Roth IRA vs brokerage account: how much of a difference do taxes make?

There are a few important takeaways here. First, if you invested $500/month in an index fund over the last 40 years you would be very rich no matter WHAT type of account you invest in. Sometimes I hear about investors who are so worried about taxes they forget that you’re only taxed on the GAINS. That’s a good problem to have. Personally, about 95% of my money in a regular, taxable brokerage account. That’s because I have too much money to fit into tax-advantaged accounts! (Another good problem to have).‎

But here’s the other takeaway. If you can use a Roth IRA, you should! In this example, it saved our friend Tom about $600K. That’s a lot of post-tax cheddar in your pocket, not the government’s. ‎

Here’s how taxes work in a regular taxable brokerage account: You get paid and pay income tax. With what you have leftover you invest in a brokerage account. Then each year you get a tax form that says how much you collected in dividends, and you pay tax on that amount. Then when you sell your investment, you get a tax form that says the total amount you gained on that investment and you pay capital gains tax on that. You get to keep what’s leftover.‎

Here’s how taxes work in a Roth IRA: You get paid and pay income tax. With what’s leftover (up to $6,000/year) you can contribute to a Roth IRA. Everything inside of that account is protected from additional taxes FOREVER. (But you do have to leave the gains in the account until you’re 59.5).‎

So that’s why it’s great to prioritize a Roth IRA! ‎

As always, reminding you to build wealth by following the two PFC rules: 1.) Live below your means and 2.) Invest early and often.‎


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Jeremy Circle

Hi, I’m Jeremy! I retired at 36 and currently have a net worth of over $4 million. 

Personal Finance Club is here to give simple, unbiased information on how to win with money and become a multi-millionaire!


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