Rollover IRA vs. Traditional IRA: An Expert's Perspective

By Hetal Bansal

 Individual Retirement Account

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are an important tool for saving for retirement, and there are several types of IRAs to choose from. Two of the most common types are Rollover IRA and Traditional IRA. A Traditional IRA allows individuals to contribute pre-tax dollars, which can reduce their taxable income for the year. A Rollover IRA, on the other hand, is designed for individuals who have changed jobs or are retiring and need to roll over their retirement savings from their employer-sponsored plan.


Traditional IRA

Traditional Individual Retirement Account

A Traditional IRA is an investment account that allows individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to their account, which grows tax-free until the age of 59. At that point, the individual must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the account based on a life expectancy calculation, and the distributions are taxed at the current income tax rate.

One of the primary benefits of a Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is its tax deduction benefit. Contributions made by an individual are tax-deductible in the year they are made, and this can reduce the individual's taxable income. The tax-deductible amount is limited to $6,000 ($7,000 for individuals over the age of 50) or the amount of earned income, whichever is less. However, the tax deduction is phased out for individuals with high incomes.

Another benefit of Traditional IRAs is the flexibility in investment options. Traditional IRAs typically offer a wide range of investment opportunities, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and index funds. This allows the account holder to choose investments that align with their risk tolerance and financial goals. Additionally, since the contributions made to a Traditional IRA are tax-deductible, the money invested can grow quickly over time. The account owner can reinvest the earnings without any tax consequences until they start withdrawing the money during retirement.

However, there are some drawbacks to a Traditional IRA. The account holder cannot withdraw the money before age 59 without incurring a penalty of 10% on the amount withdrawn. Also, once the account holder reaches age 72, they must begin taking RMDs annually, which can increase their taxable income and may result in a higher tax burden.


Rollover IRA

A Rollover IRA is an account created by transferring funds from a 401(k) or another employer-sponsored retirement plan. This is typically done when an individual leaves a job and wants to move the funds from their old retirement plan to a new account. Like a Traditional IRA, contributions to a Rollover IRA grow tax-free until the age of 59 . Unlike a Traditional IRA, Rollover IRAs do not allow contributions unless theyre rollover contributions from an employer-sponsored plan.

The main benefit of a Rollover IRA is that it allows the account holder to consolidate their retirement savings into a single account. This can make it easier to manage investments, monitor the growth of the account, and make withdrawals during retirement. Similar to a Traditional IRA, Rollover IRAs offer several investment options such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. However, the investment options may be limited based on the individuals employer-sponsored plan.

Also, similar to Traditional IRAs, Rollover IRAs require the account holder to start taking RMDs at age 72, and withdrawals before the age of 59 incur a penalty of 10% on the amount withdrawn.


Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Rollover IRAs and Traditional IRAs


Pros of Traditional IRA

Tax Benefits: Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible, which can lower your taxable income for the year. Additionally, the money in a Traditional IRA grows tax-deferred until you withdraw it in retirement.


Investment Flexibility: With a Traditional IRA, you can invest your contributions in a wide range of options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).


Availability: Anyone with earned income can contribute to a Traditional IRA, regardless of whether they have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.



Cons of Traditional IRA

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Once you reach age 72, you are required to start taking distributions from your Traditional IRA, even if you don't need the money. This can result in higher taxes and reduced retirement savings.


Penalties for Early Withdrawals: If you withdraw money from your Traditional IRA before age 59 , you may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to taxes on the amount withdrawn.


Tax Implications: Withdrawals from a Traditional IRA are taxed as ordinary income, which can be higher than the capital gains tax rate for investments held in a taxable account.


Pros of Rollover IRA


Investment Flexibility: With a Rollover IRA, you can invest your retirement savings in a wider range of investment options than you would have in your employer-sponsored plan.


Consolidation: Rollover IRAs allow you to consolidate your retirement savings from multiple employer-sponsored plans into a single account, making it easier to manage your investments.


Avoiding Taxes and Penalties: Rollover IRAs allow you to avoid taxes and penalties on retirement savings when you transfer them from one employer-sponsored plan to another.


Cons of Rollover IRA


Limited Contribution Opportunities: Rollover IRAs are designed for individuals who are transferring retirement savings from an employer-sponsored plan, so there are no contribution limits.


Fees: Rollover IRAs may come with higher fees than employer-sponsored plans, so it's important to compare fees before choosing a provider.


Limited Investment Options: Some Rollover IRAs may have limited investment options compared to Traditional IRAs, which can limit your ability to diversify your portfolio.


Which One is Right for You?

Choosing between a Traditional IRA and a Rollover IRA depends on an individuals financial circumstances and retirement goals. Below are some factors to consider when making the decision:


Tax Benefits

Contributions made to a Traditional IRA can reduce an individual's taxable income, which can be beneficial for individuals in higher tax brackets. Rollover IRA contributions are not tax-deductible, and the account holder must pay taxes on the amount withdrawn from their employer-sponsored plan.


Employer-Sponsored Plan

An individual who has a 401(k) with their employer and plans to stay with the employer for several years may benefit from a Rollover IRA. This allows them to consolidate their retirement accounts and have a clear picture of their retirement savings. However, individuals who are self-employed or do not have a 401(k) plan may prefer a Traditional IRA.


Investment Options

Traditional IRAs generally offer a wider range of investment options than Rollover IRAs, which are generally limited to the investment options available in the employer-sponsored plan.


Withdrawal Options

A Traditional IRA may be a better option for individuals who want to withdraw the money before they reach age 59 , such as in cases of a medical emergency or to buy a first home. A Rollover IRA may be a better option for individuals who plan to take advantage of the employer-sponsored plans loan provision.




In conclusion, deciding between a Rollover IRA and Traditional IRA depends on your individual circumstances and financial goals. A Traditional IRA may be a good choice if you want to reduce your taxable income and start saving for retirement early on. A Rollover IRA, on the other hand, may be a better option if you are changing jobs or retiring and need to roll over your retirement savings from your employer-sponsored plan. It is important to consider factors such as tax implications, investment options, and fees before making a decision. Consulting with a financial advisor can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you are on track to reach your retirement goals.