Over the past week we’ve been writing quite a bit about retirement accounts, which ones are better for different situations, and talking about what the…
As anyone savvy in personal finance knows, it’s never too early or too late to start thinking about retirement. An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a retirement account that allows you to save money for your golden years in a tax-advantaged way.
There are several types of IRAs—Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE—with varying rules and benefits. With the right account, you can grow your savings, manage your tax burden, and prepare for a comfortable retirement.
6 Best IRA Accounts
Check out our top 6 picks for 2023‘s best IRA accounts. Let’s examine each one so you can decide quickly and easily which is best for you.
Charles Schwab offers one of the best IRA accounts available thanks to its superior customer service. The company offers 24/7 customer support as well as extensive resources about retirement planning.
Charles Schwab recently eliminated its commissions on stocks, EFT, and options trades. Standard trades are $4.95. So, you can begin investing commission-free, and there’s no account minimum to get started.
The company also offers a robo-advisor called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. The company will invest your money in up to 20 different asset classes at no annual charge.
This feature alone makes Charles Schwab one of the best options for new investors and anyone who is looking for a low-cost investing option.
Merrill Edge is one of the best brokerages for hands-on investors. The company is owned by Bank of America, so it’s a great option for anyone who is already a customer of the bank.
And this means Merrill Edge customers also have the option to receive in-person customer service. If you live near any of the bank’s locations, you can receive in-person assistance at the bank.
Merrill Edge offers unlimited $0 online stock and ETF trades with no trade or balance minimums. The company also offers mutual funds for $19.95 per purchase, though some mutual funds are available for free.
And the online broker doesn’t have a minimum deposit requirement to open an account. So, it’s an excellent option for new investors and anyone who is looking for in-person customer support.
Betterment works to automate and simplify the investment process and offers traditional, SEP, rollover, and Roth IRAs. This robo-advisor makes managing your IRA extremely hands-off while helping you save money on excessive fees.
What’s the pricing structure like?
You have two levels of service to choose from. The first is the Digital level, which comes with a 0.25% annual fee and no minimum balance. So if your first year’s balance is $5,000 your fee would be $12.50.
Because Betterment is a robo-advisor, it offers automatic rebalancing so that you’re always hitting your target allocations, even with a shifting market.
Their portfolios are globally diversified, and you can adjust your risk tolerance based on your preferences. Plus, Betterment implements automatic tax-loss harvesting to boost your after-tax returns.
Need to talk to a certified financial planner?
No problem, you can chat online with a licensed expert with no limit on the number of questions you ask. If you want even more advice and support, you can upgrade to the Premium level. The annual fee jumps to 0.40%, and you’ll need at least $100,000 to start your retirement account.
But you get holistic advice on all of your financial questions, not just those related to your Betterment investments. So in addition to chatting about retirement, you can also talk to your advisor about joint financial goals with your spouse.
You can also discuss college savings plans for your children, and new and existing investments.
If you’re interested in a “set it and forget it” mentality for your IRA, Betterment certainly provides that option.
Ally Invest is a great option if you’re just starting to build out your IRA rather than rolling over existing funds. It’s also directed to individuals who want to manage their own investments.
There’s no account minimum to get started, and you can choose from multiple types, including Roth, traditional, rollover, SIMPLE, and SEP IRAs.
Account fees are fairly limited as well. You don’t have to pay anything to set up the account, and there’s no minimum account opening, so it’s easy for anyone to start saving. Ally also doesn’t charge an annual fee or an inactivity fee.
There’s a $50 fee if you decide to terminate your IRA account with Ally Invest. If you transfer your funds, you’ll have to pay an additional $50 as a transfer fee — plus the first $50 termination fee. There’s also a $50 conversion fee if you want to change from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA or the other way around.
If you’re an active trader even with your IRA, then you’ll appreciate Ally’s low trading fees.
Stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are $4.95 per trade, but you can get that lowered to $3.95 if you trade at least 30 times each quarter or have a balance of $100,000 or more. Options fees start at $4.95 each plus $0.65 per contract, and that price also lowers with heavy quarterly trading activity.
If you don’t want the burden of actively trading your IRA portfolio, then look elsewhere for an IRA account. But if you like handling your investments regularly, then Ally Invest could be a strong contender for your IRA account.
Wealthfront is a robo-advisor that’s growing quickly. Your first $10,000 is managed for free. Thereafter, you’re charged an annual management fee of 0.25%, regardless of how much you have in your account.
You do have to open an IRA with at least $500. The more friends you refer to Wealthfront, the more you access free services, like getting an additional $5,000 managed for free. You can choose from a few different IRA types, including traditional, Roth, SEP, and rollovers.
Where does Wealthfront shine?
The answer is in retirement analytics. Wealthfront has a retirement planning tool called Path. It lets you integrate your various retirement accounts across financial institutions so you can see an accurate and comprehensive picture of your overall retirement plan.
Wealthfront economists use projects for things like inflation and Social Security to help plan for a realistic future.
Considering a major life event or financial change?
Wealthfront’s Path program lets you see potential impacts of these types of scenarios, so you’re not surprised at how your retirement savings are affected. Plus, like other online robo-advisors, all Wealthfront investments provide tax-loss harvesting and portfolio rebalancing.
You don’t have to worry about tracking individual stocks and funds. Instead, you get to invest passively while Wealthfront’s analytics keeps track of your portfolio. With IRA options and other tools at your disposal, Wealthfront is a solid choice for hands-off retirement investing.
E*TRADE offers a ton of financial products, and their IRA offerings are straightforward with low fees.
There’s a great balance of getting access to in-depth research and resources, while also having the option to let E*TRADE take on your account management.
You can choose from a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, rollover IRA, or one-stop rollover IRA. That last one lets you transfer existing IRA funds in a diversified ETF that is managed by professionals.
This adaptive portfolio takes advantage of the automation processes. It requires a $5,000 minimum deposit to get started and comes with an annual advisory fee of 0.30%.
If you’re an avid ETF trader, you can trade for free on more than 100 funds; otherwise, it’s $6.95. Like Ally, that number drops if you make 30 or more quarterly trades, costing just $4.95 per trade at that point.
Stock trades also cost $6.95 each, with the same discount available as ETFs. Fees vary on mutual funds, but E*TRADE offers more than 4,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
If you’re happy working with certain restrictions on the funds you choose, you can get away with a lot of fee-free trading via E*TRADE. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a minimum opening balance for most IRA accounts.
The company has been around for decades and consistently gets strong ratings from external sources, so they have a strong reputation in the industry, which can be comforting for beginning investors.
Understanding Different Types of IRAs
Now that we’ve explored the best IRA accounts of 2023, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the various types of IRAs. Each one comes with distinct advantages and rules tailored to unique financial circumstances and retirement goals.
Whether you’re just starting your retirement journey or you’re well on your way, familiarizing yourself with these options can help you make informed decisions about your future. Here, we delve into Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs.
Traditional IRAs provide a way to save for retirement with tax-deductible contributions. The contributions you make to a traditional IRA may lower your taxable income, meaning you’ll pay less income tax in the year you make the contribution.
You’ll pay taxes on your withdrawals in retirement. This type of IRA might be beneficial if you anticipate being in a lower tax bracket during retirement than you are now.
With Roth IRAs, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. This means you pay income taxes on contributions upfront, but qualified withdrawals in retirement are tax-free. Roth IRAs are attractive if you expect to be in the same or higher tax bracket in retirement.
Additionally, Roth IRAs don’t have required minimum distributions (RMDs) during the owner’s lifetime, a feature that can provide significant tax advantages.
SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) IRAs are for self-employed individuals and small-business owners. They work like a traditional IRA, allowing you to contribute pre-tax money, which grows tax-deferred until you withdraw it in retirement.
SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRAs are also for small businesses and self-employed individuals. They offer higher contribution limits than traditional and Roth IRAs but come with mandatory employer contributions.
Criteria for Selecting the Best IRA Accounts
As you embark on IRA investing, there are a few key factors you should consider when selecting the best IRA accounts.
- Fees: Look for IRA providers with low or no annual account fees, low expense ratios on mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and no transaction fees. Even small fees can add up over time, eroding your investment returns.
- Investment options: The best IRA accounts offer a broad array of investment options, including mutual funds, index funds, ETFs, bonds, and individual stocks. More options mean more opportunities to create a diversified portfolio.
- Minimum balance requirement: Some providers require a minimum deposit to open an account, while others don’t have account minimums. This can be a barrier for new investors who want to start small.
- Customer support: Excellent customer support can be invaluable, particularly if you’re new to investing. Look for providers that offer easy-to-use platforms, comprehensive educational resources, and responsive support.
- Additional services: Some IRA providers also offer services like automated investing, financial planning, and wealth management, which can help you craft and stick to a retirement savings strategy.
- Taxation: Understanding how different IRAs are taxed can help you optimize your retirement savings. For instance, traditional IRAs provide a tax deduction on contributions, but you’ll pay taxes upon withdrawal. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, don’t offer a tax deduction on contributions, but the growth and withdrawals are tax-free.
How to Open an IRA Account
Opening an IRA account is a fairly straightforward process, similar to opening a regular savings or brokerage account.
- Choose an IRA provider: Decide whether you prefer an online bank, an investment firm, a robo advisor, or a traditional bank for your IRA. Each of these financial institutions offers unique benefits, so choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Decide the type of IRA: Choose between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA based on your current income, future income predictions, and tax considerations. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, you might consider a SEP or SIMPLE IRA.
- Open an account: Visit your chosen provider’s website and select ‘open an account.’ You’ll need to provide some personal information, including your Social Security number, date of birth, mailing address, and employment information.
- Fund your account: Decide how much you want to contribute to your account. Be mindful of the annual IRA contribution limits set by the IRS. You can fund your account through a transfer from a bank account or rollover from another retirement account.
- Select your investments: Choose how your money is invested. Depending on the provider, you might be able to choose individual stocks and bonds, or you might select from a list of mutual funds or ETF trades. Some providers also offer target-date funds, which automatically adjust your asset allocation based on your age and retirement timeline.
- Set up automatic contributions: If possible, set up automatic contributions to your account. Regular, consistent contributions can help your retirement savings grow over time.
Remember, it’s essential to regularly review your IRA to ensure it aligns with your retirement goals. Over time, you may need to adjust your contributions or rebalance your investment portfolio.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Investing in an IRA
- Procrastinating on opening an account: The sooner you open an IRA and start contributing, the more time your money has to grow. With the power of compounding, even small contributions can grow significantly over time.
- Not contributing enough: Try to contribute the maximum amount to your IRA each year to take full advantage of the tax benefits and growth potential. If you can’t afford the max, aim to increase your contributions over time.
- Investing in high-fee funds: Fees can eat into your retirement savings. Be sure to understand the expense ratios, management fees, and any transaction fees associated with your investments.
- Not considering your tax situation: The tax benefits of Traditional and Roth IRAs are different, so consider your current and future tax situation when choosing an account. If you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when you retire, a Roth IRA may be a better choice since withdrawals are tax-free.
- Ignoring the income limits: Roth IRAs have income limits that can affect your ability to contribute. If you earn too much, you may be unable to contribute directly to a Roth IRA, though you might still be able to contribute to a Traditional IRA or execute a backdoor Roth IRA conversion.
- Failing to update your beneficiary designations: Life changes, and so should your beneficiary designations. Make sure to review them regularly, especially after major life events like marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.
When it comes down to picking your IRA account, two of the most important factors are cost and your preferred management style. The two generally go hand in hand.
Do you want a DIY IRA that lets you do your own trading? You’ll need to compare online brokers and robo-advisors that offer free trades or lower-cost trade fees based on your trading activity.
Prefer a hands-off style? Think about how much money you’re likely to invest in the near term. Then, pick an IRA account that lets you go on autopilot while charging a flat annual fee.
For these types of IRA accounts, you’ll definitely want to dig deeper into how the financial advisors’ portfolios are chosen and whether their investment styles agree with your own.
Having any type of IRA can help you prepare for retirement. You can always transfer or roll over your funds into another IRA. However, choosing the best account in the first place can help prevent unnecessary fees.
And once you’re ready to retire, you’ll have a healthy nest egg helping you to finance your daily expenses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the maximum contribution limit for IRAs in 2023?
The maximum contribution limit for IRAs in 2023 stands at $6,500 for individuals who are under 50 years of age, and it’s $7,500 for those who are 50 or older. This represents a $500 increase from the 2022 limits for all age groups. It’s important to remember that these contribution limits apply collectively to your contributions to both traditional and Roth IRAs.
Can I have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA?
Yes, you can have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. However, the total amount you can contribute to both accounts combined cannot exceed the annual contribution limit.
What is a backdoor Roth IRA?
A backdoor Roth IRA is a strategy for people whose income exceeds the Roth IRA income limits to still contribute to a Roth IRA. It involves contributing to a traditional IRA and then converting that contribution to a Roth IRA. There may be tax implications with this strategy, so it’s recommended to consult a certified financial planner or tax advisor.
Is the money I contribute to an IRA protected from loss?
No, the money you contribute to an IRA is not protected from loss. The value of your IRA is subject to market fluctuations and the performance of the investments within the account. It’s important to diversify your investments and align them with your risk tolerance and retirement goals.
Can I withdraw money from my IRA before retirement age?
Yes, you can withdraw money from your IRA before reaching retirement age. However, early withdrawals are subject to income tax and potentially a 10% early withdrawal penalty. There are some exceptions to the penalty, such as using the funds for qualified education expenses or a first-time home purchase. Be sure to understand the rules and potential tax implications before making an early withdrawal.
Are there any penalties for not taking distributions from my IRA?
Yes, there are penalties for not taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your traditional IRA. The penalty is 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn but didn’t. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, do not require minimum distributions during the owner’s lifetime.