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Do you favor Roth or traditional retirement accounts, and why?

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OldITGuy
OldITGuy
4 months ago

Usually discussions on this topic center around tax considerations and contribution limits (in one form or another). Actually, I agree that typically those considerations should be the major focus. That said, one consideration that I rarely find mentioned is the differences in legal protections afforded between Roths, IRA’s, and other traditional retirement accounts (such as 401k’s). Suffice to say, depending on the state one resides in (or plans to reside in), anyone considering this topic should at least be aware that differences may exist and what they might mean at some point in the future. I’m a big fan of understanding as many aspects of a topic as possible before making a major decision.

Steve Spinella
Steve Spinella
5 months ago

I advise people to always prefer Roths. It’s only people who don’t save who might find some benefit in traditional accounts over Roth accounts, and they obviously aren’t listening to the question :-).
I do, however, find that the ability to decide on a contribution after the tax year for IRAs is an excellent way to hit a tax threshhold, if that applies. Making the conversions, though, as soon as possible, as I also advise, has to be done during the calendar year.

Richard L
Richard L
6 months ago

I contribute the maximum allowable amount to my 401k on a pre-tax basis.
My traditional IRA was converted to a Roth IRA in 1998.
Since there is uncertainty regarding my future tax bracket in retirement, the Roth IRA provides a level of tax diversification. Income taxes, generally speaking, are relatively low now but I suspect tax rates will increase in the future.

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard L
David Powell
David Powell
6 months ago

I’d favor Roth if I met the income requirements to own one right now. Tax rates are not likely to stay this low for much longer. Additional retirement savings for me beyond 401K has to go into a taxable account. If you can afford it, having Roth and traditional IRA/401K seems ideal for managing taxes in retirement as tax policy ebbs and flows.

Ben Rodriguez
Ben Rodriguez
6 months ago

Love this question. Right now we prefer Roths for two reasons that aren’t often discussed in the great Roth v. Trad debate:

  1. As Super-Savers (meaning we max-out all available retirement accounts), we’re able to shove a bit more money into Roths because, for example, $19,000 in a Roth is actually more than the same amount in a Trad account, because the taxes have already been pad. The counter-argument you’ll hear to that is “but if you just invest the tax savings that the traditional gives you, the result is the same.” But how many people do that? I think very few. More likely people just take the money and run (or spend).
  2. Diversification. Because in previous years the Roth 401k was not available, we have much more in traditional accounts than Roths. Given that we, like everyone else, have no idea if taxes will be higher in future than now, we’ve opted to diversify our retirement accounts. That means loading up on Roths now to balance things out.
John Goodell
John Goodell
6 months ago

I don’t bother crunching the numbers too much because as with all tax policy – it will shift. I’ll have a pension, so traditional IRAs aren’t as valuable to me in retirement as someone without that income. Mostly though, I choose the Roth because I prefer to avoid deferring obligations wherever possible. Mentally, it’s just easier to not have to worry about taxes on that money, and buying enhanced peace of mind is worth it.

Rick Moberg
Rick Moberg
6 months ago

Whether someone should favor Roths or traditional retirement accounts depends a lot in where they are in life, their taxable income, and their current tax rate. There’s no one size fits all.

Once you retire and have an opportunity to make Roth conversions, matters get considerably more complicated. It is difficult to know if the tax arbitrage opportunity presented by conversions will work out as expected. That said, doing conversions in the name of tax diversification makes sense. Spreading assets across taxable, Roth, and traditional retirement accounts will not result in the lowest tax outcome, but it won’t result in the highest either.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
6 months ago

I’ve not been able to contribute to a Roth for some time, but now that I am in a lower tax bracket due to a job change I am considering starting to convert some traditional IRA $ to Roth $. The tough call is knowing what tax brackets will be 25 years from now when I’d have to start drawing down my traditional IRA. Given I don’t have a crystal ball, I will be gradual about making the shift. And I’ll my conversions in such a way that I don’t tick up to a higher tax bracket.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
6 months ago

I had a traditional IRA, and a Simple IRA at my small law practice, long before I even knew what a Roth was. But later on I started Roths for my wife and me, and in recent years have done several Roth conversions.

So, we’ve ended up with a combination. I understand (and hope) that can provide some flexibility (“tax diversification”) down the road.

Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
6 months ago

When I was 18, I was all about the Roth IRA. After all, I was in a very low tax bracket while working at Publix Super Markets. I kept on the Roth train early in my career when I was working a low-salaried finance job. But then I scored a sweet gig in the energy trading industry which commanded a higher salary–so I switched to #Teamtraditional (aka regular contributions) with my 401(k). Still, I contributed to a Roth IRA since I was above the income limit for taking the Traditional IRA tax deduction.

Now, running my own business and having a Solo 401(k), I do Roth contributions for tax reasons (the small business QBI deduction essentially makes Roth 401(k) contributions more valuable).

As a general rule, if I can avoid paying 22% income tax, then I’ll do that (which means making Traditional IRA contributions). If I’m in the 12% bracket or lower, I go Roth. That’s my rule of thumb.

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