The Best IRA Strategy for Young Adults

It's never too early to begin a lifetime of fruitful investing. Here is a simple strategy for young adults to begin investing in an IRA today.

Feb 15, 2014 at 12:00PM

It's never too early to start building a saving and investing mentality. Warren Buffet, for instance, bought his first stock when he was 11 years old. With the support of my father, I started investing my own funds and managing my custodial account independently at the age of 12.

But Buffett and I are exceptions. For most kids, once they begin considering options for further education (potentially leading to thousands of dollars of student loan debt) or commence a vigorous job search, there are surprisingly few resources geared toward supporting teens and young adults in their investing -- and retirement -- pursuits.

Investing strategies for retirement should not be put off until you are 25 or 30 years old or have full-time employment. IRAs are painless to open and require no minimum contributions. Even contributing $300 each year to an IRA now is far better than sitting on the sidelines until every factor is aligned perfectly. This article marks the beginning of a new series on -- including a real-money personal IRA portfolio and ongoing insights into IRA investing -- for young investors focused on long-term results.


Why a Roth IRA makes sense 
Among the plethora of choices with investing accounts, I personally prefer a Roth IRA for younger investors. Roths are pretty straightforward: You are taxed on the money you contribute to a Roth in the present day, but, so long as you follow the guidelines, down the road you are not taxed on funds you withdraw once you hit retirement age. For younger individuals, a Roth IRA is particularly beneficial if you invest in businesses that go on to crush the market's returns over the long run. Beating the market over a long period of time and having the option to withdraw those funds tax-free further down the road sounds like a good deal to me. 

With this in mind, I am starting the Pencils IRA Project. Why this name, you ask? "Pencils" is the username my father chose when he first joined The Motley Fool in 2002, and I have stuck with that username more than a decade later. Given that my interest in investing stems from my father's inspiration, it is only fitting that I stick with his name for this project. To see how he helped me learn the importance of saving and investing at an early age, read my detailed account on The Motley Fool's discussion board.

The Pencils IRA Project is fairly simple. Each month, I will make a new investment within my Roth IRA. Ideally I will be able to contribute the maximum amount to the Roth ($5,500 this year), but the amount isn't relevant for this project. I will contribute a regular amount of money to the Roth, whether it is $100 or $450 a month, and each month I'll invest in a business that offers significant long-term potential to beat the market. 

Criteria for Pencils IRA holdings 
Here are the five necessities for the "megagrowers" to be added to this IRA portfolio:

  1. Purpose-driven business. The company must be driven by a deeper purpose, e.g. Chipotle and Food With Integrity. If "financial profit" is the only reason a company exists, then it's time to move on.
  2. Innovative products and services. This goes hand-in-hand with a purpose-driven business. Businesses like Netflix, Chipotle, and Facebook are continually reshaping their respective fields. We want businesses with innovation in their DNA. Further, these should be products and services that are understandable and relevant to us in our daily lives; we're not looking for a hidden Chinese microcap. 
  3. Visionary, experienced, involved leadership. We want leaders who think beyond the next quarter and the short-term performance of the company's stock, focusing instead on the long-term potential of a business. We want leaders capable of admitting when an error was made and redirecting course before further damage is done (e.g., Netflix's Reed Hastings and Qwikster). We want business leaders who are personally invested in a business financially, ensuring that their interests are aligned with those of fellow long-term stakeholders. We want leaders who either founded the business or have worked within the business for an extended period of time while demonstrating their commitment to maintaining an innovative and adaptive company environment.
  4. Consistently increasing cash-flow production. The company must have a demonstrated record of consistent and increasing cash-flow generation, preferably with positive free cash flow as well. This ensures that a company's prospects are backed by consistent and sustainable improvement in its financial position. 
  5. Strong company culture. Each business must have a minimum rating from employees of 3.5/5 on workplace review website The CEO "approval rating" on Glassdoor must meet or exceed 70%. I'm interested in investing in visionary leaders who are also effective in inspiring others in the business to perform at their highest potential. 

These five points, while seemingly simple, actually weed out quite a few subpar businesses.

Foolish next steps 
This experiment will help us build a disciplined, long-term-focused IRA portfolio that can easily be tracked and modeled by other young investors. This is a small step to fill what seems to me a glaring void in investing education and services.

Each month I aim to invest in a business that demonstrates the five attributes mentioned above. After each investment I will provide a write-up detailing how the company meets these criteria. This provides for a simple and trackable long-term IRA portfolio of promising businesses. 

The IRS will weep over our non-taxable gains in the coming decades. Here's to Foolish investing for people of all ages!

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You can follow Foolish contributor David Kretzmann on his Foolish discussion board, Pencils Palace, on CAPS, or on Twitter @David_Kretzmann. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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