Roth IRAs: The Intriguing Mathematics For High-Wealth Taxpayers
Benjamin Franklin famously observed, “The only two things you can count on in life are death and taxes.” To which an unknown wag offered the sardonic and almost equally famous rejoinder, “That may be true, but at least death doesn’t get worse every time Congress reconvenes.”
Let’s start by belaboring the obvious and note that high taxation makes it challenging to create and accumulate wealth. Sure, everyone should contribute a fair amount toward the functions of government, but even most patriotic Americans could feel just as patriotic while paying a whole lot less. Unfortunately, it is generally difficult to escape the long reach of the (tax) law; fortunately, however, there is one specific tax-reduction tool widely available to all U.S. taxpayers, namely, the Roth IRA and its kissing cousin, the Roth 401(k).
The sales pitch for a Roth IRA is compelling: Money is contributed to the account on an after-tax basis, meaning that people do not get a current income-tax deduction for the contribution. But once the money is invested, it can go into almost any investment activity you please (subject to the limitations imposed by the custodian of the account), and all income earned from those investment activities—whether interest, dividends, or capital gain—is excluded from current federal income tax (and typically state income tax) at both the IRA level and at the taxpayer level. Moreover, when it comes time to distribute funds from the Roth IRA in the future, these distributions are likewise fully exempt from federal (and usually state) income taxation. Thus, the Roth IRA allows taxpayers to enjoy a tax-free investment that earns a full market rate of return. All in all, a very sweet deal.