Roth vs. Traditional IRA Planner

Which is better: a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA? An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can be an effective retirement tool. There are two basic types of IRAs: the Roth IRA and the Traditional IRA.

Generally, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductibe when made, but earnings and withdrawals are tax-free; while contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible when made, but earnings and withdrawals will be taxed when you begin withdrawing. For specific contribution limits and other features and requirements of each plan, please consult a financial advisor or accountant.

Use this calculator to learn more about which IRA is right for you. Click the "View Report" button to examine the results in detail and share them with your financial advisor.

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Current age
Your current age.

Annual contribution
The amount you will contribute to an IRA each year. This calculator assumes that you make your contribution at the beginning of each year. In 2010, the maximum annual IRA contribution is $5,000 per individual age 49 or below, or $6,000 if you are age 50 or above. In order to qualify for the "catch-up" contribution, you must turn 50 by the end of the year in which you are making the contribution. It is important to note that this is the maximum total contributed to all of your IRA accounts. The table below summarizes IRA annual contribution limits.

Year IRA contribution limit
2010 $5,000
2011 and beyond $5,000

You can no longer make contributions to a traditional IRA in the year you reach age 70 1/2.

It is important to note that Roth IRA contributions are limited for higher incomes. If your income falls in a "phase-out" range you are allowed only a prorated Roth IRA contribution. If your income exceeds the phase-out range, you do not qualify for any Roth IRA contribution. For the purposes of this calculator, we assume that your income does not limit your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA. The table below summarizes the 2010 income "phase-out" ranges for Roth IRAs.

Tax filing status Adjusted Gross Income Income
Phase-Out Range
Married filing jointly or Head of household $167,000 to $177,000
Single $105,000 to $120,000
Married filing separately $0 to $10,000

Expected rate of return
The annual rate of return for your IRA. This calculator assumes that your return is compounded annually and your contributions are made at the beginning of each year. The actual rate of return is largely dependant on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2005, the average compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 11.4% per year. During this period, the highest 12-month return was 61%, and the lowest was -39%. Savings accounts at a bank pay as little as 1% or less. It is important to remember that future rates of return can't be predicted with certainty and that investments that pay higher rates of return are subject to higher risk and volatility. The actual rate of return on investments can vary widely over time, especially for long-term investments. This includes the potential loss of principal on your investment.

Age of retirement
Age you wish to retire. This calculator assumes that the year you retire, you do not make any contributions to your IRA. So if you retire at age 65, your last contribution happened when you were actually 64.

Current tax rate
The current marginal income tax rate you expect to pay on your taxable investments.

Retirement tax rate
The marginal tax rate you expect to pay on your investments at retirement.

Adjusted gross income
Your adjusted gross income from your taxes. This is used to calculate whether you are able to deduct your annual contributions from your income tax statement.

Are you married?
Check the box if you are married. This is used to determine whether you can deduct your annual contributions from your taxes.

Employer plan
Check the box if you have an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or pension. This is used to determine if you can deduct your annual contributions from your taxes.

Total non-deductible contributions
The total of your Traditional IRA contributions that were deposited without a tax deduction. Traditional IRA contributions are normally tax-deductible. However, if you have an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), your tax deduction may be limited. In 2010, for single tax filers with an employer sponsored retirement plan, an IRA contribution is fully tax-deductible if your income is below $56,000. It is then prorated between $56,000 and $66,000. If your income is over $66,000 and you have an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), you receive no tax deduction. For married couples, the same rules apply except the deduction is phased out between 89,000 and $109,000. The phase-out ranges are scheduled to increase over the next few years. The table below summarizes the deduction phase-out for 2010.

Traditional IRA Deduction Income Phase-Out Ranges
Year Single Taxpayers Married Taxpayers Filing Jointly
2010 $56,000-$66,000 $89,000-$109,000

This calculator automatically determines if your tax deduction is limited by your income. However, there are two unusual situations not automatically accounted for where additional tax phase-outs are applied. First, if your spouse has an employer sponsored retirement plan but you do not, your tax deduction is phased out from $167,000 to $177,000. Second, if you are married filing separately and have an employer sponsored retirement plan, the income phase-out is from $0 to $10,000.

Total contributions
The total amount contributed to your IRA.

IRA total after taxes
For the Roth IRA, this is the total value of the account. For the Traditional IRA, this is the sum of two parts: 1) The value of the account after you pay income taxes on all earnings and tax-deductible contributions and 2) what you would have earned if you had invested (in an ordinary taxable account) any income tax savings.


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Calvert Investment Management, Inc. serves as the investment advisor and provides sustainability research for the Calvert mutual funds and institutional investment strategies.

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