A Roth IRA is a valuable tool for retirement savings, because it provides retirees with tax-free income. But there are other smart ways to use Roth IRAs, too. These three ideas could make a huge positive impact on you and your family. Read on to learn how to make the most out of this tax-advantaged savings account.
1. Open a Roth IRA for your grandchildren
In the world of investing, there's nothing more valuable than time. Thanks to compound interest, even small amounts of money can grow to vast sums if they're allowed to grow for decades. That's why even ordinary investors can retire in comfort and financial security. If you want your children or grandchildren to make the most of the many decades ahead of them, then you can open a Roth IRA in their name.
Here's how it works. You contribute after-tax money to a Roth IRA that you control and manage on behalf of your child or grandchild until they turn 18. At that point, they take over control of the account and, assuming they meet certain requirements, they can withdraw money from that Roth IRA tax- and penalty-free.
Specifically, the child can withdraw any contributions that have been made to the Roth IRA, at any point and without taxation, as long as the Roth IRA has been in existence for at least five years. Earnings on contributions can be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free when the owner turns 59-1/2 years old, though there are exceptions that allow the early withdrawal of earnings -- for example, if they go toward higher education or the purchase of a first home.
The child will need to have income for you to open a Roth IRA for them, but that income can come from babysitting, shoveling, or a part-time job. You should also know that you can only contribute the amount they earn up to the maximum allowed every year. In 2016, the maximum contribution to a Roth IRA is $5,500.
2. Invest your Social Security in a Roth IRA
You can invest in an IRA for as long as you're working, and once you reach age 50, you can contribute $6,500 each year (the base limit is $5,500, and those aged 50 and up can add a $1,000 "catch-up" contribution). So if you're working and drawing Social Security, then you can invest your monthly benefit checks in a Roth IRA.
The advantages of using Social Security income to fund a Roth IRA can be significant. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs don't require annual minimum withdrawals beginning at age 70-1/2. Therefore, money that gets stashed inside a Roth IRA can continue to grow even as funds in traditional IRAs are being drawn down.
This is important because many retirees have fallen short of their retirement savings goals, and as a result, they're at risk of running out of retirement savings too soon. That risk is particularly scary when we consider how many of us will face costly medical expenses later in life.
While it may be tempting to think of retirement as the finish line, our growing life expectancies mean it's more of a starting line instead. That's why establishing a Roth IRA in retirement is smart: It can provide a tax-advantaged safety net that better prepares you for financial hiccups when you reach your 80s and beyond.
3. Stretching your beneficiaries' inheritance with a Roth IRA
Establishing a Roth IRA or converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can provide significant legacy-planning advantages.
Roth IRAs aren't subject to required minimum distributions for as long as the owner is alive, and that means that whatever money you contribute to them can keep on growing throughout your lifetime. After you pass away, the beneficiary of your Roth IRA must begin withdrawing money, but they have the option of withdrawing that money over their own life expectancy. That means they can receive a steady stream of tax-free income during their lifetime courtesy of your Roth IRA.
Furthermore, let's assume that your beneficiary takes their required minimum distributions over their lifetime, but there's still money left when they pass away. In that case, their beneficiary can inherit the account and similarly begin taking required withdrawals every year based on their life expectancy. Therefore, a Roth IRA could conceivably provide a multi-generation stream of tax-free income to your family after you're gone.
Roth IRAs aren't for everyone, so it's important to consider all your options. If you're uncertain, plan on sitting down with your tax professional to discuss your options. Having said that, these three Roth IRA strategies can help guarantee financial security for you and your family, and that makes them worth considering.
The Fool also has a great resource where you can learn more about IRAs and decide which one is right for you -- Roth or traditional.