What is a Roth IRA for? – MUST Know

Spread the wealth!

A lot of you may or may not be fairly familiar with a Roth IRA. It isn’t very common knowledge, not enough people know what they should or could be doing for their retirement. Not enough people know that in order to have a safe retirement the best thing to do is to start ASAP, regardless of age.

What is a Roth IRA? What is a Roth IRA for? Should you be looking into opening one? As you read forward, you will be learning the basic details you must know when looking into opening up a Roth IRA. Things you MUST know before opening an account.

Once you have a read-through of the following points, you will have sufficient knowledge of the basics of a Roth IRA. Enough knowledge to go ahead and open an account for yourself.

What is a Roth IRA?

First off, what does IRA stand for? IRA stands for Independent Retirement Account. It is referred to as a Roth IRA because this particular account was named after its sponsor, William Roth, a former Delaware Senator.

A Roth IRA is different from a Traditional IRA which is discussed in a separate article.

Roth IRAs are accounts that are funded with after-tax dollars. The gains within the account are completely tax-free upon withdrawal at retirement age. This means that regardless of the profits you made within the account when you withdraw your money at retirement, you are not taxed on those profits.

Think of a Roth IRA as a shield or a house. When you have a house, you are free to decorate it and set up furniture within the house as you wish. Equally, within the Roth IRA, you are free to invest your money in any way you wish. Whether it is individual stocks, index funds, bonds, CDs, real estate, and more. The Roth IRA then serves as a shield to protect your gains from taxes, these gains are made from your invested money.

Roth IRA accounts are a good option for people who know that they will be in a higher tax bracket during retirement. If you’re young, making the beginner-level income, you better get to opening a Roth IRA account ASAP. This goes to almost anyone else as well, but younger people are the ones who are not paying enough attention to their future retirement plans.

So I’ll say it again, open your Roth IRA ASAP!

Who Qualifies to Contribute to a Roth IRA

Any single person making $139k per year or less (for the year 2020) is able to contribute. Any couple filing their taxes jointly making $206k per year or less together (for the year 2020) qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Yes, basically if you’re too rich, you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA.

But there are certainly ways to get around this barrier. For example, if you own your own business and make more than the limit on a yearly basis, you can simply list yourself as an employee of your company and file what you pay yourself as income. Ideally, that amount should be less than $139k.

The rest of the income will simply be filed as going toward the business or going to you in the form of a distribution. You can do this by running your business through an S-Corp, but this is a different conversation.

Keep in mind that these limitations on a Roth IRA are per the year of 2020 and are subject to change. They have changed throughout time and will continue to change in the future.

The limit to how much you can make to contribute to a Roth IRA is not the only thing that is subject to change. The amount that you can contribute to your Roth IRA account is also subject to change.

Which leads me to my next point…

How Much can be Contributed

Roth IRAs set a limit of total contributions of $6k per year for single people ($7k per year if you’re over the age of 50) for the year 2020. For people who are married, they can contribute a maximum of $6k per year for each spouse to a total of $12k per year ($7k per year for each spouse to a total of $14k per year once both spouses are over the age of 50) for the year 2020.

If you’re making less than the limit of contribution toward a Roth IRA (ie: less than $6,000 per year), you may only contribute less or equal to your yearly income. Keep in mind that this income must be after-tax income.

You cannot contribute pretax income to a Roth IRA.

The window in which you can make contributions toward your Roth IRA for a certain year is the same as the tax year. April 15th of the prior year to April 15th of the next year. This window was extended in the year 2020 due to the  COVID-19 pandemic.

You are also only able to withdraw profits from your account without getting taxed on them after the age of 59.5. If you withdraw any of the profits that your funds have made prior to that age, you will be penalized.

You are able to withdraw funds from your account, penalty-free, before the age of 59.5 only if they are funds that you have contributed.

Here’s an example:

If I contributed $5k to my Roth IRA and have made a profit of $4k, the total in my account is now $9k. If I am under the age of 59.5, I can withdraw $5k from the account completely penalty-free, while the $4k profit is subject to penalty.

I would not recommend doing this, though. You should avoid withdrawing any funds from your Roth IRA account until you are ready to retire. This is why you should keep an Emergency Fund at hand, in case of unexpected expenses. Do not use your Roth IRA funds. You will be missing out on amazing compound interest by doing this.

Also, if you’re invested within volatile funds, don’t withdraw funds just because the economy or markets are going downhill (unless you’re near the age of retirement). Just keep investing consistently and ignore the media. Something you have on your side is time. Time is your ally, and it will get you out of those down dips.

When you invest in down dips, you are also buying those investments at a lower price. This price will go up later in the future and you will be able to make very nice profits from the consistent investments you’ve been making.

Beware of Fees… What type of investor are you?

When you are investing in a Roth IRA you must keep in mind that there are different fees for different accounts. If you are an active investor/trader, you should be looking for a provider with lower trading costs.

A passive investor who lets their money sit and grow in a certain investment for a longer period of time should look for an account with no inactivity fees.

Also, make sure to find out what the advisory, service, or maintenance fees are. Each provider has varying charges on this aspect as well. It is important to do your research on what these fees might be before you open your account. I personally look for anything that charges less than 1% or a fixed dollar amount.

This is why I like Wealthfront and Vanguard. Their fees are minimal. I can keep my money well invested and diversified within these accounts.

Opening a Roth IRA

Keep in mind that there are several types of Roth IRAs. You have many options ranging from Savings and Loan Associations, Brokerage Companies, Federally Unsecured Unions, and Banks. I personally like to keep my Roth IRA in two separate brokerage accounts: Vanguard and Wealthfront.

I have accounts in both of these brokerage companies but the total contributions for a given year must still be a total of $6k for both accounts, not $6k each. When opening an account you want to know what you are looking for.

Are you planning to be a passive or active investor? Do you want to do the work? Would you rather have your investments automated?

I personally like things to be automatic but I keep a little bit more liberty in one of my accounts than the other. The investments I have in my Wealthfront account are completely automated and handled by a Robo-Advisor. It automatically rebalances my investments according to my risk tolerance.

My Vanguard account is more controlled by me. Within it, I get to choose what type of investments I want. As well as choosing how and when to buy each investment. I can rebalance if I wish to, or I can keep it the same. Both are very useful but due to the benefits of automation, I keep more funds in my Wealthfront account than my Vanguard account.

In my Vanguard account, I currently only buy index funds. My Wealthfront account does the same thing but I don’t get to choose what they are. However, after taking their tolerance test they gave me a designated plan that works with my tolerance level, and I’m very happy with how Wealthfront allocated my money.

Overall, opening an account is very simple and can be done online. My top recommendations are Wealthfront and Vanguard; others might differ. Regardless, you won’t be disappointed using these and you will begin to see your money grow within them. You now have the knowledge necessary to know what to do and expect from your Roth IRA.

Time to open your account! Feel more than free to leave any comments below, I’ll be answering each of them!

Spread the wealth!

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  1. Thank you for this article! 🙌🏼 This is great for beginners who are seeking basic answered, like myself!

    1. You’re very welcome! 🙂 Glad this could help.

  2. Thank you for explaining to us what is a Roth IRA. I myself thinking of ways to make an investment for my future and the financial advisor told me about ROTH IRA. I have to say that the information was overwhelming so I am at your site. I am not that young but I will go and open a ROTH IRA ASAP! I love your tips on declaring yourself as an employee of your own corporation. I will make sure to be on tp of the fees as well. Thanks again for the tips!

    1. I’m glad you found great value in this article! It makes me happy to see people like yourself being able to learn something that will benefit their future. I’ll be providing some articles in the future on which accounts I personally believe are great ones to keep a Roth IRA on.If you would like, let me know which broker you end up choosing and ef you end up liking or not liking your broker let me know so I can have some in-person feedback. Thank you for your feedback 🙂

  3. I got started with Roth IRAs when a dear friend explained to me that taxes will be higher in retirement than they are now. But I find out that there are still a lot of things concerning Roth IRAs that I frankly don’t know. And I’m so glad I found your post and sight. Very useful and I’ll even bookmark. Thank you very much!

    1. I’m glad this was helpful to you! Thank you for your feedback and for taking the time to comment 🙂

  4. This is genuinely helpful information!  I have heard about Roth IRAs from my friends in the past but this was easily the most comprehensive explanation of what they do and who they are for.  You’ve gained a new follower for sure!  I do not understand a lot about finance and investing but this seems like a great spot to learn

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad you found this helpful. If you ever need any more in-depth explanation on anything or have any particular questions, I’m here to help 🙂 

  5. Thanks for sharing this amazing article, it is very interesting to read through and I’ve learned a lot from reading this. I’ve finally found a good article on Roth IRAs that I can understand, and I think it is a good idea to invest through one. I really didn’t know much about this, and about how useful it is. Thank you so much!

    1. No problem! Glad it was helpful 🙂

  6. hello Misael Herrera! This is a very helpful information and Its highly educative, informative and interesting. I have heard about Roth IRAs from my friends in the past but this was easily the most comprehensive explanation of what they do and who they are for. Now, I’m pretty sure that I know more than my friends. Thanks a lot for this 

    1. Haha, now go teach them a little something about Roths haha jk. But I’m very happy that this article has been helpful to you! Feel free to show this article to your friends too if you want! Thank you so much for your feedback 🙂

  7. Wow, what a great article. I love when I stumble across a blog that actually has some useful information in it. Oh, and it is. Lead you know your stuff! Wouldn’t mind having u as a full time financial counselor. Nevertheless, reading this article will have to do for now. I and in my early thirties and recently I have been investing a few hundred bucks in the stock market trying to savey money and let it grow a bit at the same time.  Sounds like it’s time to get into a roth ira too.  Are there any apps you suggest that offer a roth ira investment platform? TIA

    1. Haha thank you! 🙂 I’m glad this has been a helpful article! And yes! You’re still in a great time-frame to invest within a Roth! And regarding your question about the best apps, from personal experience, I’ve enjoyed Vanguard and Wealthfront for my retirement accounts. I have two opened, it’s odd I know. I do this because my Wealthfront account is managed by a robo-advisor and my Vanguard account is managed by me. I like having some say about which investments I want to choose. Nonetheless, my Wealthfront account has been doing great and I’m happy with the choices that my robo-advisor made! I recommend both of these apps, they’re very, very useful!

  8. Very interesting article and very well explained.

    Until now I had no idea what a Roth IRA was.

    I had to check out your other article because I did not know what a Traditional IRA was either, thanks for providing the link to clarify that. 

    Your Roth IRA sounds very similar to our RRSP here in Canada.

    We can contribute a certain amount (18% of earned income) each year.

    We receive a tax credit for the contributions and the money can grow tax-free.

    When we withdraw the money in retirement we are taxed on the growth only as the contributions were made with after-tax dollars.

    In Canada, we’re normally in a lower tax bracket at retirement because we no longer have earned income.

    One thing that confuses me though is the fact that you said you would pay more taxes in retirement than while working, how is that possible if retirement means you are no longer working?

    Thanks for this great education, I really appreciate you sharing your vast knowledge.

    1. That is very interesting! I always find it so interesting to know how retirement plans in other countries compare to the ones in the US. 

      And that is an excellent question. It depends. There are a number of reasons why someone would be in a higher tax bracket when they are older.

      For example, during retirement, some people have built multiple streams of income. Some of this income is not tax-exempt. If this income is high enough, it would put you in a higher tax bracket.

      Also, if you have contributed to a traditional IRA or have made other investments that are not tax-protected that serve as retirement income, then it could also put you in a higher tax bracket if you don’t make withdrawals carefully. 

      Hope that helped! Let me know if you need more of an explanation!

      1. That is a great explanation. Thank you. I had not thought of multiple income streams as most don’t think of it. I can now see that we would have the same situation here. I appreciate you answering my question. Best wishes.

        1. Absolutely! I appreciate your comment! Thank you for your comment 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing this, have heard about it before. A Roth IRA provides tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement. Roth IRAs grow through compounding, even during years when you can’t make a contribution. There are no RMDs, so you can leave your money alone to keep growing if you don’t need it. Thanks, more knowledge 

    1. Absolutely! Thank you for your feedback 🙂

  10. Wow I never thought I would be interested in opening a independent retirement account but here I am, intrigued. This independent account has a lot of benefits that I am interested especially the fact that the gains within the account are taxfree. Its always a plus to save money. This article was a great read.

    1. Glad to hear it was helpful!

  11. Hi Misael,

    I have heard about Roth IRA from Dave Ramsey in one of his podcasts but I have not paid much attention to it because I’m not a resident of USA. But reading your article really caught my interest.

    May I know if non-US residents can invest in Roth IRA?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    I’m also reading your other articles about personal fiance and investing. I find wealth in your articles and I really thank you.

    God bless you more,


    1. Unfortunately, no 🙁 you must live and work in the US to qualify for contributions to one.

      And I’m glad that you’re surfing around the site! 

      Thank you for the feedback and God bless you too!

  12. Hello Misael,

    I have to agree, the best thing you can do is start an IRA now. It is so hard to get folks to realize how important this is at a young age. Typically this is something that is set up by a parent or something to be taken over by the child later. If one could convince a youngster to start this and stay with it from the age of 18. With consistent and affordable payments one can retire a millionaire. That is not an exaggeration.

    As you said, Start one now! I started late and have been paying into it regularly and am already up to almost a 1/4 of a million. Had I started sooner I would have been in a much better place. 

    If one is going to do this, I hope they follow your suggestion and go with the Roth IRA. It is an individual retirement account and the gains will be free from taxation. This is the single most important part because if you go another route like a defined contribution that is invested before taxes, all capital gains will be taxed and nearly half of your investment will go to the government.

    Good info! 



    1. Yessir! I appreciate your feedback a lot! Even though you may have started a little later, I’m glad that you’ve started. Better late than never! 

      Keep up the great work with your contributions. I really appreciate your comment a lot and I hope that soon you achieve your million! 

  13. I know most every senior citizen thinks about having enough money to live on after retirement. Money goes fast now-a-day, and it seems we don’t have enough to live on. I screwed up myself. I’m a retired senior citizen who should have followed advice like this. Keeping up with today’s money times is a task within itself. Having a 401K check I received when I left one of my past jobs. The smartest was to roll it over in another qualified account. Do you think I did this? No! (I was penalized for cashing it. When you raising a bunch of kids and have a lot of bills, you have no other choice.) I guess you ‘live and learn’ regarding the world of finance.

    1. Unfortunately, sometimes we will learn things the hard way, though I’m sure that now you know what to advise your kids and grandkids what they should watch out for in the future! I’m sorry things didn’t go too great with the 401.

  14. This is a very thorough explanation of what a Roth IRA is and the amounts that can be invested on an annual basis. I am a passive investor and look after the funds in my pension fund where I have some Vanguard ETFs. I have not heard of Wealthfront before, so it is interesting to see that those investments are all automated and rebalancing is automatically done. 

    1. Yes! Thank you for your feedback 🙂 Vanguard is a great broker so great choice!

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