I love the Roth IRA. And you should too!
But, one of the oddest challenges I hear about the Roth is that people are worried the government will change the tax code after the fact to get rid of the benefits. Or they’ll even confiscate the Roth.
Folks, while literally ANYTHING can happen, I just find this line of thinking absurd and I don’t want you to follow it.
Did FDR banish private ownership of gold? Yes. Tell farmers to plow over their fields while Americans were starving in order to keep the price of crops high? Yes. Were Japanese citizens sent to Internment Camps in the US? Yes. Trail of Tears? Slavery? Yes. All these things have happened. Some were more horrible than others, without question. And just more reason to remain diligent on what is going on in Washington DC.
But to punish YOURSELF, and your family, because of a fear that the government will tax away what is yours just strikes me as terrible planning.
Let’s put it like this. You do the Roth. Some future legislature and President will either pass legislation to do something with that Roth, or not. Now, why would they act in such a way?
Well, because they need money obviously. But the Roth isn’t where the money is. The REAL money is in tax deferred accounts, IRAs, 401ks, TSPs, 403Bs etc.
The Investment Company Institute reports that at the end of 2016 almost $8TRILLION in assets was in IRAs. Of that only $660 Billion was in Roth. And that doesn’t include Qualified Retirement Plans like 401ks and such.
So, as you can certainly see, the percentage of Roth vs. deferred accounts is tiny. For a government desperate enough to break the rules in order to raise money the Roth IRA isn’t the place to go.
If the government needed assets badly enough, the simple and least controversial way for them to do this is like they always do “small” tax increase on the “wealthy” but don’t index the threshold for inflation. This way, slowly over time, more and more people will be sucked into pay the tax.
Witness what happened to taxation of Social Security benefits. Very few people paid tax on their Social Security when the legislation was first signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983. But guess what? Almost everyone is paying tax on benefits now. Weird right?
Alternative Minimum Tax was the same until the new Tax Bill of 2017 eliminated a huge amount of taxpayers from having to pay it.
Oh, don’t overlook NIIT. What’s that? It’s the 3.8% tax on passive income that was tacked on to the Obamacare bill. That tax is not adjusted for inflation either. So, right now, very few people are affected. But just wait…
Ultimately, it’s only YOU who is hurt by not taking advantage of the benefits of the Roth IRA. I am not here to convince anything, actually. You have to do what you feel comfortable with YOUR money.
But I am here to say that your concern with the tax or confiscation of the Roth is the least thing you should worry about when it comes to a government running huge deficits.
You should be more worried about the taxation on your IRA distributions. That, my friends, is prime ground for a hidden tax at some point.