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Why a Roth IRA Is a Bad Idea (Yes, You Can Lose Money)

Author Derek Sall

Have you ever been swept up in the wave of unanimous praise for something, only to later discover that nearly everyone was wrong? If you’ve ever considered investing in a Roth IRA, you might relate to this scenario. The Roth IRA hailed as a great investment by many, has long been touted as a path to financial security in retirement.

In. this week’s post Life and My Finances talks about how a Roth IRA can go wrong. Read on and let’s see.

 

Nearly everyone says the Roth is a great investment. And nearly everyone is wrong.

I heard it on radio shows, saw it plastered all over my social feed, and even confirmed it with a few Roth calculators. The Roth was the way to go. Pay taxes today and never pay taxes again? Sounds good. So I invested blindly for a decade.

Just recently, I ran the numbers myself—and discovered the horrifying truth.

By choosing a Roth, I had already cost myself $400,000 in retirement income.

First, I shed a tear.

Then I immediately flipped all my investments to a Traditional 401k.

Finally, I did an in-depth survey to see how many others had been duped into thinking the same way as me—that the Roth was an excellent investment and would save them money in retirement.

The results?

92% of people believe they should invest in a Roth. (Turns out I wasn’t the only one.)

But here’s the kicker.

Based on their ages, incomes, and expected retirement withdrawals, the Roth only makes sense for 9%.

 

 

Why a Roth IRA Is a Bad Idea (Yes, You Can Lose Money)

 

Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s quickly define the Traditional IRA and the Roth IRA.

The traditional IRA started in 1974. It’s a great way for people to invest in their retirement with before-tax dollars and defer those taxes until they withdraw the funds in retirement.

The Roth IRA was introduced in 1998 and flipped the script on the traditional Roth rules. Instead of deferring taxes until retirement, with a Roth IRA you’d pay the taxes before investing—and then never pay them again, even at the time of withdrawal.

 

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Who Should Put Their Money Into a Roth IRA?

Everyone thinks they should contribute to a Roth IRA, but that’s true for only a handful of people.

So who is that handful?

Who would benefit from putting their money into a Roth IRA?

 

 

For the 9% of people in our survey that would benefit from a Roth IRA—

  • 77% were 33 or younger.
  • 68% contributed more than $5,000 a year.
  • 93% expected to withdraw $100,000 a year or more in retirement (in today’s dollars).

So if you’re early in your earning years, contribute heavily into retirement, and plan to withdraw far more in retirement each year than you earn today—you should likely contribute to a Roth IRA.

If not (and most of us are in this camp)—you’re better off investing in a traditional IRA and deferring your taxes until retirement.

 

Is a Roth IRA Worth It?

We already dropped this truth bomb on you, but it’s worth repeating:

  • 92% of people believed they should invest in a Roth IRA.
  • Only 9% of the survey respondents would actually benefit from a Roth IRA investment.

And remember I told you the story gets even worse?

That 9% result is inflated.

These respondents’ answers triggered a Roth result because they plan to withdraw huge amounts of money in retirement, which is completely unrealistic given their retirement account balance.

In reality, only 1 of the 635 surveyed individuals would benefit from a Roth investment and have their savings last for more than ten years.

So is the Roth IRA worth it?

Based on our survey results, we estimate that the Roth IRA is worth it for 0.2% of the population.

 

 

The Roth IRA—an excellent tool for the government

Do you know who the Roth IRA is a good deal for?

The government.

Now, I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, and I generally don’t stand firmly on one side or the other, but these results really make me wonder about the intent behind the Roth IRA.

Was it for the people? Or was it for the deeply-in-debt government system?

Just think about it—

  • Most people aren’t saving well for retirement.
  • Most will have less money in their later years than they do today.

This means most are paying high taxes now—and will pay very little in retirement.

So would the government want you to defer your taxes and pay them later?

Of course not.

They’d like their money today, and they’d like to see more money rather than less.

This is precisely what the Roth IRA does. It forces you to pay taxes today and at a likely higher rate than you would in retirement.

What a great deal for the government and a horrendous deal for you, the taxpayer.

Who sold us on this thing, anyway? Why does everyone think the Roth is such a good idea?

 

Why Most People Think The Roth IRA Is a Good Idea

Most Americans think they should invest in a Roth IRA (and so did I).

Why?

Because everything about it just seems to make sense—

  • Get tax-free growth on your money.
  • Avoid paying taxes in retirement.
  • Pay taxes now to avoid the higher tax rates of the future.

And on top of that, it seems like every money guru and investment professional touts the many benefits of the Roth.

All signs indicate the Roth is a wise move—but 99% of the time, it’s not.

 

Why a Roth IRA Is a Bad Idea

First off, let’s dispel the myth of tax-free growth.

No matter what anyone says, whether you pay taxes now or in the future doesn’t matter.

If you pay 10% in taxes today, invest the rest, and withdraw it tax-free in retirement, you’ll end up with the same amount as if you invested the full amount and paid the 10% tax in retirement.

That’s just math.

So don’t worry about tax-free growth. It truly doesn’t matter and doesn’t play into this conversation.

Now back to the task at hand.

What are the disadvantages of a Roth IRA?

What makes it such a lousy investment when everyone under the sun thinks it’s so great?

 

 

1. Most people will earn less in retirement than they do today

According to the latest personal finance stats

  • 43% of Americans struggle to meet basic needs.
  • 60% of non-retirees think they’re behind with their retirement savings.
  • 65% of Americans don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire.

According to our recent Roth survey—

  • 63% of women and 55% of men put less than $5,000 away for retirement each year.
  • 41% of women and 35% of men saved less than $10,000 for retirement.
  • 58% of people over 60 had less than $100,000 in retirement.

When we asked people at what age they planned to retire, the responses continued to grow as they neared retirement—indicating that people aren’t planning well.

 

GenerationEstimated Retirement Age
Gen Z45
Millennials55
Gen X61
Boomers70

 

And look at the current retirement balances by age group. These numbers certainly don’t foreshadow a lavish retirement.

 

GenerationMedian Retirement Balance
Gen Z$5,500
Millennials$35,000
Gen X$35,000
Boomers$75,00

 

Based on the stats, the retirement picture of the majority is bleak. For most, it’s clear that they’ll earn less in retirement than they do today.

So why pay taxes now? You’ll probably make far less in retirement and pay a lot less in taxes.

 

2. You’ll be paying a higher tax rate now than you will in retirement

To contribute to a Roth, you need to pay the taxes of your upper tax bracket.

In retirement, you’re saving money on the average taxes you pay.

So let’s say you’re in the 22% tax bracket. If you earn $122,000/year now and make the same amount in retirement, you’re effectively paying 22% tax today to invest in the Roth to save 9.8% in retirement.

 

 

This is obviously a bad move that no one should sign up for.

Don’t believe it? A recent retirement study found that retirees pay an average of just 5.7% in federal taxes.

 

3. Many retirees today pay nearly nothing in taxes

According to the Census Bureau Population Reports, the median income for households aged 65 and older is $47,620.

Based on that information, we can get the likely tax picture for a retired married couple today:

  • Primary Social Security = $1,600/month
  • Spouse Social Security = $1,100/month
  • Additional draw from retirement = $1,268/month
  • Annual income = $47,620/year

So what do you owe in taxes as a married couple filing jointly on $47,620 a year?

  • Annual income = $47,620
  • Standard deduction = -$27,700
  • Adjusted gross income = $19,920
  • Tax rate = 10%
  • Taxes owed = $1,992

The effective tax that the average retiree pays is 4.2%.

To invest in a Roth, you’re likely paying a tax rate of at least 12% so that you can save 4.2% in retirement.

Yet another data point that confirms investing in a Roth is a bad idea.

 

How Much Could You Lose By Investing in a Roth IRA?

I mentioned early in this post that investing in a Roth cost me nearly $400,000.

That sounds unreal—perhaps even impossible.

But what about the surveyed individuals?

What if they invested in a Roth instead of a traditional IRA? How much would they lose on average?

 

 

For those who had proper withdrawals to make their investment last 20 years or more, all would lose money by investing in a Roth IRA.

  • If they invested in a Roth, the average respondent would earn $1,340,512.
  • If they invested in a traditional IRA, the average respondent would earn far more—$1,503,865 over the course of their retirement.

So, on average, by investing in a Roth IRA, retirees lose out on $163,000 vs. those who invested in a traditional IRA.

 

Estimate of Total Money Lost in American Retirement

According to the Investment Company Institute, 26.3 million households invest in a Roth IRA.

If each of these households experienced the same loss as our survey respondents, how much money might America be currently leaving on the table in their retirement accounts?

26,300,000 Roth IRA accounts x $163,000 left on the table = Total $ lost in retirement

The answer?

$4.29 trillion.

Yikes.

Over the course of our American lives, we’re likely paying $4.29 trillion too much in taxes—and we’re paying it early in life.

All because we’re choosing the wrong investment account for our retirement.

 

 

Survey Methodology

We surveyed 635 individuals and asked them over a dozen questions, including:

  • Do you invest in a Roth or Traditional 401k (or other)?
  • Do you think you should invest in a Roth?
  • Current annual income.
  • Annual retirement contributions.
  • Current retirement balance.
  • Expected retirement age.
  • Expected annual withdrawal in retirement.

We received responses from 167 Gen Zers, 288 millennials, 94 Gen Xers, and 86 boomers. Of the 635 respondents, 370 were men, 264 were women, and one declined to answer.

We ran the responses through our Roth 401k calculator to see how much each individual would earn over their lifetime with a traditional 401k vs. a Roth 401k. With these numbers, we could identify who should and should not be investing in a Roth IRA.

 

Key Takeaways

Don’t blindly trust people with your money. Do your homework and check the numbers yourself.

  • 92% of people think they should invest in a Roth IRA (an after-tax retirement account).
  • Based on the survey results, only 9% of individuals would benefit from a Roth IRA.
  • A Roth is only worth it if you’re early in your career earnings, you invest heavily into retirement, and you plan to withdraw far more in your later years than you earn today.
  • More than likely, your tax rate will be much less in retirement vs. the rate you can save on today.
  • Our recent survey found that the average investor will lose out on $163,000 by investing in a Roth IRA.

 

FAQ

 

Is there a free Roth IRA calculator?

Yes, the best Roth 401k calculator is found here: https://lifeandmyfinances.com/retirement/roth-401k-calculator

This calculator is one of the few that provides the direct comparison between a Roth IRA investment vs. a traditional IRA, less the tax break received.

 

At what age does a Roth IRA not make sense?

Typically, if you’re older than 35, the Roth IRA doesn’t make sense.

But, if you’ll likely earn more money in your 40s and 50s—and invest aggressively—then it still might make sense for you.

 

Why is my Roth IRA losing money?

A Roth IRA is just an investment shell. Within it, you can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and many other types of investments. If those investments are going down in value, then the value of your Roth IRA will reduce as well.

 

What is the downside of a Roth IRA?

The main downside of a Roth IRA is that you’re paying taxes today to invest in one. If you’re likely to pay less tax in retirement, you’re losing money on every dollar you invest in a Roth IRA.

Be sure to put your numbers into a reputable Roth IRA calculator to see if it makes sense for you to invest in one.

 

Why should not contribute to a Roth IRA?

There are three main reasons not to invest in a Roth IRA:

  1. You’re 40 years of age or older.
  2. You’re in your peak earning years.
  3. You plan to withdraw less per year in retirement than you earn today.

 

What are the pros and cons of a Roth IRA?

Roth IRA Pros:

  • You’re not subject to required minimum distributions. (You don’t need to withdraw money if you don’t want to.)
  • You can withdraw your contributions penalty-free at any time.

Roth IRA Cons:

  • You don’t get a tax deduction since you’re paying taxes before your contribution.
  • Many will pay lower tax rates in retirement, so a Roth IRA is costing them money since they’re paying higher taxes today.
  • You can’t withdraw earnings before age 59.5.
  • The maximum contribution is fairly low.

 

Can an IRA lose money?

Yes, an IRA can lose money. An IRA isn’t an investment in and of itself. It’s just an account where you can make investments. If you invest in a particular stock and it goes down in value, then your IRA will lose money.

 

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33 thoughts on “Why a Roth IRA Is a Bad Idea (Yes, You Can Lose Money)”

  1. I definitely don’t think it’s the end all be all, best option for everybody. A lot of factors go into it. It’s amazing to see how many “experts” don’t understand that paying X% in taxes now vs later doesn’t make a difference math wise. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. The “inheritance benefit” of the Roth IRA was completely ignored as one of the positives. The people who typically inherit Roth IRA’s from their parents are in their prime earning years (in higher tax brackets) and would receive the proceeds of the Roth IRA “tax free” versus at their own higher tax bracket…and may even bump them up into an even higher tax bracket with the extra income from the procedes.

    Reply
  4. There are certainly a lot of different aspects to take into consideration, such as MFJ versus single, maxing our 401k, and the growing balance of funds. We also don’t know where tax rates are going to be in the future. You’ve done a great job highlighting misconceptions and thoughts to marinate on!

    Reply
  5. Remarkably poor article, worst I have seen on PoF. Good to challenge conventional wisdom, but remarkably bad logic, confused concepts. Basing most of the reasoning on survey data is just rife with room for error. Places I agree: as a retiree, your tax burden may actually fall vs. what you were used to earning (both average and marginal tax rates). Most of these recommendations are only useful in specific ranges, i.e. low-income vs. high, type of income (earned vs. passive), age ranges etc. — very hard to make a useful general recommendation.

    Reply
    • Totally agree! PoF has really lost some credibility with me on this one. I feel like this article was either written by AI or farmed out to a pay by the word author on Upwork. How many in the Physician target audience have a financial picture that aligns with the (very low) medians and averages referenced in this article? Disappointing…

      Reply
    • Agree, this is a poor article. The Roth is a tool, and needs to be used wisely. The
      biggest thing is that we live in a graduated tax system–estimating one’s taxes through time
      is key to using Roth wisely.

      Reply
  6. Derek I understand the logic if you are low income and have the ability to get a deduction.

    However, If you are above the phase out limit for deducting IRA contributions then it makes sense to do a ROTH IRA instead, is that correct? Since you can’t deduct anything you can atleast put it into a tax free growth bucket so you won’t pay any tax on the gains.

    Is this the correct logic?

    Reply
    • I think there can be a place for it, within certain circumstances. I have a fairly large pretax balance, have sizable savings outside of that to live on, am waiting until 70 to file SS, and to lower my RMDs I plan to make modest Roth conversions yearly until age 70. I am mindful of filling the standard deduction and the 10 & 12% brackets being an especially sweet spot. Those retiring from higher paying fields than I had, with mega large pretax accounts are often keener on converting more, so their combined taxable income fills up the 22 or 24% bracket

      A friend of mine does conversions strategically when the market goes down a certain percentage, then he gets the benefit of the Roth’s tax free growth during market recovery and beyond. He takes care as to limit the tax hit of the conversion.

      I have tinkered with an online tax estmator to come up with a decent estimate for future planned conversions that can be adjusted for more accurate fit when the time comes. It’s close enough to help me plan the total conversions to ensure I reach my goals.

      Reply
  7. So if I’ve maxed out my tax free options w my full 401k, it still seems to make sense to do a backdoor Roth, correct? I mean either I put the money in a Roth or a regular old investment account, and I gotta pay taxes on the investment account when I pull in the future but not the Roth.

    Reply
    • Correct. If you max out your traditional 401k each year and still have the money and desire to invest more into retirement accounts, you should contribute to a back door Roth. That is still more advantageous than putting the money into a non tax advantaged brokerage account. Only after you have maxed out your 401k and back door Roth, should you invest extra savings into your brokerage account (Assuming the goal is to be as tax advantaged as possible. If your goal is FIRE, you need to build up the non tax advantaged brokerage account as that is the only account you can draw down early without significant financial penalty).

      Reply
    • I qualified for the deferred tax 401K, maxed that, then also maxed a regular Roth. I had a late start on serious retirement savings, so I saved 30-35-40 %, aggressively paid down my mortgage, worked a side hustle and hit my retirement goal in 14 years. The Roth gives withdrawal flexibility that I figured would come in handy in later years.

      Reply
  8. I’m so sad to see an article with so many logic holes on POF. This is not the standard I’m used to seeing. Yes, for lower earners this conclusion may be true – but there are so many missing pieces, such as the lack of being able to deduct traditional Iras (or contribute at all) at certain incomes. It also seemed like maybe the author was conflating the Roth IRA with Roth 401k, and those have very different considerations (which is why I contribute to Roth IRA, traditional 401k, and mega backdoor Roth via after tax 401k).

    Reply
    • Agree completely. This author seems not to understand the difference between a Roth IRA and a Roth 401k given it alternates back and forth and likely functions as clickbait.

      Reply
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  10. the most critical error is assuming the traditional IRA is deductible for 100% of the survey respondents. the authors own example: a person making $122k, considering 92% of employees are W2 and 70% of employees have a workplace retirement plan, this person likely CANNOT deduct their traditional IRA contributions and this is paying 22% tax up front and will pay regular income tax at withdrawal, a terrible situation

    Reply
    • THIS. Most people who can afford to save in an IRA on top of their 401k etc. can’t invest in a traditional IRA anyway, only a backdoor Roth.

      Also: If someone is worried that tax rates (which are at historic lows) will go up in the future, a Roth can make a lot of sense. At some point in the next 10-20 years we’re likely going to have to dip into general revenues for Social Security obligations, for example. Taxes may go up.

      You can also lose money in any stock investing– and if you put your IRA Roth in something FDIC insured, then you won’t lose money. That has nothing to do with the Roth part.

      Reply
      • The author seems to have gotten 401(k)s and IRAs confused. The calculator linked is for comparing traditional 401(k)s to Roth 401(k)s, which is a totally different conversation.
        Even if we are talking IRAs, there are two critical assumptions – that you are choosing to invest in your Roth IRA instead of a traditional 401(k), and that you will get tax breaks on a traditional IRA if you invested in it. If you max out your 401(k), the math on the Roth versus traditional IRA changes significantly, and as Bryan J pointed out, most people maxing out a 401(k) won’t be eligible for the tax deduction of a traditional IRA anyway.

        Reply
  11. Beautiful presentation. Nicely done. Thank you.

    Few small points: Soc Security benefits are only taxed at max 85% which results in an even lower effective tax rate. Some States don’t tax Soc Security at all. The standard deduction and tax brackets go up with inflation every year. This puts progressively more money into zero or lower tax brackets.
    RMD’s really aren’t a big problem for most retirees. Maybe if you have a 5M account.
    You don’t pay FICA on Soc Security or RMD’s.
    Going on Medicare improves your financial situation greatly. Having to pay less of a thing i.e. Health insurance, is like having more tax free money.
    A taxable account is a Rich Man’s Roth. The zero% Capital Gains rate is a gift to savvy investors.

    Reply
    • A regular brokerage account was something I didn’t seriously consider until late in the game. I will be funding one with the excess proceeds from a real estate sale that’s expected next year. PoF (Leif) wrote an interesting article about the benefits of brokerage vs. Roth, showing the potential tax advantages.

      Reply
  12. This article treats the question as an either or, but it’s not. Yes, traditional 401k is better for most high earners, but most high earners should do both if possible.

    For those of us above the income threshold for a regular IRA or a Roth IRA, the backdoor Roth or Mega Backdoor Roth may be our only option for additional tax advantaged dollars (beyond the 401k contribution limit). Many physicians should be doing both traditional and Roth.

    Reply
  13. That was a brutal write up and likely doesn’t apply to (m)any readers of the blog. Conflated many concepts, would love to see the actual data they derived their erroneous conclusions from “0.2% of people would benefit from a Roth IRA…”
    Partial credit for sensationalism but otherwise impractical. I get no tax benefit from a tIRA, as is the case with many high income professionals (target audience of this website); how on earth is a tIRA better than a rIRA in that case?
    Reviewer 2 mode: the authors should be applauded for their first attempt at financial planning and survey interpretation. Perhaps this will lead to the requisite knowledge to meaningfully weigh in on such topics in the future.

    Reply
  14. The article ignores another situation where a Roth IRA (specifically a backdoor Roth) would be beneficial, particularly for people who read this blog.

    A lot of physicians would be phased out of any tax deduction for an IRA contribution, so they would be contributing to an IRA with post-tax dollars anyway. In that case it makes sense to contribute to the IRA and then convert it to a Roth IRA so any gains are tax-free (and you can withdraw the contributions at any time).

    Reply
  15. In addition to what others have said, this article misses everyone who already maximizes their 401K space. If you have no more 401K to contribute to then it’s just a question of whether to pay taxes on both income and withdraw, or to get tax free withdraws with the Roth.

    “First off, let’s dispel the myth of tax-free growth.

    No matter what anyone says, whether you pay taxes now or in the future doesn’t matter.

    If you pay 10% in taxes today, invest the rest, and withdraw it tax-free in retirement, you’ll end up with the same amount as if you invested the full amount and paid the 10% tax in retirement.

    That’s just math.

    So don’t worry about tax-free growth. It truly doesn’t matter and doesn’t play into this conversation.”

    Maybe I’m just missing something but it sounds more like the author is. Sure, it doesn’t matter whether you pay 10% on your principle now or later, but tax free growth absolutely exists. 10% on $1000 is $100 now or later. But if that $1000 grows to $100,000 then it absolutely matters whether you’re paying 10% on the $100,000 withdraw or 0%. There’s a $10,000 difference in fact. That’s just math.

    Reply
    • I think the author is correct and you are incorrect. I believe you are missing the point that there is an opportunity cost associated with the payment of taxes now. The taxes that you pay now on the Roth have to come from somewhere, and that money could have been invested if in a Traditional IRA but will not be invested if in a Roth IRA because the IRS extracts its pound of flesh from you before you put the money to work in Roth investments. So, to use an example, if you earn $100,000 and pay 10% tax now you will have $90,000 left to invest in a Roth, not $100,000 to invest. If you invest $90,000 for the next 30 years and then take out the money tax free you will have the same amount of money (after tax) as if you put the full $100,000 into a tax deferred account and invested it (at the same rate of return) and then pulled the money out at a 10% tax rate. This is based on the commutative property of multiplication – the order of the factors in multiplication does not change the result. You can put together a spreadsheet and test it if you want (I did), but you are not correct in your assumption/belief that you will have more money (on an after-tax basis) later if you invest in a Roth vs. a Traditional IRA (assuming all else stays the same). Now, if tax rates are different later compared to now the results will be different but that is a function of differential tax rates, not a function of the different design of the Roth vs. Traditional IRA.

      Reply
  16. This article misses married vs single filers, and surviving spouses facing higher single rates as widows/widowers. Roth is really valuable there for tax planning diversification.

    Reply
    • Totally agree. Those are important points that were missed by the author. Another point missed by the author is the potential impact of future inheritances that could push the recipient into a higher tax bracket. In addition, the current tax rates are scheduled to expire and revert back to the higher rates of 2017 in 2026.

      On top of that, the USG is terribly in debt and digging the hole deeper at an accelerating rate, meaning that they will be targeting anyone with any significant amount of money to help them pay those debts/interest/SS/Medicare obligations. That means that taxes are almost certainly going to have to increase for anyone with significant assets/income. Nobody knows how taxes will go up, what forms of income will be taxed to what degree, etc., but I have no doubt that tax rates will be going up on people with more than about $150-200K/year of income. Biden says he wants to increase taxes on people earning $400K+ but I don’t think that will generate enough incremental tax revenue to make a big difference. He is going to have to target people making less than $400K to really make a dent, which is why I think the threshold will be somewhere around $150-200K.

      Reply
  17. This article completely leaves out potential impact of the child tax credit which changes the calculation for some. For example, I have 3 children and am eligible to take the full child tax credit for all 3. So in 2023, I pay $0 in federal income tax on my roughly $80k of income since I’m married filing jointly. In retirement, the kids will be all grown up so no more child tax credits. Therefore, the math on Roth vs. Traditional says Roth all the way for me, but would give me a different result if I didn’t have kids as my federal income taxes would then be $6,000 this 2023.

    Reply
    • I totally agree with you that the comparison of marginal rates today vs average rates in retirement is the wrong comparison. For the author’s sake and everyone else reading, I’ll use a simple example of a single filer with $50K of regular taxable income plus $50K of Roth IRA withdrawals (or Traditional IRA withdrawals). The Roth person would pay $6,308 in income taxes. In contrast, a single filer with $100K of regular taxable income ($50K of other regular income + $50K of Traditional IRA withdrawals) would pay $17,400 in income taxes. The difference is $11,092 which is 22.184% of the $50,000 in Traditional IRA withdrawal. The average tax rate for the Traditional IRA filer is 17.4% of the full taxable income (15.28% if you add in the $13,850 standard deduction), but the marginal rate on the additional $50K of income from the Traditional IRA withdrawal is 22.184%.

      Bottom line: the person making the Traditional IRA withdrawal pays taxes on the incremental income at the marginal tax rate, NOT at the average tax rate.

      Reply
      • Bottom line: the person making the Traditional IRA withdrawal pays taxes on the incremental income at the marginal tax rate, NOT at the average tax rate.

        THIS^^^ Amazing that the authors miss such a basic fact about traditional vs Roth, just because they wanted a sensationalistic headline.

        I do agree that there are many that will not benefit, but it’s because they are maybe in the 22% bracket now and are likely in the 12-15% bracket in retirement because social security has lower taxes and income is lower. What the article points out is that people are perhaps too optimistic about how much they will have in retirement.

        Reply

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