Roth vs Traditional IRA Calculator for Side-By-Side Comparison

Roth vs Traditional IRA Calculator Sign

This free online calculator will instantly calculate a side-by-side comparison of future retirement account balances so you can quickly decide which is better for you, a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA.

If you're not sure what a Traditional IRA is, or what a Roth IRA is, or what their respective advantages, disadvantages, and purposes are, it may help to visit the Learn section before using the calculator.

Note that if you would like to calculate the net-effects of converting a traditional IRA to Roth, please visit the Roth IRA Conversion Calculator.

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Roth vs Traditional IRA Calculator

Calculate Comparison of Contributions to Roth IRA Vs. Traditional IRA to help you decide which type will be best for you in the long term.

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Selected Data Record:

A Data Record is a set of calculator entries that are stored in your web browser's Local Storage. If a Data Record is currently selected in the "Data" tab, this line will list the name you gave to that data record. If no data record is selected, or you have no entries stored for this calculator, the line will display "None".

DataData recordData recordSelected data record: None
Contribute/yr:Annual contribution:Annual contribution amount:Annual contribution amount (pre-tax dollars):

Annual contribution amount (pre-tax dollars):

Enter the pre-tax dollar amount of your planned contributions to a retirement investment. Enter as a dollar amount, but without the dollar sign and any commas.

The maximum annual IRA contribution was $6,000 per spouse ($7,000 if age 50 or older) the last time this calculator was updated, therefore the maximum entry in this field is $14,000. However you can enter higher amounts if you have a SEP IRA (up to 20% of self-employment net income).

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Age now:Current age:Your current age:Your current age:

Your current age:

Enter your current age in years. Enter as an integer (no decimal points or fractions).

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Retire age:Age to retire:Age you plan to retire at:Age you plan to retire at:

Age you plan to retire at:

Enter the age you plan to retire at. Enter as an integer (no decimal points or fractions).

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Return rate:Rate of return:Annual return on investments:Annual return on investments:

Annual return on investments:

Enter the before-tax annual percentage rate you expect to earn on your investments between now and when you retire. Enter as a percentage, but without the percent sign (for .06 or 6%, enter 6).

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Tax rate:Current tax rate:Current marginal tax rate:Current marginal tax rate:

Current marginal tax rate:

Enter your current marginal tax rate. Enter as a percentage, but without the percent sign (for .15 or 15%, enter 15).

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Retire rate:Retire tax rate:Marginal tax rate at retirement:Marginal tax rate at retirement:

Marginal tax rate at retirement:

Enter the marginal tax rate you expect to be paying at retirement age. Enter as a percentage, but without the percent sign (for .15 or 15%, enter 15).

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ResultsTraditional
IRA
Roth
IRA
ContributionsContributionsTotal of contributionsTotal of contributions:

Total of contributions:

The results on this line are the total of your contributions between now and when you retire. Both results should be equal.

BalanceBalanceBalance at retirementBalance at retirement:

Balance at retirement:

The left-hand column is the estimated future value of a Traditional IRA.

The right-hand column is the estimated future value of a Roth IRA.

Taxes dueTaxes dueTaxes due if withdrawnTaxes due if withdrawn at retirement:

Taxes due if withdrawn at retirement:

The left-hand column is the amount of taxes that would be due on your Traditional IRA if you withdrew the funds at retirement, since tax on both contributions and earnings are deferred until the funds are withdrawn.

The right-hand column is zero, since you would have already paid taxes on the Roth IRA contributions, and the earnings are tax exempt.

Invested savingsInvested savingsInvested tax savingsValue of invested tax savings:

Value of invested tax savings:

The left-hand column is the future value of the invested tax savings you may realize by choosing a Traditional IRA instead of Roth IRA. If you choose a Roth IRA you will pay taxes on the contributions, which could be invested if you instead choose to contribute to a traditional IRA.

Of course, this is not applicable to the right-hand, Roth IRA column.

Net withdrawalNet withdrawalNet withdrawal at retirementNet withdrawal at retirement:

Net withdrawal at retirement:

The left-hand column is the estimated after-tax value of your IRA, including the value of the invested tax savings.

The right-hand column is the estimated after-tax value of a Roth IRA.

Net comparisonNet comparisonNet comparisonNet comparison:

Net comparison:

Both columns show the gain or loss that will be realized by choosing one over the other. The figures should both have the same absolute value, but the more favorable option will be positive, while the less favorable option will be negative.

If you would like to save the current entries to the secure online database, tap or click on the Data tab, select "New Data Record", give the data record a name, then tap or click the Save button. To save changes to previously saved entries, simply tap the Save button. Please select and "Clear" any data records you no longer need.

Help and Tools

Learn

What a traditional IRA is, what a Roth IRA is, and how to compare the two.

What is a Traditional IRA?

A traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is an investment (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, etc.) wherein your contributions serve to reduce your taxable income (deductible) the year you record your contributions.

The earnings from an IRA grow on a tax-deferred basis until you begin to take qualified distributions (after age 59-1/2).

Contributions and earnings are added to your ordinary income at the time they are distributed (withdrawn) and are therefore fully taxable based on your tax bracket at the time of the withdrawals.

Minimum distributions are required at age 70-1/2. Distributions taken prior to your qualifying age will incur taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

What is a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account wherein your contributions do not serve to reduce your taxable income (non-deductible) in the year they are recorded.

In other words, you will have already paid income taxes on your contributions based on your tax bracket at the time of each contribution.

The earnings from a Roth IRA grow tax-free, so qualified distributions (withdrawals) are not taxed.

The main advantage to a Roth IRA is that once you have kept a contribution for the "seasoning period" (5-years the last time I checked), you can withdraw the contribution without tax (you already paid the taxes) or penalties.

The main disadvantage of a Roth is that your contributions will not lower your tax liability for the year they are recorded.

What Purposes are Served by a Roth IRA?

The main purpose of a Roth IRA is to enable you to withdraw funds from your retirement account during your retirement without having to pay any tax on the withdrawals -- including the earnings.

The second purpose of a Roth is to enable you to leave your retirement funds for your heirs since a Roth doesn't have the minimum distribution requirements imposed by a Traditional IRA.

A third potential purpose of a Roth IRA is if you believe you will be in a higher tax bracket after retirement, paying taxes on your contributions now might make more sense.

No Crystal Ball?
Consider a Roth

I know first-hand how expensive an early withdrawal from a traditional IRA can be. It's no fun to see money evaporate into thin air.

So unless you know with absolute certainty that you will never have to make an early withdrawal from your IRA to cover an unexpected financial emergency, I would think twice about choosing a traditional IRA.

In my opinion, your money is safer from stiff penalties if you pay the taxes up front by choosing to fund a Roth IRA (the economic meltdown of 2009 is a case in point). After all, if you have the funds to contribute to an IRA in the first place, then you also have the funds to pay the taxes on them upfront.

How a Roth Versus Traditional IRA Comparison is Made

To compare Roth versus Traditional IRAs, we must account for the differences in tax payments.

Since contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible from taxable income, then to make, say a $1,000 contribution, you must pay the taxes on the $1,000 out of your other income.

So if you are in a 25% tax bracket, this means you will need to pay $250 in taxes, plus contribute the $1,000.

On the other hand, if you contributed the $1,000 to a Traditional IRA, you would not need to pay the $250 in taxes until you withdraw the contribution.

Therefore when comparing the two, we assume that if you chose to fund the Traditional IRA, you would then invest the $250 tax savings that would have otherwise gone to pay taxes on the Roth IRA contribution.

Quick Reference Guide

Here is a quick-reference chart highlighting the differences between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA:

DifferencesTraditionalRoth
Contributions are ...DeductibleNon-deductible
Earnings are ...Tax DeferredTax Exempt
Qualified withdrawals are ...Fully TaxableTax Free

Given the above differences, comparing the two becomes somewhat complicated. Luckily, you have free access to the calculator on this page that greatly simplifies the comparison process.

Please keep in mind that investing and saving for retirement is only half the equation. After all, if your retirement debt payments add up to your retirement income, you will still be left without a retirement income.

Therefore your retirement might be better served by using the extra money for paying off high interest debt (Invest in Your Debt Calculator).

Adjust Calculator Width:

Move the slider to left and right to adjust the calculator width. Note that the Help and Tools panel will be hidden when the calculator is too wide to fit both on the screen. Moving the slider to the left will bring the instructions and tools panel back into view.

Also note that some calculators will reformat to accommodate the screen size as you make the calculator wider or narrower. If the calculator is narrow, columns of entry rows will be converted to a vertical entry form, whereas a wider calculator will display columns of entry rows, and the entry fields will be smaller in size ... since they will not need to be "thumb friendly".

Show/Hide Popup Keypads:

Select Show or Hide to show or hide the popup keypad icons located next to numeric entry fields. These are generally only needed for mobile devices that don't have decimal points in their numeric keypads. So if you are on a desktop, you may find the calculator to be more user-friendly and less cluttered without them.

Stick/Unstick Tools:

Select Stick or Unstick to stick or unstick the help and tools panel. Selecting "Stick" will keep the panel in view while scrolling the calculator vertically. If you find that annoying, select "Unstick" to keep the panel in a stationary position.

If the tools panel becomes "Unstuck" on its own, try clicking "Unstick" and then "Stick" to re-stick the panel.