Do you have a child or grandchild that has a summer job this year? If you want to give a “gift of a lifetime” I’ve got a suggestion for you. Make a contribution into a ROTH IRA account for the child to match the amount of income he or she earns this summer.
Saving for the future; sounds boring doesn’t it? I know, it’s not an I-Phone or a new car—but if you were to make a $5,000 contribution to a 16-year-old’s ROTH IRA—and he made no other contributions for the rest of his life—by the time he reached age 65 (assuming it earns an average of 7% interest per year) he’d retire with $138,000 (The Kiplinger Tax Letter, July 20, 2012). Now that’s a pretty sweet present!
Of course, there are rules that have to be met. For one thing, you can’t contribute more than the child actually makes for the year. Also, you can’t contribute more than $5,000 to a child’s ROTH IRA.
Obviously, this isn’t for everybody. You have to be at a certain stage of wealth to be gifting that kind of money to a kid’s IRA. And remember—that’s what it is; a gift. If you’re trying to avoid gift taxes—a contribution to a child’s IRA will count towards your $13,000 gift annual exclusion. You can’t give a child $13,000 and contribute to the ROTH IRA on top of that. You would have to reduce one or the other so that the total came to $13,000 or less or else a gift tax will be applied.
What about people who don’t have that kind of money to give away? You can make a smaller contribution. Maybe a thousand dollars instead; or maybe you make a deal with your child—you’ll match whatever they contribute to a ROTH IRA up to a certain dollar amount. (I recommend starting a ROTH IRA with at least $1000. Smaller sums are usually hit with more fees and wind up losing money instead of growing.)
Why put money into a kid’s ROTH IRA? So many reasons:
1. The money grows tax free
2. When it’s time to take the money out, it’s tax free
3. The money can be used for education, buying a home, or retirement
4. Giving your child a fighting chance for having a decent retirement nest egg
Why a ROTH and not a regular IRA? Regular IRAs are tax deductible when you make the contribution, but taxable when you take the money out. Most teenagers don’t need the tax deduction that comes with a regular IRA, so it really makes much more sense to invest in something that will be tax free at retirement. Note: the deductibility of the IRA goes to the owner of the IRA—so if you contribute to your child’s IRA—you don’t get the tax deduction, your child would.
I realize that this isn’t an option for everybody, but if you can afford putting money into a ROTH IRA for your child (or grandchild), it’s worth some serious consideration.