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Saving For Retirement: What is a Roth IRA?

A friend of mine recently asked me what she should be doing to save for retirement. With the uncertainty of the future of social security, we should all be asking ourselves this question.

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the longer your retirement account will have a chance to compound and the more you will have for retirement. Ideally, someone should start saving as soon as they start their first job after college.

Most employers offer a 401k plan. The money is automatically deducted before taxes (you won’t even miss it). Many employers will offer matching contributions up to a certain amount. Say, 3%. So, if you contribute 3% of your salary to your 401k, they will add another 3% out of their pocket. Free money! This is an automatic and significant return and at the very least you should be contributing up to the matching amount.

Unfortunately, not all employers are contributing to 401k plans and some don’t offer them at all. That is the situation that my friend is in. She knows she should at least be saving something for retirement but without the option of a 401K plan it’s not as easy for her.

So I sat down today to do a little research for her. Ironically, when I looked up IRA’s, I found that today March 27th, is the #RothIRAMovement. Over 140 bloggers, financial companies, and media sites are taking part in this movement. It was started by Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and blogger at GoodFinancialCents.com. Rose, who recently gave a speech at his alma mater, discovered that out of the 50 students he was speaking to, none even knew what a Roth IRA was. (I will admit that I also did not know what a Roth IRA was when I was in college). Rose concluded that “More young adults need to know what the Roth IRA is and how it can have a tremendous impact on their life”. Here at Talking Cents we agree. So here goes.

The Roth IRA is the simplest retirement savings account in America. You contribute after-tax money to the Roth IRA and the money grows tax-free. You can then withdraw it tax-free during retirement. Unlike a 401K, you only contribute up to $5,000 per year and the money isn’t taken out before taxes. Therefore you don’t get an immediate tax break for contributing; you just get it later in retirement.

As to not bore you, I am not going to go into tedious detail about the tax advantages and disadvantages.  I am, however, going to tell you about the advantages of a Roth IRA.

Advantage #1: You can withdraw your contributions at any time with no tax penalty.

Advantage #2: It doesn’t affect your tax return. You don’t have to tell the IRS how much you put in and you don’t need to tell how much interest you make.

Advantage #3: Even if you have a 401K, you can contribute to a Roth IRA as well (and should). Once you retire (as far away as that may seem) you will have more flexibility in your taxes if you have both a 401K and a Roth IRA.

You are ready to join the movement an open your Roth IRA today right? You just don’t know how.

It’s not as hard as you probably think. There are many financial companies that offer Roth IRA accounts including: local and national banks, mutual fund companies, and full service brokerages. You will have to research which is best for you depending on cost, convenience, and investment goals. Once you decide what will work for you the application is easy and straightforward. It requires basic information such as contact information, social security, and beneficiary names. You can make one lump sum payment for the entire year or you can make automatic monthly contributions. Make sure to keep track of your IRA records since this is an account you will have for many years to come.

Almost all banks offer Roth IRA’s. Call your bank or visit their website today and start saving for tomorrow.

Do you save for retirement? Do you have a 401K, a Roth IRA, or both?

ABOUT AUTHOR / Madison

Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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