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The Roth IRA (individual retirement account) has become one of the most popular retirement savings accounts in the United States — especially since Peter Thiel's $5 billion Roth IRA went viral. However, this tax-advantaged vehicle comes with income limitations that make it hard for high-earners to get their hands on this account. After your income exceeds the limit for your filing status, you can no longer make direct contributions to a Roth IRA.
Fortunately, the Roth IRA is not the only way to capture tax benefits. There are ways to receive an upfront tax break or preferential tax treatment by investing in alternative accounts. Although other accounts may not leave you with tax-free income during retirement, they can provide benefits that you can take advantage of right now.
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Here are three ways to scoop up some tax benefits beyond the Roth IRA.
1. Participate in a company-sponsored retirement plan
If you're trying to boost your retirement savings, your job may get you one step closer to your goal. Many companies offer employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Participating in these retirement plans will give you a chance to reduce your year-end tax liability.
Here's how they work. Many employer-sponsored retirement plans are tax-advantaged accounts. You can fund your retirement accounts with money from your paycheck (up to a certain annual limit) before income taxes are withheld. You can use the funds to invest in the market and take advantage of growth over time. You won't have to worry about taxes until you withdraw the money.
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Every penny you allocate to your retirement plan reduces your taxable income for the year. This could put you in a lower tax bracket and lower your tax bill. Your employer may even kick in some money — known as a matching contribution — to incentivize you to tuck money away for retirement.
2. Set up your own retirement plan
If you don't have a company-sponsored retirement plan, don't sweat it. There are alternative options for freelancers, gig workers, small business owners, and self-employed individuals.
If you're earning money beyond a regular job, you may be eligible to establish your own retirement savings plan. Some popular accounts include:
Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) Plan
Simple Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Plan
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Each retirement account comes with different requirement and restrictions. Do your research and choose the best account for your situation. After you select an account, you'll be able to fund your account with pre-tax dollars, invest in your favorite assets, and watch your money grow. The retirement account contribution limits are typically higher, allowing you to build your retirement portfolio faster and save more money on your current year tax bill. Your taxes will be deferred until you withdraw funds.
3. Open a taxable brokerage account
Retirement accounts come with limits that put a cap on the amount of money you can save every year. If you want more flexibility and control over your investments, you may want to add a traditional brokerage account to your portfolio. You'll be able to invest as much money as you like and withdraw the funds without penalty.
Before you start buying and selling stocks in a traditional brokerage account, you should be aware of taxes. They could eat into your profits if you aren't careful.
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Let's say you bought shares of Alphabet at $1,000 and the price soared to $2,500. That's a $1,500 capital gain per share of stock you sold. You could be on the hook for short-term capital gains taxes if you held your investment for a year or less. However, if you've been holding for over a year, you could unlock the 0%, 15%, or 20% long-term capital gains rates. It all depends on your income for the year.
Going beyond the Roth IRA
The Roth IRA's tax-free rewards during retirement are appealing to both young and older savers who meet the income threshold. However, it's not the only way to capitalize on the tax code. High earners can benefit from other accounts that offer current-year tax breaks and benefits that don't come with a Roth IRA.
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So, if you happen to see your income going up, don't think your chances of retirement success are over. Review your goals, analyze your options, and identify different ways to invest your money so you can achieve short- and long-term financial success.
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