Articles Understanding Your IRA Options

February 2, 2015

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are designated retirement savings accounts that allow you to set aside money and offer tax advantages on those funds. There are several different types of IRAs, and they vary based on factors like types of contributions, tax advantages, income requirements and limits, age limits for contributions, and withdrawals. The main difference between them is when you pay income taxes on your contributions to the plan.

Navy Federal offers three types of IRAs: Traditional, Roth and Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs). You can choose to have just one, or you can utilize all three to meet your savings goals. Traditional and SEP IRAs offer tax deductions for contributions, while Roth IRAs allow you to grow earnings tax-free. With Traditional and SEP IRAs, you pay taxes when you withdraw the money in the retirement plan. With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes at the time you contribute, but the eventual distribution is tax-free as long as you meet certain requirements. Here's a more in-depth look at how these three IRAs compare:

Traditional IRA

These potentially tax-deferred retirement plans allow you to avoid paying taxes on contributions and earnings until you withdraw. Both deductible contributions and earnings are then taxed at your regular income tax rate.

Contributions can be made as long as you have earned income and you're below the age of 70½ in the tax year the contributions are made.

Roth IRA

Roths allow for tax-free growth over your lifetime. While contributions are not tax-deductible in the year they're made, withdrawals that are classified as "qualified distributions" are tax-free.

Contributions can be made beyond age 70½ with earned income. No required minimum distributions allow you to choose when to withdraw.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA

SEPs allow businesses and self-employed individuals to contribute to retirement plans for themselves and their employees. Available for all business types, SEPs allow both employers and employees to contribute to the account.

SEPs allow tax-deferred contributions. A required minimum distribution is enforced at age 70½.

  Traditional IRA Roth IRA SEP IRA
Potential Tax Write-off
Income Restrictions
Tax-Free Earnings Growth
Age Restrictions with Earned Income
Employer Contributions
Maximum Annual Contribution* $5,500 under age 50, $6,500 age 50+ $5,500 under age 50, $6,500 age 50+ 25% annual compensation, not to exceed $53,000
Adjusted Gross Income Eligibility Everyone with earned income (some exceptions) Individuals earning <$131K (2015), <$132K (2016)

Married couples earning <$193K (2015), <$194K (2016)
Everyone with self-employed earned income (some exceptions)
Maximum Age to Make Contributions The year in which you turn 70½ No maximum No maximum
Non-Wage Earning Spousal Contributions Same as wage earner Same as wage earner Same as wage earner
Tax Deductibility of Contributions Up to 100%, depending on modified adjusted gross income and participation in employer-sponsored pension plan Cannot deduct contributions May be tax deductible, based on specific eligibility rules
Tax Treatment of Dividend Earnings Grow tax-deferred until withdrawn Grows tax-free Grow tax-deferred until withdrawn
Taxes Upon Withdrawal Non-deductible contributions received tax-free; earnings and deductible contributions taxed at ordinary income tax rate None, as long as withdrawal is a qualified distribution Non-deductible contributions received tax-free; earnings and deductible contributions taxed at ordinary income tax rate when withdrawn
Withdrawal Restrictions Most made before age 59½ result in IRS penalties

  • IRS levy
  • Qualified reservists
  • College expenses
  • Disability or death
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses
  • First-time home purchases ($10,000 lifetime limit)
Penalty-free withdrawal after age 59½ provided money has been in account at least 5 years

Penalty-free and tax-free withdrawals prior to age 59½ if the funds are used for:
  • Disability or death
  • First-time home purchases ($10,000 lifetime limit)
Most made before age 59½ result in IRS penalties

  • Qualified reservists
  • College expenses
  • Disability or death
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses
  • Unemployed medical insurance premiums
  • First-time home purchases ($10,000 lifetime limit)
Age at Which Withdrawals Must Begin 70½ None 70½

*The maximum can be contributed to a Traditional, Roth or SEP IRA, or split between all three.

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Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses associated with municipal fund securities before investing. This and other information about municipal fund securities is available in the issuer's official statement which can be obtained directly from the issuer, or if distributed through a broker dealer, may be obtained from a financial adviser, and should be read carefully before investing.

An investor should consider, before investing, whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program.

If a municipal fund security describes one or more of their investment options as having the characteristics of a money market fund, it is important to know that an investment in the security is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency (unless such guarantee is specifically provided by or on behalf of such issuer) and, if the security is held out as maintaining a stable net asset value, that although the issuer seeks to preserve the value of the investment at $1.00 per share or such other applicable fixed share price, it is possible to lose money by investing in the security.