Should I stop funding my Roth?May 16, 2012: 5:05 AM ET
After doing my taxes, I discovered that I owed again this year. I earn a salary of $90,000, I am single, and I do not own a home. Based on this, my deductions are limited. I contribute 15% of my salary to my 401(k), and I plan on updating that to18% this year and possibly trying to contribute the max by the end of the year. I have been contributing $400 a month to a Roth IRA, and I am happy with the results. However, given my tax situation, I am considering ending my contribution to the Roth and funding a regular IRA instead. Is this a good move? –M.M., Greenville, S.C.
Kudos to you for being on top of your retirement savings at a time when so many aren't. The maximum 401(k) contribution in 2012 is $17,000, unless you're 50 or over, in which case you can contribute as much as $22,500. Assuming you're not over 50, that leaves you with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of roughly $73,000 after you funnel the max into your 401(k). Unfortunately, in order to make a deductible IRA contribution in 2012 as a single person, you'd have to have an AGI of less than $68,000. (And that's the phase-out limit—you get the full deduction only with an AGI of $58,000 or less.) Unless you have a few more above-the-line deductions that will lower your AGI, a deductible IRA isn't in the cards.
That said, a Roth is smart, even if you have both options available. "A little tax diversification is a good thing," says Jay Hutchins, a financial planner in Lebanon, N.H. If all of your retirement savings are in tax-deferred accounts, such as 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, you may find that your options are somewhat limited in retirement, since every dollar you withdraw will be taxed. "Paying the tax on retirement savings today in exchange for never having to pay taxes on all of the accumulated interest, dividends, and capital gains within a Roth may prove a bigger benefit than we can imagine," Hutchins says.
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