Should I invest in a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA?
There is no easy answer to this question. Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs share certain general characteristics. Both feature tax-deferred growth of earnings and allow you to contribute up to $6,000 in 2020 (unchanged from 2019) of earned income, plus an additional $1,000 "catch-up" contribution if you're 50 or older. (This is the maximum you may contribute to all IRAs.) Both allow certain low- and middle-income taxpayers to claim a partial tax credit for amounts contributed. But important differences exist between these two types of IRAs. In fact, the Roth IRA is in some ways the opposite of the traditional IRA.
A traditional IRA allows anyone with earned income to contribute the maximum $6,000 in 2020, plus catch-up if eligible. However, your ability to deduct traditional IRA contributions will depend on your annual income, your filing status, and whether you or your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored plan. You may be able to deduct all, a portion, or none of your contribution for a given year. Any distribution from a traditional IRA will be subject to income taxes to the extent that the distribution represents earnings and deductible contributions. You may also be hit with a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you draw money out before age 59½ (there are exceptions to this rule). Beginning at age 72, you must begin to take annual distributions from a traditional IRA.1
You can also contribute to a Roth IRA, as long as you have taxable compensation. However, your ability to contribute and the amount you'll be able to contribute (up to the annual limit) will depend on your income and tax filing status. Although Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible, Roth IRAs have other advantages. You're not required to take distributions from a Roth IRA at any age, which gives you more estate-planning options. Another key strength: Qualified withdrawals will avoid both income tax and the early withdrawal penalty if certain conditions are met. Nonqualified withdrawals will be taxed and penalized only on the earnings portion of the withdrawal, since the principal is your own after-tax money.
Your personal goals and circumstances will determine which type of IRA is right for you. If you wish to potentially reduce taxes during retirement or help preserve assets for your heirs, a Roth IRA may be the way to go. A traditional IRA may make more sense if you can make deductible contributions and want to lower your taxes while you're still working.
1Due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, required minimum distributions (RMDs) are waived in 2020.
Fixed annuities pay a fixed rate of return that can start right away (with an immediate fixed annuity) or can be postponed to a future date (with a deferred fixed annuity). Although the rate on a fixed annuity may be adjusted, it will never fall below a guaranteed minimum rate specified in the annuity contract. This guaranteed rate acts as a "floor" to help protect owners from periods of low interest rates. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
Variable annuities offer fluctuating returns. The owner of a variable annuity allocates premiums among his or her choice of investment subaccounts, which can range from low risk to very high risk. The return on a variable annuity is based on the performance of the subaccounts that are selected. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. The investment return and principal value of an investment option are not guaranteed. Variable annuity subaccounts fluctuate with changes in market conditions. When a variable annuity is surrendered, the principal may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.
Variable annuities are long-term investment vehicles designed for retirement purposes. They are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the variable annuity contract and the underlying investment options, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
Of course, there are contract limitations, fees, and charges associated with annuities, which can include mortality and expense risk charges, sales and surrender charges, investment management fees, administrative fees, and charges for optional benefits. Surrender charges may apply during the contract's early years in the event that the contract owner surrenders the annuity. Variable annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency; nor are they guaranteed or endorsed by any bank or savings association.