When you are in your twenties or even early thirties, retirement seems a world away. You sometimes have a difficult time planning your next holiday, not what you will do 30-40 years from now. Without proper preparation, your bohemian dreams of sipping cocktails on a tropical beach or seeing the world with your partner could quickly turn into spending time around your back-yard.
The options for retirement plans consist of four choices, which you can sometimes combine to get more consistent savings. The first option is a 401(k) plan which is offered by the employer. This can be supplemented with a Roth 401(k). For additional savings or if you are self-employed, you could opt-in for a traditional IRA, to which you can add a Roth IRA.
Understanding the Roth advantages
This name comes from Senator William Roth Jr. who supported the Taxpayer Relief Act in 1997. By this bill, people can choose to supplement their pension savings with a certain amount, currently up to $5500/ (or $6500 for those over 50 years old) from money that has already been taxed once. This means that once you hit the retirement age, you can get money from your Roth account without paying additional taxes on them in the future.
Roth savings are an excellent option for young people since they have no control over the tax levels in the next decades. The upper cap on the income of $118,000 for singles and $184,000 for married couples also suggests that this option is for those with average earnings, but who can plan. Deductibility of the contributions also depends on the marital status and the filing status of the applicant. AAA Credit Guide offers a detailed description of the Roth IRA including tips and tricks.
401(k) or IRA?
The first myth that needs to be debunked is that this is not a choice, you can have both. The 401(k) plan is offered by your employer and comes with the promise that they will match your contribution to the pension fund up to a certain percentage of your salary, no mere than $17,000/year. Not choosing such a plan is like leaving free money on the table. These funds are deposited into the retirement account before taxes; you will pay those when you use them.
The IRA (Individual Retirement Agreement) is a plan that you can sign up at any broker and contributions are deductible to lower your taxable income. People who are not in a traditional employment situation can only contribute to this kind of plan.
Putting it all together
If this all seems complicated, you could check out this flowchart to help you make a better decision. The key takeaways are: if your employer offers a traditional 401(k) (pre-tax) be sure to contribute to it and eventually ask about the option to get also a Roth 401(k) (after-tax). In the case of self-employed or those who still want more security, there is always the option of an IRA, either traditional (pre-tax) or Roth, depending on the income levels.