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  • Roth IRA Rules and how to open one

    Roth IRA: Rules and how to open one

    You’ve probably heard of the concept of a Roth IRA. In this email, I’ll cover the basics of a Roth IRA and provide a step-by-step guide on how to open one.

    A Roth IRA is a retirement account where your contributions (the money you put into the account) and earnings (growth of your investments) grow tax-free. You can withdraw your investments tax-free and penalty-free after reaching age 59 ½ and once your account has been open for 5 years.

    Your contributions can always be withdrawn tax-free.

    For example, let’s say you contributed $5,500 to a Roth IRA account in 2015. Now, the account balance is $15,000. You can withdraw that initial $5,500 without any penalties. To do this, you would need to sell stocks/ETFs totaling $5,500 and then withdraw the funds. There’s a common misconception that your money is always locked in, but you can always withdraw what you put in.

    How to qualify?

    There is an income limit to qualify. For the 2024 year, if your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (AGI (line 11 of 1040) plus student loan interest) is less than $146,000 (single) or $230,000 (married) you can contribute the full amount.

    If the income is between $146,000 and $161,000 (single) or $230,000 and $240,000 (married filing jointly), the contribution is reduced.

    If the income is more than $161,000 (single) or $240,000 (married), you can’t contribute anything directly. If you make more than this amount, you will need to use the Backdoor Roth strategy to contribute. 

    How much can you contribute?

    The limit to contribute to a Roth IRA in 2024 is the lesser of:

    • $7,000 ($8,000 if you are age 50 or older), or 
    • Your taxable compensation (includes wages, salaries, bonuses, self-employment income)

    Therefore, if you took a year off and didn’t have any compensation, you will not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA. 

    When can you contribute?

    You can make contributions to a Roth IRA at any time during that year or by the due date of your tax return for that year (excluding extensions). So, contributions for the year 2024 will be due by April 15, 2025. Additionally, you can still contribute to the 2023 Roth IRA by April 15, 2024 (9 days left!)

    What if you contribute too much?

    Generally, your broker wouldn’t allow you to contribute more than the limit, but sometimes mistakes can happen (for example, having a Roth IRA with two different brokers like Vanguard and Fidelity). An excise tax of 6% applies to any excess contributions made to a Roth IRA. However, per the IRS, “any contribution that is withdrawn on or before the due date (including extensions) for filing your tax return for the year is treated as an amount not contributed.”

    Why contribute?

    Aside from tax-free growth and withdrawals after age 59½ , a Roth IRA offers some additional benefits:

    • Tax rate protection

    • Protects against social security tax 

    • Lack of increased medicare premiums 

    • No Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)

    I wrote about these more in depth in my other newsletter issue

    Okay, how do you open one?

    Here is a step-by-step guide to open a Roth IRA with Vanguard

    After opening your account, you will need to invest that money. So first, you contribute then invest. In my other newsletter issue I described exactly what I invest in.

    Hope you found this one helpful.

    Let me know if there are any questions.

    MC, CPA

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