Roth 401(k) & Roth IRA Pros / Cons: Depending on Income Tax Bracket and Income Level

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Roth 401(k) or a Roth IRA: Which Is Better for Retirement Plan Investing?

Powerpoint slides on a superior retirement planning strategy called Roth IRA on Roids which allows for tax-free distributions, tax-free growth, guaranteed principal and guarateed death benefits.Most places of employment will offer a variety of retirement plans you can choose to make use of. Two commonly asked questions are whether a Roth 401(k) is the same as a Roth IRA retirement account and is either one better than a traditional 401(k) plan. While there are significant differences, any type of IRA & retirement plan investing is a great idea; for the past 10 plus years the average American actually had a negative savings rate!

The Roth IRA

A Roth IRA and a Roth 401(k) are two very different savings instruments. Both have the same concept however. Basically, you make contributions to plan for retirement. There are no tax deductions for these contributions. Yet, upon your retirement, you can withdraw your contributions and additional earnings tax-free. While it would be wonderful to have a simple answer to these common questions, one type is not necessarily better than the other. It will greatly depend on your personal preferences and circumstances. The right choice for you will depend on your specific situation and expectations.

The Traditional 401(k)

With a traditional 401(k), the employee will contribute a specified percentage of their salary to a plan that is employer-sponsored. Many companies will make contributions to your account, and some companies will even offer a match of up to 100% of your contributions. No contribution that is made to the traditional 401(k) is counted as taxable income. All of the gains that are accumulated in the account are tax-deferred. Upon withdrawal, the amount is taxed as if it were ordinary income. The traditional 401(k) is similar to a traditional IRA account and account owners will have to begin taking withdrawals at age 70 1/2.

Roth 401(k)

When dealing with a Roth 401(k), the contributions that are made by the employer are kept separate. These contributions will receive the same tax treatment as a traditional 401(k).

A Roth IRA does not have a withdrawal requirement. You will never be required to make mandatory withdrawals from the account. Roth 401(k) accounts do have a withdrawal rule, and owners will be required to begin withdrawing when they reach 70 1/2. One way to avoid the mandatory withdrawal rule is to rollover the Roth 401(k) into a Roth IRA retirement account. Keep in mind that Roth 401(k) accounts are available to every worker, while Roth IRAs have an income restriction.

The Roth 401(k) plan has maximum contribution limit. In 2009, the limit is $16,500. However, there is a $5,500 catch-up contribution that is allowed for workers who are over the age of 50. Combined, employees can contribute up to $22,000 per year into their account.

Contribution Limits: Roth IRA & 401(k)

IRAs have a very significant difference from a 401(k). With an IRA retirement account, the contribution limits are lower. This is because these accounts are not sponsored by your employer. For 2009, Roth IRA contribution limits are set at $5,000. Employees are allotted an additional $1,000 for catch-up, totaling $6,000 for the year if you are over 50. It is possible to have more than one type of retirement account. If you have an IRA and a 401(k), you can contribute the maximum amount to both accounts. Now, the question remains, what's better, a 401(k) or a Roth IRA?

Choosing Roth 401(k) or Roth on Roids

An analysis conducted by William Urban from Bingham, Osborn and Scarborough, indicates that the Roth 401(k) plan "might be the better choice for more people than commonly understood."

The popular belief is that a Roth 401(k) makes more sense, especially if you are planning to be in a higher tax bracket upon retirement. The analysis showed that if your tax bracket falls in retirement years, the accumulation in the Roth might make that the better choice. This is usually the case if employees can afford to contribute the maximum amount allowed. Many times, younger workers are in the lower tax brackets. This minimizes the immediate tax benefits of the traditional 401(k), making the Roth fund a better choice. Some experts think that a Roth on Roids is even more advantageous because it has guaranteed minimum returns and you never lose money like most people did in 2008.

Regardless of your decision, going with any tax advantaged savings account is critical to save for retirement. More and more people file for bankruptcy because they did not have a large enough savings when a financial emergency occurred such as a sickness, loss of a job, or death in the family.

Rocco Beatrice, CPA, MST (Master of Science in Taxation), MBA (Master of Business Administration), BSBA (Management/Accounting), CWPP (Certified Wealth Preservation Planner), CMMB (Certified Mortgage Broker), CAPP (Certified Asset Protection Planner), Managing Director, Estate Street Partners, LLC. Mr. Beatrice is an asset protection, award-winning trust, estate planning and tax expert.

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