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Pre Tax IRA

There are many ways to save for retirement, but one of the best is to get an individual retirement account (IRA). These are especially useful if you don’t have access to a workplace retirement account, like a 401(k) or 403(b). An IRA is essentially a shell into which you deposit and invest money for the purpose of growing your retirement savings. Workplace retirement accounts are generally filled with pre-tax money. But with IRAs, this tax question depends on which type of IRA you decide to open. For help managing your retirement plans, consider working with a local financial advisor.

Traditional IRA Taxes

A traditional IRA is, as the name implies, the original type of IRA. Traditional IRAs are tax-deferred, meaning that you don’t pay taxes on the money you put into the account, making it a “pre-tax” account. However, you’ll eventually pay taxes on the distributions you take from the account in retirement. Taking distributions before 59.5 will result in a 10% tax penalty from the IRS.

Unlike with a 401(k), you do technically put money into the account after you’ve paid taxes on it. So instead, you can then deduct all contributions on your tax return at the end of the year.

For 2021 and 2022, traditional IRA account holders can contribute up to $6,000 over the course of a year. If you’re age 50 or older, though, the IRS lets you make “catch-up” contributions of up to an additional $1,000.

Roth IRA Taxes

Pre Tax IRA

For the most part, a Roth IRA operates similarly to a traditional IRA. You start by putting money into the account, investing and letting it grow and eventually taking out distributions when you retire. Roth IRAs also have the same contribution limits as traditional IRAs, allowing contributions of $6,000 per year, unless you’re over 50, in which case you can contribute up to $7,000.

The major difference between Roth and traditional accounts, though, is that Roth IRA deposits are already taxed and not deductible on your tax return. But that means when you’re ready to take the money from your account, it won’t be taxed. This understandably an appeal proposition for most people.

For 2022, there are also income limits that determine how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA. If you’re single, you can contribute the full amount if you earn $129,000 annually or less. But if you earn between $129,000 and $144,000, you can contribute a lesser amount, with earners over $144,000 not being allowed to contribute.

For a married couple who files jointly, total earnings of up to $204,000 allow you to contribute the full amount. Between $204,000 and $214,000, a partial contribution is allowed. With earnings of more than $214,000, no Roth IRA contributions are allowed.

Traditional IRAs vs. Roth IRAs: Which Tax Setup Is Best for You?

There are positives and negatives to the tax implications of both traditional and Roth IRAs. With a traditional IRA, you get to defer taxes until retirement, which increases your account’s growth potential in retirement. Then, when you are likely to be in a lower tax bracket as a retiree, you begin taking withdrawals. In some states, retirement income actually isn’t subject to any income tax at all.

With a Roth IRA, on the other hand, you get a better sense of exactly how much money you’ll have for retirement without having to factor in taxes. This can allow for simpler planning and a more concrete strategy planning of your eventual retirement lifestyle. Also, the perk of not having to factor taxes into your withdrawal plans has major benefits.

Bottom Line

Pre Tax IRA

Whether or not money put into an IRA is taxable depends on which type of IRA you open. With a traditional IRA, the money avoids taxes now, but you will owe taxes on the withdrawals you take from the IRA in retirement. On the other hand, with a Roth IRA, you’ll put money in after taxes, with no taxes on your distributions.

Which type of IRA is right for you depends on your goals and future trajectory. Beyond that, building a retirement plan is a very personal process. If you have questions about how the specifics of your financial situation should govern which type of IRA you open, think about working with a financial advisor.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • It’s important to know exactly how much you’ll need to have in retirement based on your lifestyle, where you live and when you plan to retire. SmartAsset’s retirement calculator can help you figure that out so you can plan with goals in mind.
  • A financial advisor can help you set up a robust retirement plan. Luckily, finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • One of the keys to saving for retirement is a strong asset allocation. It should change as you age, going from an aggressive equities-based portfolio aimed at building wealth to a more conservative portfolio focused on preserving wealth during retirement. Use SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator to start building your portfolio.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SrdjanPav, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/izusek

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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