Which Type of IRA Is Right for You?

August 23, 2017

Individual retirement accounts, also known as IRAs, are widely popular retirement savings vehicles. According to a 2013 study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Americans own a collective 25 million individual retirement accounts. Those IRAs hold nearly $2.5 trillion in assets.1

There’s more than one type of IRA, and each kind offers its own set of unique advantages. If you don’t currently own an IRA, you may be wondering which type is best for your needs. Even if you do own an IRA, you may be curious as to whether a different type would better help you reach your goals.

Below is information on three of the most commonly used types of IRAs. Consider your own needs and goals before you choose the IRA that’s right for you. Consistent, regular contributions to an IRA could be the strategy that helps you meet your retirement savings goals.

Traditional IRA

The traditional IRA is the original version that was introduced in 1974. It has become popular largely because of its unique tax treatment. Contributions to your traditional IRA may be deductible, depending on your income. Growth in the account is tax-deferred, which means you don’t pay taxes as long as the funds stay in the account.

Distributions from a traditional IRA are taxed as income. Also, you could pay a 10 percent early distribution penalty if you take a withdrawal before age 59½. While a traditional IRA offers upfront tax advantages, it could create a tax liability.

Roth IRA

The Roth IRA, a newer variation, has become increasingly popular in recent years. It has a slightly different tax treatment than the traditional IRA. Unlike the traditional, the Roth doesn’t offer deductions for upfront contributions. Instead, distributions from the account are tax-free. The Roth is similar to the traditional in the sense that growth isn’t taxed as long as the funds stay in the account.

The Roth also offers withdrawal flexibility. You can always withdraw your contributions from a Roth without facing taxes or penalties, even if you’re younger than age 59½. Also, you aren’t forced to take required minimum distributions from a Roth at age 70½, as you are with a traditional IRA.

A Roth can be an effective strategy for creating tax-free income in retirement. However, keep in mind that the Roth IRA contributions are capped above certain income levels. If you’re a high earner, you may not be able to use a Roth.


The SEP IRA is designed specifically for small-business owners. Its high contribution limits allow business owners to save a large portion of their income. From a tax standpoint, SEP IRAs and traditional IRAs are treated similarly. Contributions to a SEP are deductible, while distributions are taxable. Growth is not taxed as long as the funds stay in the account.

The business’s employees are not allowed to contribute to the SEP, but the business owner can make tax-deductible contributions on their behalf. In some instances, the owner may be required to make contributions to employee accounts.

Ready to develop your IRA savings strategy? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at Grand Canyon Planning Associates. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a strategy. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.