Do you have a retirement fund? You’re sure to need one, but if you have the option of choosing a Roth IRA or a 401(k), which do you choose? It’s easy for people to advise you to do both, but unless you’re already fairly well off, that may be a daunting proposition. If you have to choose one or the other, how do you decide between the two?
- A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account. An individual can open the account and decide how investments are allocated. Roth IRAs differ from traditional IRAs and most 401(k)s in that they are funded with money that’s already been taxed. Therefore, once you reach the right time to withdraw it, the money is tax-free. Another benefit of Roth IRAs is that you can withdraw the contributions you’ve made at any time, though you will have to wait to access your earnings. Of course, it’s better to leave your retirement account alone, but it’s good to know that you have that money in case of a dire emergency.
- 401 (k)s are retirement accounts sponsored by an employer. This means that, unlike with Roth IRAs, you can’t open a 401 (k) on your own. They also differ from a Roth IRA in that a 401(k) is tax-deferred. This means you can invest pre-tax income and not pay any taxes on that money until after you retire and withdraw your funds. Perhaps the most appealing thing about a 401(k) is that many employers match either part or all of your contribution, which essentially means your employer is giving you free money for your retirement account.
Now that you have a basic understanding of each fund, are you any less confused about which one is right for you? Probably not, because it’s all still pretty confusing. Let’s break it down further, to see how they compare.
- Your eligibility is a major factor. To open a Roth IRA you need taxable income, but to open a 401(k), you need to work for an employer that offers this kind of account.
- Limits on how much you can contribute are different for Roth IRAs and 401(k)s. Both types of accounts have limits, but the limits are much higher for a 401(k).
- Taxes vary depending on which type of account you choose. Remember, if you keep your Roth IRA account for at least five years and don’t withdraw it until you’re at least 59 ½ years old, your money will be tax-free. With a 401(k), you can expect to pay taxes when you withdraw the money.
- Roth IRAs give you some flexibility with your investments. You can set up a Roth IRA through a brokerage firm or using software, at a physical location or online, and invest it however you wish. You can make your own decisions or consult with a financial advisor, or you can set up a robo-advisor to manage your investments for you. With a 401(k) there’s less flexibility. While you’ll be able to change how much you invest and your investment allocations at any time, your employer will limit your options as far as where the money is invested.
- Withdrawing money from a retirement account can be complicated. You’re supposed to leave your money alone when it’s in a retirement account, but typically, you’re allowed to withdraw from both types of account without penalty if you face a hardship like a permanent disability or extremely high medical bills. However, as mentioned previously, you can withdraw the money you’ve contributed to a Roth IRA, and you can even withdraw your earnings early in some circumstances without penalty. On the other hand, early withdrawals from a 401(k) typically come with income taxes and an additional ten percent penalty.
- Both 401(k) accounts and Roth IRAs have required minimum disbursements (RMDs). However, with a Roth IRA, you don’t necessarily have to take money out of your account. When you die, however, your beneficiaries will be subject to the RMD. With a 401(k), the IRA typically requires you to take disbursements at age 70 ½ unless you’re still working.
So the question remains, which type of retirement account is right for you? If your employer offers a 401(k) and matches funds, then that may be your best bet, because it involves free money. Once you’ve maxed out what your employer will match, if you have excess retirement funds, you might want to put them in a Roth IRA. It’s good to know you’ll have money that won’t be taxed when you’re living on a retiree’s fixed income. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), it’s obviously in your best interest to have a Roth IRA. The important thing is to make sure you start putting aside retirement money early and put aside as much as possible.
Since 1941, GCS Credit Union has been serving customers in Illinois, providing loans, basic savings, and other banking services. Having started as a single location, we’ve spread throughout the area, and now support Sangamon, Logan, Macon, Marion, Jefferson, Perry, Jackson, Williamson, Jersey, Macoupin, Montgomery, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Monroe, Washington and Randolph counties. Dedicated to focusing on our members’ financial needs, we’re a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative. If you’d like to know more about the benefits of a credit union, call (618) 797-7993, or contact us through our website.
Back-to-school season is upon us again, even though it seems like the summer barely got off the ground! Unfortunately, with the back-to-school season comes the dreaded back-to-school shopping, which most parents find stressful because it’s so expensive. According to the National Retail Federation, the average U.S. household will spend almost $700 on getting ready for the school year, and for parents of college kids that number is even higher: it’s a whopping $976.78. How do you get your kids back to school without breaking the bank? It takes a little bit of planning, but you can create a budget for back-to-school and maybe even save yourself some money.
- First, determine what you need. Take the list provided by the school district or teacher, and then look around your house. You probably have a pretty healthy inventory of school supplies at home, so if you organize those, you may be able to reduce your shopping list. While you’re at it, review your child’s wardrobe and make note of additional clothing he or she will need to start the school year. It’s probably not necessary to buy a lot of new clothes, but it’s nice to have a “first-day” outfit, and there are some essentials that may need replacing. Consider less tangible back-to-school items as well, like a new haircut or a physical. Once you’ve compiled your list, estimate what each item on the list will cost, so that you can have a good idea of your projected expenditure.
- Set your spending limit. It’s important to do your back-to-school shopping with a spending limit firmly in place, or impulse purchases may derail your budget. Be fiscally conservative, estimating the cost of items at their regular price and not the current sale prices, so that you’ll have a bit of leeway when you actually go to the store. If the projected expenditure exceeds your limit, take a hard look at the list and see if there’s anything that can wait until later.
- Try to find some extra cash to pad the budget. You might be able to work a few extra hours, or find a temporary side job, just to give yourself some breathing room. On the other hand, if your children are preteens or teenagers, you might talk to them about contributing toward their own expenses. Especially if they want some trendy items that are a bit pricey, they should be expected to help pay for them. This is helpful for you, but it’s actually good for your kids as well, because it helps them learn about financial responsibility.
- If you’ve got a few paychecks between now and the first day of school, divide the expenses between them. Set aside money from each paycheck, and it won’t feel like as much of an expense as it would if it all came out of one check. Look for different ways to set aside money, perhaps challenging yourself to set aside all of one denomination of cash, or round up your purchases and put the extra into your back-to-school fund. You might even put yourself on a discretionary spending freeze, in order to save up for your school shopping.
- Shop wisely. Before you head out for school shopping, study several ads, and determine which store has the best deals. You might even consider hitting more than one shop, in order to cut down on your spending. Look for ways to save even more, by shopping consignment stores, taking advantage of your state’s tax holiday, using coupons, and buying generic. Allow your child a couple of splurge items, but save money wherever you can.
Need to set up a savings account so that you have a place to safely stash your back-to-school cash? Look no further than GCS Credit Union. Since 1941, GCS Credit Union has been serving customers in Illinois, providing loans, basic savings, and other banking services. Having started as a single location, we’ve spread throughout the area, and now support Sangamon, Logan, Macon, Marion, Jefferson, Perry, Jackson, Williamson, Jersey, Macoupin, Montgomery, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Monroe, Washington and Randolph counties. Dedicated to focusing on our members’ financial needs, we’re a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative. If you’d like to know more about the benefits of a credit union, call (618) 797-7993, or contact us through our website.