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Retirement Accounts, Regular Accounts, and Annuities

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M ISCELLANEOUS T OPICS. Retirement Accounts, Regular Accounts, and Annuities. Why? ’Cause ya’ gotta’ put yer money somewhere!. Regular Taxable Accounts versus Retirement Accounts. Bonds. “Cash”. Bonds. Stocks. Options. Futures. Stocks. “Cash”. Margining. Real Estate. Shorting.

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Retirement Accounts, Regular Accounts, and Annuities

Why? ’Cause ya’ gotta’ put yer money somewhere!

regular taxable accounts versus retirement accounts
Regular Taxable Accounts versus Retirement Accounts










Real Estate


Mutual Funds

Mutual Funds

Retirement Account

Taxable Account

IRA, 401(k), 403(b), Roth IRA, etc.

Regular account

Strict limits on contributions

No limit on contributions

No limits on investment types

Strict limits on investment types

Pay taxes every year

Tax-deferred (Roth IRA – tax-free)

Although there are many subtle and not-so-subtle differences, the major differences are how they are taxed by the IRS, how much money you can contribute, and what you can have in the account.

types of retirement accounts
Types of Retirement Accounts
  • Pre-tax Contributions
    • 401(k), 403(b) for private & public employees
    • Traditional IRA for everyone
    • SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, Keogh for self-employed
    • Tax Break Now
      • Deduct contributions from income tax
      • Pay Taxes in Retirement
  • Post-tax Contributions
    • Roth IRA for (almost) everyone
    • “Roth 401(k),” “Roth 403(b)”
    • Tax Break Later
      • Tax-Free in Retirement!
individual retirement arrangement
Individual Retirement Arrangement

“What? I thought it stood for Individual Retirement Account!?”

  • The most popular personal retirement plan
  • Now referred to as the “Traditional IRA”
    • Anyone with earned income can contribute to a Traditional IRA
    • Contributions are normally tax-deductible (“pre-tax”)
      • Unless you have a retirement plan at your employment and make over a certain amount
    • Contribution limits are increasing
    • Investment grows tax-deferred
    • You pay taxes on the money as you withdraw it once you are retired
      • Normally, after 59½ years of age
    • Mandatory withdraws begin at age 70½
and the ira s many cousins
And the IRA’s Many Cousins…
  • 401(k) – corporations and other businesses
  • 403(b), 457, 401(a) – public organizations
  • SEP IRA – self-employed, small business
  • SIMPLE IRA – self-employed, small business
  • Simple 401(k) – self-employed, small business
  • SAR SEP – self-employed, small business
  • Keogh – self-employed, small business
  • Roth IRA – “post-tax” contributions
    • Now “Roth 401(k)’s” – “Roth 403(b)’s”

They all work very much like the Traditional IRA except for the Roth IRA, “Roth 401(k),” and “Roth 403(b).”

a pre tax contribution lowers your taxes now example 401 k 403 b traditional ira
A Pre-tax Contribution Lowers Your Taxes NowExample: 401(k), 403(b), Traditional IRA

But the whole $100 still goes into your account

so what is the catch
“So What is the Catch?”
  • You pay income tax on any amounts withdrawn in retirement
    • But people in retirement are usually in a lower tax bracket
      • If not, Congratulations!
  • If you withdraw the funds before retirement…
    • You pay the income tax, and
    • You pay a 10% penalty
      • Exceptions for first home purchase ($10,000), higher education, medical disability and financial hardship (hard to get accepted by IRS)
a post tax contribution gives no tax break now example roth ira roth 401 k
A Post-tax Contribution Gives No Tax Break Now Example: Roth IRA, “Roth 401(k)”

So Why Contribute to a Roth IRA?

because a roth ira is so cool
“Because a Roth IRA is So Cool!”
  • Tax-Free in Retirement is a Golden Opportunity
    • No other investment choice comes close
    • Eventually, they will probably be gotten rid of
  • Plus, you can withdraw the contributions at any time with no penalty
    • You have already paid tax on the contributions
  • This makes the Roth IRA also an excellent intermediate-term investment account
    • Purchase of a house or other high-ticket item
    • Great for college expenses
      • Currently not used in Financial Aid calculations

But a Roth IRA is Not for Everyone

  • Limitations on Roth IRAs Contributions
    • Only single taxpayers with an AGI of $110,000 or less and married couples with an AGI of $173,000 or less in 2012 can fully contribute to a Roth IRA
      • If you don’t qualify, Congratulations!
    • But you can contribute to a Roth IRA anyway
      • If you find that you have made over the limit, you can “recharacterize” the contributions into a Traditional IRA (which does not have the same limitations) before you file your taxes
      • And then you convert the Traditional IRA to a Roth
        • I know. I know. Who voted for these bozos?
          • Oh, yeah. We did…

IRA / Roth IRA Contribution Limits

Contributions are limited to the lesser of your gross salary or the maximum yearly contribution. If you make at least $5,000 in any year, you have until April 15th of the next year to put the maximum into a IRA or Roth IRA. Your spouse is also eligible for contributions even if he/she does not work.


401(k), 403(b) Contribution Limits

Contributions are limited to the lesser of your gross salary or the maximum yearly contribution. (Same rules as Traditional IRA / Roth IRA.) In other words, if you make $17,000 in year 2012, you could put your entire income into a 401(k) or 403(b) or 457. These amounts are now indexed to inflation and go up over time. There is a loophole in the law that allows those in the public sector to “double contribute” $17,000 into a 403(b) and $17,000 into a 457 – or $22,500 and $22,500 if you are 50 or over!


Tax Credit for Low Income Earners

  • Up to 50% of contributions
  • Maximum of $2,000
  • Based on Adjusted Gross Income
    • $28,750 or less – single filers
    • $57,500 or less – married filing jointly
    • $43,125 or less – head of household
  • Reminder: A tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of income taxes

If you do your own taxes, do not forget this. If you have someone do them, make sure to remind them you put money away in a retirement account. TurboTax handles these well.


“Roth 401(k)” / “Roth 403(b)”

  • If your employer offers the option, you are able to place after-tax dollars into your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts
    • Just like a Roth IRA
    • Employer matches will continue to be pre-tax contributions
    • However, contributions are not able to be withdrawn without penalty or taxes until retirement (unlike a Roth IRA)

This is a great option for those who do not need the tax break now. However, unless your employer offers matching contributions, I prefer the Roth IRA.

what is an annuity
What is an Annuity?
  • An annuity is a life insurance product designed to provide a guaranteed income
    • Annuity options include income for a set number of years, for as long as you live, or for as long as you and your spouse (or other dependent) lives if he or she outlives you
    • The amount you get is based on which of the above options you pick, how much you have contributed, and how well your annuity investments have performed over time
      • Fixed annuities (invests in bonds)
      • Variable annuities (invests in mutual funds)
advantages and disadvantages of tax deferred annuities
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tax-Deferred Annuities
  • Can be funded with retirement account dollars or after-tax dollars
    • No limit on contributions
  • Interest earned is tax deferred
    • You pay taxes on any pre-tax annuity contributions and all tax-deferred earnings as you withdraw them in retirement
    • As with other retirement plans, when you retire you will likely be in a lower income tax bracket
  • Downside – Very high fees!
    • Annuity company usually takes between 1½% to 3% every year! (That is on top of the mutual fund fees!)
review account types
Review: Account Types
  • Regular Account
    • Taxes paid each year
  • Retirement: Pre-tax Contribution
    • Traditional IRA, 401(k), 403(b), SEP IRA, etc.
    • Tax-deferred (Taxes paid in retirement)
  • Retirement: Post-tax Contribution
    • Roth IRA, “Roth 401(k),” “Roth 403(b)”
    • Tax-free in retirement
  • Annuity
    • High fees
    • Earnings tax-deferred