If you’re somewhat familiar with investing, you may know that the Roth IRA is a great retirement-savings vehicle. But are you aware that some of its benefits can also pay off for the next generation of your family?
To understand why this is so, it’s necessary to be familiar with a Roth IRA’s features. For starters, when you contribute to a Roth IRA, your earnings have the potential to grow tax free, provided you don’t start taking withdrawals until you’re 59½ and you’ve had your account at least five years. The amounts you contributed aren’t taxed when withdrawn because you’ve already paid taxes on the money you put in. And the potential for tax-free earnings can continue even when your beneficiaries inherit your Roth IRA, though you’ll need to consult with your tax advisor on this issue.
A Roth IRA also offers other features that can help you build resources for retirement while possibly helping your surviving family members. For one thing, you can contribute to your Roth IRA for as long as you have some earned income, up to the contribution limits, and as long as you meet certain income limitations. Even if you’ve officially “retired,” you might do some consulting or part-time work. So you could put some of your earnings into your Roth IRA. This ability to keep funding your Roth IRA virtually indefinitely can give you more flexibility in managing your retirement income — and, depending on how you do manage that income and what your other objectives may be, you may also end up with more money that could be left to your beneficiaries.
Also, unlike a traditional IRA or a 401(k), a Roth IRA does not require you to start taking minimum distributions at age 70½. In fact, you are never required to withdraw money from your Roth IRA. And by leaving your account intact for as long as possible, you’ll potentially have more money available for a variety of options — one of which may involve leaving sums to your beneficiaries. Your non-spouse beneficiaries must take annual required minimum distributions, but they have the option to take the distributions over their lifetime.
Keep in mind, though, that your Roth IRA is part of your estate for purposes of federal estate taxes. In 2012, your estate would be subject to these taxes if it were worth more than $5.12 million (or less, if you made certain gifts). In 2013, however, this amount is scheduled to drop to $1 million unless Congress acts on this issue. (Some states also have estate taxes that apply at amounts less than the federal amount.) In any case, if you have a sizable estate, you should consult with your tax and legal advisors.
When you invest in a Roth IRA, your goal, first and foremost, is to help fund your retirement. In fact, basically all your decisions regarding your Roth IRA — how much to contribute, where to invest the money and when to begin taking withdrawals — should be based on your own retirement goals. However, as a side benefit to investing in a Roth IRA, you may find that you could help out the next generation, or two, of your family.