How to Open a Roth IRA in 3 Steps

Why Start a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is a great way to supplement your 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan. Fun fact: 8 out of 10 millionaires invested in their company’s 401(k) according to our National Study of Millionaires. That means their boring old workplace retirement account played a huge part in their financial success! On top of that, 3 out of 4 millionaires invested outside of their company plans too.But if you don’t have a retirement plan at work—and lots of people don’t—a Roth IRA isn’t just a nice thing to have. It’s essential. 

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With a Roth IRA, you won’t pay any taxes on the money you take out in retirement once you hit age 59 1/2. That’s because you invest in a Roth IRA with after-tax money—meaning you’ve already paid taxes on it.


1. Find out if youre eligible and ready

First things first. Before you can open a Roth IRA, you have to make sure you meet the income limits to contribute to a Roth IRA.

In 2022, as long as your adjusted gross income is less than $129,000 for single filers and $204,000 for married couples filing jointly, you can contribute the maximum amount to a Roth IRA.1

Remember when we said your Roth IRA has a specific place in your wealth-building plan? Here’s the deal: Eligibility for an IRA isn’t all you should keep in mind. You also need to make sure saving for retirement fits into your budget. That means you’ll need to be halfway through the Baby Steps. Baby Step 1 is saving a $1,000 starter emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is getting out of debt (everything except your house) using the debt snowball method. Baby Step 3 is saving three to six months of expenses for a fully funded emergency fund.

And then you get to Baby Step 4—investing 15% of your household income for retirement. When you’re trying to figure out where to invest for retirement first, remember: Match beats Roth beats Traditional. This means you should invest in your 401(k) up to your match (hey, it’s free money!), then max out your Roth IRA. If you haven’t reached 15% at that point, go back and invest in your 401(k). And if you have a Roth 401(k) at work, great! You can invest your entire 15% there.

Working through the Baby Steps—and getting out of debt—is the quickest right way to build wealth. So if you haven’t paid off all your debt or saved up an emergency fund, stop investing for now. No exceptions!

There’s actually a special group of people called Baby Steps Millionaires who followed these exact steps to build a net worth of a million dollars or more. Want to learn even more about how they built their wealth? Dave Ramsey’s new book, Baby Steps Millionaires, will show you the proven path that millions of Americans have taken to get out of debt and build wealth—and how you can too!

2. Choose your provider

There are many institutions that offer IRAs, including banks, credit unions , online brokerages, mutual fund companies, and financial-planning firms. 

When deciding which to go with, consider the types of investments they offer. Are you looking for a target-date fund? Stocks and bonds? ETFs? Every institution will offer something a little different, so make sure you choose one that aligns with your goals.

You should also consider the fees an institution charges — be they maintenance fees, trading commissions or transaction fees. Knowing a provider’s required minimum balance is important, too.

Just want the most affordable option? Search for providers who offer no transaction fees, low commissions, and a variety of low-cost investment vehicles, like index funds, for example. Some institutions may even offer sign-up bonuses if you’re rolling over a large account balance.

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5. Set Up a Contribution Schedule

If your bank allows you to, you can set up monthly transfers from your bank account to your Roth IRA. Alternatively, you can decide to make an annual contribution as long as you still meet the income requirements. You can contribute to your Roth IRA as late as the tax-filing date for the following year, typically April 15.

Remember, contributions to Roth IRAs are made with after-tax money, so there’s no tax advantage to waiting until the last minute to make your contribution. In fact, the sooner you contribute, the sooner that money will go to work for you.

If you make too much to contribute directly to a Roth IRA, a so-called backdoor Roth IRA conversion might be an option for you.

Why open a TD Ameritrade Roth IRA?

Breadth of Investment Choices – Including commission-free ETFs, no-transaction-fee mutual funds1, fixed income products, and much more. Empowering Education – We offer exclusive videos, useful tools, and webcasts to help you create a personalized retirement plan. Smart Tools – Plan and evaluate your retirement strategy with helpful tools like the IRA Selection Tool and Retirement Calculator. Fair and Objective Research – Take control with objective third-party research provided by Morningstar Investment Management, CFRA (formerly S&P Capital IQ), and Market Edge

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1. Standard online $0 commission does not apply to over-the-counter (OTC) equities, transaction-fee mutual funds, futures, fixed-income investments, or trades placed directly on a foreign exchange or in the Canadian market. Options trades will be subject to the standard $0.65 per-contract fee. Service charges apply for trades placed through a broker ($25) or by automated phone ($5). Exchange process, ADR, and Stock Borrow fees still apply. See the Charles Schwab Pricing Guide for Individual Investors for full fee and commission schedules.

2. If you are not completely satisfied for any reason, at your request Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”), Charles Schwab Bank, SSB (“Schwab Bank”), or another Schwab affiliate, as applicable, will refund any eligible fee related to your concern. No other charges or expenses, and no market losses will be refunded. Refund requests must be received within 90 days of the date the fee was charged. Schwab reserves the right to change or terminate the guarantee at any time. Go to to learn what’s included and how it works.

Where Can I Open a Roth IRA?

Almost all brokerage firms, banks, and investment companies offer Roth IRAs. There are many online brokerages offering Roth IRA accounts, and some are better than others. We put together a list of the best Roth IRA brokers to make the process easier.

Common questions

When can I access my account?

We’ll send you your account number as soon as your application is completed and approved. You can use your account number to log in and manage your account. 

What are the tax benefits?

With this account, your contributions aren’t tax-deductible – but your earnings grow tax-free and withdrawals can be made tax-free after five years, provided you are age 59½. 

You may be eligible for tax-free withdrawals before age 59½:

  • In case of death or disability.
  • To pay up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a first home.
  • To pay up to $5,000 towards birth or adoption expenses.

While there are no current-year tax benefits, you can contribute to a Roth IRA whatever your age, and you won’t need to take Required Minimum Distributions based on your age.

What are the benefits of a Schwab Roth IRA?

When you open a Roth IRA with Schwab, you get:

  • Investment help and guidance.
  • Retirement planning tools and resources. 
  • 24/7 service and support.
What kinds of investment choices do I have?

Choose from stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, CDs, and more. Schwab also offers professional portfolio management solutions that can make investing even easier. As a Schwab client, you can speak with a Schwab investment professional who can help you decide which investments are right for you. Just give us a call at 866-855-5635. We’re here and happy to help.

How much can I contribute each year?

You can contribute $6,000 for the tax year 2021 and $6,000 for the tax year 2022 ($7,000 for tax year 2021 and $7,000 for year 2022 if you are at least age 50) or up to 100% of earned income, whichever is less. Income limits apply

What are the eligibility requirements to open a Roth IRA?

There are income limitations to open a Roth IRA account. If you file as a single person and your Modified Adjusted Gross income (MAGI) is above $140,000 for tax year 2021 and $144,000 for tax year 2022 or if you file jointly and you have a combined MAGI above $208,000 for tax year 2021 and $214,000 for tax year 2022, you may not be eligible to start a Roth IRA. See the Roth IRA contribution limits for more information.

Roth or Traditional IRA—what’s the difference?

A key consideration is whether it makes more financial sense to take advantage of immediate tax benefits or enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement. With a Traditional IRA, you may get immediate tax benefits, but you’ll have to pay ordinary income tax on your contributions and earnings when you take money out in retirement. With a Roth IRA, there are no immediate tax benefits, but contributions and earnings grow tax-free. All withdrawals can be taken out tax-free and penalty-free providing you’re 59½ or older and you have met the minimum account holding period (currently five years).

Compare a Roth vs. Traditional IRA

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Minimum deposit and balance Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No account minimum for active investing through Schwab One® Brokerage Account. Automated investing through Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® requires a $5,000 minimum depositFees Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Schwab One® Brokerage Account has no account fees, $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades, $0 transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds and a $0.65 fee per options contractInvestment vehicles Robo-advisor: Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium™ IRA: Charles Schwab Traditional, Roth, Rollover, Inherited and Custodial IRAs; plus, a Personal Choice Retirement Account® (PCRA) Brokerage and trading: Schwab One® Brokerage Account, Brokerage Account + Specialized Platforms and Support for Trading, Schwab Global Account™ and Schwab Organization Account See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros$0 minimum deposit for active investingNo commission fees for stock and ETF trades and no transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual fundsOffers extensive retirement planning toolsUsers can get on-demand advice from a professional advisor/Schwab expertRobo-advisor Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® available as a no-fee automated service option (with Premium version available for a fee)Trading platform StreetSmart Edge® available for more active investors24/7 customer support access by phone or chatCharles Schwab offers over 300 brick-and-mortar branches across the U.S. for in-person supportConsSpecific transactions may require commission feeRobo-advisor Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium charges a one-time planning fee of $300, then a $30 per month advisory fee. For that price, you get unlimited 1:1 guidance from a CFP, interactive planning tools, plus a personalized roadmap for reaching your goalsLearn MoreView More

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Choose how you’d like to invest Merrill Edge Self‑Directed A self-directed investing platform that streamlines investing, giving you access to research and insights, and flexible tools—all with low, flat-rate pricing.Footnote  2 How much should I contribute to my Roth IRA? When deciding how much money to deposit into your Roth IRA, you are limited to a certain amount each year. Roth IRAs have the same contribution limits as traditional IRAs, which is the below for 2021:Those under age 50: Total contribution limit to both Roth and traditional IRAs of up to $6,000Those 50 or older: Total contribution limit to both Roth and traditional IRAs of up to $7,000 Application Process Each financial institution has its own application form and process for opening a Roth IRA. But, they all ask for your name, address, Social Security number and how you want the money deposited. For example, you can put some of your contribution into a mutual fund and another portion into a certificate. If you have questions, the person helping you open your Roth IRA should have the answers. You can easily fund your Roth IRA by making a transfer from your existing checking or savings account. Navy Federal also accepts rollovers and transfers if you’d like to use funds from an existing Roth or post-tax, employer-qualified retirement plan. Then, designate a beneficiary (the person or people who would inherit your account balance if you were to pass away before cashing it out).  How To Start A Roth IRA FAQ As a beginner, you’ll naturally have questions about the nuts and bolts of how a Roth IRA works. It’s also important to get informed so you know how to make your investments work to your advantage. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) posed by beginners, along with the answers.How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Roth IRA? While brokers won’t charge you a fee to open a Roth IRA, almost all of them require a minimum investment. (As they should — with no money in your account, you’ll have nothing to grow.) The minimum contribution amount will depend on what type of investments will be associated with your account. Some mutual funds will have a minimum investment of around $1,000, while other investment types can get started with just a few dollars. Although you won’t need to pay this upfront, you should also be prepared to pay commission on any trades that are made. Where Is The Best Place To Open A Roth IRA? The best place to open a Roth IRA depends on a variety of factors. NerdWallet rounded up a list of the best accounts, which you’ll find below. This list was selected based on factors such as investment selection, customer support, account fees, and account minimums, to name a few. Best For Investors Who Prefer To Be Hands-Off Betterment IRA SoFi Automated Investing Ellevest Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Fidelity Go Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium Best For Investors Who Prefer To Be Hands-On You Invest by J.P. Morgan Firstrade TD Ameritrade IRA Ally Invest IRA Merrill Edge IRA Charles Schwab IRA E*TRADE IRA Fidelity IRA What Types Of Investments Should Be In Your Roth IRA? Remember: your Roth IRA account is just the holding place of your investments. The account is not an investment in itself. Rather, it indicates how the taxes on your investments will be structured. This means that you can hold virtually any type of investment in your Roth IRA. Once you open and put money into your account, you’ll need to decide what that money should be invested in. Experts recommend a mix of mutual funds. They offer low investment minimums, are less risky than single stocks, and are managed by experts who spend their careers studying the market.What Is A Good Age To Start A Roth IRA? The longer you can leave your Roth IRA untouched, the more time your money will have to grow. Five years’ worth of Roth IRA investing early on in someone’s career could be turned into several hundred thousands of dollars down the line. With this in mind, starting as early as possible should be common sense. No matter your age, you should learn how to start a Roth IRA today. Are Roth IRAs Insured? Roth IRAs are insured, to a certain extent. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides coverage for up to $250,000 in any type of IRA account. This means that if you have $300,000 total saved across your IRA accounts, $50,000 of it is uninsured. Can You Lose Money In A Roth IRA? Yes, you can lose money in a Roth IRA. However, these losses can be mitigated with patience and control. Your investments will fluctuate along with the market, so if the market nosedives, then so can your investments. However, market fluctuations balance out over time. Patience is the key. The surest way to take a direct hit on your Roth IRA is by making an early withdrawal. If you take money out of your Roth IRA too early, you will get taxed on that income, plus another tax penalty of 10 percent. The longer you can leave your investment untouched, the less likely you are to lose money.Can You Transfer A 401(k) To A Roth IRA? Yes, you can transfer a 401(k) to a Roth IRA. Let’s say you contributed income to a 401(k) account through your employer, but then you change employers. If you were to withdraw your savings, you would get heavily penalized with taxes for making an early withdrawal. Instead, protect your savings by rolling them over to a Roth IRA account. There is more to be said on this strategy, so be sure to check out our rollover IRA guide, so that you can do it the right way.The financial takeaway A Roth IRA can be a valuable tool in your retirement planning arsenal. Fortunately, setting one up — and contributing to one — is fairly simple. If you need help determining what type of investing strategy, institution, or securities are right for your Roth IRA, talk with a financial planner or broker. They can help you determine the best options for your goals and budget. Aly J. Yale Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer, specializing in real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been published in Forbes, Money Magazine, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, The Balance, Money Under 30, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a focus on radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Read more Read less TagsPay Off DebtPart of theservicesoverview

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