Weekend Reading: Roth vs. Traditional IRAs: The Tax Trade-Off Isn’t Always What You Think

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Weekend reading roth vs traditional ira tax trade off Weekend reading roth vs traditional ira tax trade off
Weekend Reading

The tax advantages of a Roth IRA versus a traditional IRA may seem black and white, but there is more to consider before choosing one over the other.


Common guidance: If you believe you will be in a higher tax bracket in the future, it’s often advised you contribute to a Roth IRA, as you accumulate more after-tax savings than what a traditional IRA can offer. If you believe your tax rate will decrease, then a traditional IRA is considered a better option.

A new perspective: In a recent analysis published by the Journal of Financial Planning, research showed that choosing the account with higher expected after-tax accumulation often means “higher uncertainty with respect to the targeted outcome.” Further, choosing the account type with lower uncertainty means accepting a lower expected accumulation amount.

With these findings in mind, the after-tax accumulation (ATA) for a Roth account can actually be lower or higher than a traditional IRA, depending on investment return assumptions. As such, there is a trade-off in regard to projected accumulation and uncertainty with both options, which should be taken into consideration as part of your income plan and tax strategy.

With greater risk, comes greater reward. Also, there is an element of this decision-making process that is missing; that is the fact that doing the conversion gives you one less thing to worry about in retirement.