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Ask a Fool: When Is It Best to Use a Taxable Brokerage Account?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Oct 12, 2018 at 12:00PM

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Here's when you may want to skip the tax benefits of a retirement account and invest in a standard brokerage account.

Q: Are there circumstances where investing in a taxable brokerage account could make more sense than investing in a retirement account?

Tax-advantaged accounts are an excellent way to invest and build your retirement nest egg, but there are some cases where you may want to invest in a standard (taxable) brokerage account instead.

The most obvious is if you anticipate needing the money before you reach the penalty-free retirement account withdrawal age, which is 59 1/2 years old in most cases. One good example of this is if you hope to retire early and want access to your money before you reach this age -- after all, the last thing you want to worry about when you retire is getting hit with a 10% early withdrawal penalty from the IRS.

Also, if you want to be able to withdraw from your account when unforeseen expenses arise, a taxable account could be a smart idea. Tapping in to your investments for car repairs or medical expenses is bad enough without being penalized.

Finally, another situation in which you may want to consider a standard brokerage account is if the tax benefits of retirement investing won't help you all that much with a certain investment. For example, if you plan to buy tax-free municipal bonds, it's difficult to justify holding them in an IRA.

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