The toilet seat that cost the Department of Defense $640 has been a long-running punch line for pundits illustrating wasteful government spending. The man who lifted the seat (where he found a $9,600 wrench and other inflated hardware) passed away last week.

But we Fools will remember Delaware's former Republican Senator William Roth Jr. for a money-saving vehicle that changed the way we save for retirement.

The Roth Individual Retirement Account, which rightly bears his name, was unveiled in 1998 as a provision of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. It is much more than a retirement savings vehicle that allows future retirees invest after-tax money today but withdraw it tax-free in retirement. It also gives Americans the ability to make tax-free withdrawals for education or first-time home purchases. Roth said his intent was to encourage long-term investment for all taxpayers, not just the wealthiest.

Money-saving measures were a theme in Roth's career. Early in his Senate career, he joined former Congressman Jack Kemp in sponsoring sweeping tax cuts that became the centerpiece of Reaganomics. He was also behind the Congressional hearings that put the Internal Revenue Service on the line, though nothing substantial came out of the queries.

Our Foolish hats are in hand as we remember the 82-year-old crusader.

Is a Roth IRA for you? Visit our IRA Center to find out. Your future retired self will thank you.