they are typically free of fees. Before I get into the benefits of a traditional IRA, let’s get into the basics of what they are.
What is a Traditional IRA?
IRA stands for ‘individual retirement account’. An IRA is an investment vehicle that basically serves as a shell account, allowing you to purchase actual investments such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. If you’d like, you can simply keep your contributions in cash and earn interest on it. There are a few different types of IRA’s, but I’m a big fan of the traditional variety. You may also be familiar with Roth IRA’s.
The Main Difference Between a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA
I have previously covered the big differences between a traditional 401k and a Roth 401k. The differences between a traditional IRA and Roth IRA are similar to their 401K brethren. Essentially, any contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible. You are taxed when you pull out distributions in retirement. A Roth IRA taxes you now and you do not pay any taxes upon retirement.
5 Reasons why Everyone Should have a Traditional IRA
1. Traditional IRA’s are Tax Deductible
You are allowed to subtract your traditional IRA contributions from your amount of taxable income. This leaves you more money and lowers your taxes now, at a time when you could possibly need the tax breaks more than in retirement (with the Roth).
2. Where Should I Start a Traditional IRA?
I’m a huge fan of TradeKing for IRA’s because they have zero IRA maintenance or annual fees. I have both a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA with TradeKing.
3. Traditional IRA’s are Flexible
You can contribute to a traditional IRA at any point during the year. The 2012 maximum traditional IRA contribution limit is $5,000, and the 2013 maximum IRA contribution has increased to $5,500. You can contribute to a traditional IRA for any given tax year up until the the tax deadline (mid April) of the following tax year. For instance, I could contribute to my 2008 contributions up until mid April of 2009.
Where this comes in particularly handy is when you realize that by contributing more towards your IRA, you are able to lower your taxable income, which can have big strategic advantages. In being able to contribute up until the tax deadline of the following year, this retroactive contribution rule allows you extreme flexibility.
4. Capital Gains are Not Taxed within a Traditional IRA
You heard right. The 15% you are being taxed on capital gains and dividends (not much of a worry this year, I realize), are not taxed within a traditional IRA. This allows you to build your nest egg much faster than a taxable account.
5. You can Roll your 401k’s Directly into a Traditional IRA without Tax or Penalty
If you have one or more 401k’s sitting around from previous jobs and you are finding it a hassle to keep track of everything, you can roll them over tax and penalty free into a traditional IRA. Consolidation can be a beautiful thing.
6. You can Withdraw Funds from an IRA
Not that you’d WANT to, but if you NEED to, you may pull out your contributions and use them in an emergency. Many people incorrectly think that you cannot access these contributions at all until you reach retirement age. You can, but you will be taxed (as you received deductions previously). You will also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
Final Thoughts on Traditional IRA’s
Start a traditional IRA sooner than later. The odds are that you will need to at some point, so why not start reaping the benefits now? If you already have one, make the most of it!
- Do you have a traditional IRA? a Roth IRA?
- If you don’t, will you be getting one?
- What clever ways are you taking advantage of your traditional IRA?