ROTH IRA Basics

What is a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement plan that provides more flexibility than a traditional IRA.  The Roth IRA offers many advantages over a traditional IRA but has an income limit that is based off your filing status.  Roth IRAs are a great option for the working class citizen because that’s exactly who they were designed for and are not available to the wealthy.

Using the instructions on your income tax return or Form 8888 you can have your tax refund or portion of it directly deposited as a contribution to any IRA, whether it be a Roth IRA, SEP IRA, or Traditional IRA!

The Roth IRA is effectively bigger than a traditional IRA because it holds POST tax dollars and taking advantage of this by maxing out your contributions each year will allow you to increase your tax leverage concerning you retirement savings.

Roth IRA Advantages at Glance

There are many upsides to opening up a Roth IRA as long as you meet the income requirements for opening one.

  • Roth IRAs are not subject to the huge 50% penalty if you don’t take your money out by the time your 79 1/2 as you are with the traditional IRA.
  • If you qualify under the qualified distributions requirements you don’t have to pay taxes on the money withdrawn.
  • You can contribute to it regardless of age as long as you have taxable compensation and meet the AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) for your filing status.
  • You can use your spouse’s compensation subtract what they contribute to their IRA to qualify to make contributions to your own Roth IRA.
  • You can contribute to your spouses Roth IRA and your spouse can contribute to yours.
  • You pay taxes upfront at the time of contribution instead of paying taxes later on the lump sum.
  • You do not have to make minimum distributions (withdrawals) after age 79 1/2
  • In most circumstances your can participate in a Roth IRA even when investing in an employer based retirement plan.

Roth IRA Eligibility Requirements and Contribution Limits

Contributions on your behalf to a traditional IRA reduce your limit for contributions to a Roth IRA.
Contributions to your IRA can be as much as $5000 ($6000 if you are over 50). There are only two requirements to be able to make the contributions. First, you and/or spouse must have had taxable compensation at least equal to the amount of the contribution made to the Roth IRA. Second, for the max contribution to be made you must not exceed any income requirements.

Income requirements for a Roth IRA as of 2012

Married Filing Jointly or are a Qualifying Widow(er):
To make the max contribution you have to have a modified AGI equal to or lower than $173,000 and if it is over $179,000 you cannot contribute.

Your filing status is single, head of household, or married filing separately and your spouse did not live with you at any time during the year:
To make the max contribution you have to have a modified AGI equal to or lower than $110,000 and if it is over $125,000 you cannot contribute.

Your filing status is married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year:
To make the max contribution you have to have a modified AGI equal to 0 and if it is over $10,000 you cannot contribute.

Withdrawing (Getting Distributions) from your Roth IRA

Your distributions are all untaxed while your withdrawing your regular contributions and after this if you have any conversion contributions you’ll start withdrawing them. Any other withdrawals will come from earnings and after you’ve reach 59 1/2 and have had your IRA for at least 5 years you can enjoy withdrawing them tax free also. There are limited exceptions to these rules but if they are not met then your distributions will be taxable and may be subject to a 10% penalty for withdrawal on top of the tax.

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