Skip links

A Guide to Traditional and Roth IRAs

Embarking on the journey towards a secure financial future often involves making pivotal decisions; and choosing the right Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is no exception. In this guide, we invite you to dive into the complex world of Traditional and Roth IRAs, clarifying the nuances and empowering you to make choices aligned with your unique financial goals. Traditional and Roth IRAs represent two distinct paths toward retirement, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. Whether you’re aiming for immediate tax benefits or tax-free withdrawals in retirement, understanding these differences is essential. Join us as we shed light on the distinguishing features of Traditional and Roth IRAs, providing you with the knowledge needed to develop a retirement strategy that stands the test of time. Welcome to “A Guide to Traditional and Roth IRAs” – your compass for informed and empowered financial decision-making. 


What is the Tax Treatment of Contributions?

  • Traditional IRA: Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible on both state and federal tax returns for the year you make the contribution. As a result, withdrawals, which are officially known as distributions, are taxed at your income tax rate when you make them, presumably in retirement.
  • Roth IRA: With a Roth IRA you do not get a tax deduction when you make a contribution; but your withdrawals from your Roth IRA during retirement are tax-free. That’s because you paid the tax bill upfront, so you don’t owe anything on the back end.


What is the Tax Treatment of Withdrawals?

  • Traditional IRA: If you withdraw money from a traditional IRA before 59½, you’ll pay taxes and 10% early withdrawal penalty. In some specialized circumstances, you can avoid the withdrawal penalty, however you cannot avoid the taxes. Some of these specialized circumstances may include using the money to pay for qualified first-time homebuyer expenses or qualified higher education expenses.
  • Roth IRA: Unlike a traditional IRA, you can withdraw sums equivalent to your Roth IRA contributions penalty-free and tax-free, for any reason, even before age 59½.


Are there Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for these accounts?

  • Traditional IRA: Once you reach age 73, you are required to take annual RMDs from your retirement accounts. The amount of your RMD is calculated by dividing the value of your Traditional IRA by a life expectancy factor, which is determined by the IRS. 
  • Roth IRA: Roth IRAs carry no required minimum distributions, which means you’re not required to withdraw any money at any age or during your lifetime at all. This feature makes them ideal wealth-transfer vehicles. Beneficiaries of Roth IRAs don’t owe income tax on withdrawals either, though they are required to take distributions or else roll the account into an IRA of their own.


How do I know which account is right for me?

One of the biggest considerations when deciding between the two options is how you think your future income will compare to your current situation. With this, you also must consider your future income tax bracket. You have to determine if the tax rate you pay on your Roth IRA contributions today will be higher or lower than the rate you’ll pay on distributions from your traditional IRA later.


In general, if you think you will be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, a Roth IRA may be the better choice over a traditional IRA. Choosing a Roth IRA will allow you to pay taxes now, at a lower rate, and withdraw funds tax-free in retirement when you’re in a higher tax bracket. If you expect to be in a lower tax bracket during retirement, a traditional IRA might make the most financial sense. You’ll reap tax benefits today while you’re in the higher bracket and pay taxes later at a lower rate.


As we end our exploration into Traditional and Roth IRAs, we hope to have revealed a path toward financial clarity and empowerment. The two main differences to consider are the benefits of tax-deductible contributions in Traditional IRAs versus the tax-free withdrawals in Roth IRAs, and the subtle difference of Required Minimum Distributions. When it comes to selecting the right account for you, it’s about aligning these benefits with your unique financial journey. Whether you prioritize immediate tax advantages or tax-free income in retirement, the key lies in understanding your current financial landscape and envisioning your retirement goals. We encourage you to reach out to retirement experts, who stand ready to guide you through this decision-making process, ensuring that your choice today paves the way for a secure and prosperous financial tomorrow.

Return to top of page

New Member?
Forgot Password?