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Retirement - What is the IRA

Aug 19, 2008
With all the three letter names floating around our society what is one more? Really? It's not like we don't have enough to worry about without adding this burden.

However, when it comes to real life, these three letters will have a greater noticeable affect on people than many of the other three letter names that we here on a regular basis such as the CIA, FBI, NSB, ATF, and countless other abbreviations that are hidden behind three little letters.

The good news is that an IRA isn't nearly as insidious as its name would imply. This is a useful tool to most Americans who hope to someday retire from their life of work and life out a somewhat comfortable existence.There are actually many different IRAs, which is the abbreviation for Individual Retirement Account.

A Traditional IRA is the most common. The only requirement for this particular IRA is that you are employed and that you invest no more than 100% of your income or $4,000 per year, whichever is greater up to the age of 49.

At the age of 50 your maximum investment is 100% of your income or $5,000 whichever happens to be greater. If you meet the requirements of the IRS to their satisfaction your contributions to your traditional IRA will be tax deductible. As a result, the funds are not taxed while in your IRA account but once the funds are withdrawn they are subject to federal income taxes.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly for those who plan to be in a lower tax bracket when the funds are withdrawn. However, there is a growing number of people who are interested in the benefits that Roth IRAs and similar funds present by paying the taxes now when the rates are known rather than risk an even higher rate of taxation in the future, even in a lower tax bracket. The best advice I can give is to discuss the matter thoroughly with your financial planner and listen to their advice.

This is a case where only you can ultimately decide which decision is best for your needs but he or she can provide valuable guidance. You should also keep in mind that though laws favor non-taxation for Roth contributions that could change between now and the time you are ready to withdraw your funds, which will have you paying double taxes on those funds and is the primary reason that many people elect to stick with Traditional IRAs instead.

There are several distinct disadvantages to the traditional IRA funds. One of those would be the requirements in order to qualify for tax deductions. First of all, if you have the opportunity to invest in another retirement option through your employer you must be below a certain income level in order to qualify for the tax deduction. If you do not meet that qualification all the funds that are deposited into your IRA fund are subject to federal income tax.

You will need to seriously discuss your stock buying strategies before determining if this is the best choice for you as those who buy and hold tend to be penalized when it comes to capital gains.

As things are currently, a Roth IRA is often preferable as the money isn't immediately tax deductible but not only is the investment not taxed upon withdrawal but neither are the gains that were earned on the investment. Another serious setback when it comes to the traditional IRA is that you are required to begin receiving payments at age 70.5. As we are seeing more and more people work well beyond the traditional retirement age this is becoming more and more of an issue.

There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional IRAs. It is important that you decide which of these you are prepared to live with and which you would rather live without. These differences will matter a great deal when retirement comes. Take the time to discuss your goals for the future with your financial advisor and see what he or she recommends.
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