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Investing

How to Open a Roth IRA in 5 Easy Steps

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

As you start to invest in your long-term future with a retirement account, it can be very confusing trying to understand all your options. With 401(k)s, IRAs and CDs, this alphabet soup of retirement investing can be difficult to keep up with.

When it comes to IRAs, there are two main types to be aware of: traditional and Roth. Both are great to explore if you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account; however, the tax breaks work in different ways. Traditional IRAs are not taxed upfront, while Roth IRAs are taxed up-front. While both methods are popular, you should evaluate which option is best for your unique situation.

Why open a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA has a few key differences from traditional IRAs:

  • There are no age limitations. You can keep up contributions for as long as you’d like even as you’re well into retirement.
  • You don’t have to start withdrawing at 70 and a half years of age;you can wait until you’re older.
  • Your income determines your eligibility.

If you want to contribute to an account for as long as you’d like, a Roth IRA is a good idea. Feeling restricted by the age limit may push you away from the idea of a traditional IRA.

Income restrictions could scare you off, but if you make less than $137,000 as a single filer or $203,000 as a couple filing jointly, you qualify for a Roth IRA.

Traditional IRAs earn you a tax break the year you make a contribution, which could be a major deciding factor for you. With Roth IRAs, however, you don’t get a break when you put money in, but you will when you take money out.

How to open a Roth IRA in 5 steps

If you’re ready to start your Roth IRA, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

1. Determine your eligibility

Your income is your biggest determining factor for eligibility. If you make more than $137,000 or you and your partner earn more than $203,000, then you won’t qualify. But even if you’re close to those figures, you can still contribute a reduced amount.

If you earn less than $122,000 independently or less than $193,000 filing jointly, you are free to contribute the full amount for IRAs.

If you earn too much for a Roth IRA, consider alternative investment options.

2. Determine your investment style

Are you ready to take big risks to earn some big rewards? Or do you like to play it safe and earn with less risk? Your investment strategy should be catered to your personal preference and investment comfort level.

If you like to watch your investments every chance you get, an online stock broker like TD Ameritrade or Charles Schwab may be a good choice for you. Try to find a brokerage firm with low or no account minimums so you can start immediately contributing and growing your investments. It’s also important to consider trading costs — the costs can add up quickly when you’re charged a certain percentage or dollar amount per transaction.

If you prefer to take a hands-off approach, you may want to consider a robo-advisor like Wealthfront or Betterment. You’ll complete a questionnaire that creates your investing profile and portfolio. With this approach, you’ll also want to look for low or no account minimums and low fees.

3. How to choose where to open a Roth IRA

There are plenty of places to put your money and lots of companies are vying for your business. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before opening a Roth IRA:

  • How involved do I want to be? A robo-advisor is a good idea if you want your money to handle itself. If you want to watch it like a hawk, try an online brokerage.
  • What are the extra costs? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t apply extra or hidden charges for their services. But the more fees you have, the less money you can apply to your investments.
  • How much can I contribute? All IRA contributions — both Traditional and Roth — are capped at a combined $6,000 annually for 2019. If you have more money to invest, you might want to try a Roth IRA along with a separate, low-risk investment like a Certificate of Deposit (CD).

Once you have an idea of what kind of investment style you want to adopt, you can choose a company that is most in line with your style.

4. Select your investments

Roth IRAs can consist of any sort of investment you want, like stocks, bonds and mutual funds. With robo-advisors, it’s usually a mix of a bunch of different kinds of investments so you have a well-rounded, diversified portfolio. It’s wise to maintain a diversified portfolio because putting all your money into one stock or one kind of investment can hurt you if the company tanks.

Make sure you have enough saved up for investments that are separate from other financial obligations, like your emergency fund. Once your emergency fund is squared away and your debt is handled, you can start to use your extra cash to invest. Investment money shouldn’t be taking the money you otherwise need to use.

But investing doesn’t end when you open an account. You should try to set up a contribution schedule to consistently add to your investment account. A good starting point is 5% to 10% of your net income. If that’s not doable, try to make auto-contributions every paycheck, month or quarter so your account is always growing.

5. Monitor your growth

IRAs and other retirement investment accounts are good ways to save for the long term. If a company is underperforming or the stock market takes a dip, don’t fret. The market has a way of working itself out in the long run.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. Analyze your account every year. The time of year doesn’t really matter, but it might be helpful to schedule it with something like the beginning of the year or around a specific holiday. You might not need to make any changes, but you may feel like it’s time to be a little more conservative or risky based on your updated preferences. You’re probably not the same person you were a year ago.

Bottom line

Don’t fret if you’re still in the research stages of opening a Roth IRA. Look into companies that are most in-line with your investment preferences and choose investment types you’re comfortable with. You want your money to grow over a long time, so try to find a place where you’ll be happy for years to come.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dori Zinn |

Dori Zinn is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dori here

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Investing, Reviews

Fidelity Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

With a whopping $6.9 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity is one of the country’s largest broker-dealers. That kind of size and power may seem like a detriment to some, but Fidelity’s focus on investor value, long-term planning, and fair and transparent pricing makes the Boston-based giant one of the industry’s more likable brands.

Fidelity offers an extensive array of investment products, including hundreds of proprietary mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and access to thousands of competitor fund investments. Its brokerage platform lets you trade international stocks, stock options and shares of initial public offerings. The firm also offers margin accounts and short selling capabilities for sophisticated investors. There is investing guidance available when you need it as well as 24-hour support. The best part? Lately, Fidelity has been on a mission to reduce the fees and expenses associated with being an investor.

Fidelity
Visit FidelitySecuredon Fidelity’s secure site
The bottom line: It’s not an overstatement to say Fidelity has something for every investor, with trading costs and account minimums that can’t be beat.

  • Full-service broker with a strong brand reputation
  • Extensive options for all investor types
  • Low or no fees and commissions on most products

Who should consider Fidelity

With much to offer, Fidelity is a great fit for many investor types. Beginner investors will appreciate the amount of guidance Fidelity offers to help you set a goal, create an investment strategy, and understand the benefits and risks of different asset classes. Once you’re ready to invest, Fidelity offers mutual funds with no minimum investment and no fees as well as no-fee brokerage accounts.

For index fund investors, Fidelity has four funds with 0% expense ratios and a roster of offerings that beat even low-fee giant Vanguard on price. Trading stocks or ETFs on the regular? Fidelity has low-cost trades, access to tons of research and a great platform for active traders. One company study found that even Fidelity’s bond prices are more competitive, saving investors an average of $14.55 per bond.

Fidelity fees and features

Current promotions

Get up to 500 free trades for two years when you fund an eligible account. The number of free trades is determined by the size of your deposit.

Stock trading fees
  • $4.95 per trade
Account minimum
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
  • Futures / commodities
  • Forex
  • Crypto-currency
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • 529 Plan
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Custodial IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • Solo 401k (for small businesses)
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
  • Guardianship or Conservatorship
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android, Fire OS
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 190 branch locations
Research resources
  • SEC filings
  • Mutual fund reports
  • Earnings press releases

Strengths of Fidelity

  • Low-cost trading. Considering its size and infrastructure, you might not expect Fidelity to offer a competitive commission rate of $4.95 per trade as well as no-commission trades on select ETFs. E-Trade and TD Ameritrade will cost you $6.95 per trade. Charles Schwab also offers $4.95 trades, but Fidelity edges ahead with lower margin rates for traders with large debt balances.
  • No-fee investing. The company made a bold move in 2018 by offering a handful of index funds with 0% expense ratios, no fees and no minimums.
  • Mutual funds. Fidelity offers more than 200 proprietary mutual funds, representing a diversity of asset classes and investment strategies. More than 100 of the firm’s funds currently have four- or five-star ratings (out of five) by Morningstar based on risk-adjusted returns. You also can access more than 10,000 competitor mutual funds, along with tools to help you screen funds according to features, ratings, returns, expenses and more.
  • Research and planning. When it comes to research, Fidelity hits the mark in multiple ways. As an asset manager, Fidelity’s global research is extensive. More than 400 analysts around the globe cover over 2,600 companies and generate tons of research. For the average investor, Fidelity offers information to help make stock trading decisions, build a fund portfolio and learn about IPOs. There are lots of tools and calculators for everyday financial planning as well.

Drawbacks of Fidelity

  • High minimums for new investor promotions. Fidelity offers between 300 and 500 free trades for two years when you open a new account with a minimum of $50,000 to $100,000. To be fair, these minimums are lower than those required for similar promotions from competitors such as Charles Schwab, E-Trade and TD Ameritrade, but it’s a hurdle for the average new investor.
  • Slow customer service. Overall, Fidelity gets fairly high marks for customer service, with its focus on investment guidance and education. But with a company this size, there are bound to be a few negative reviews. Fidelity’s tend to focus on the customer service and speed. Service representatives can be slow to respond to complaints, money transfers can take weeks, and many customer communications are sent through the mail, according to some customers’ comments.

Is Fidelity safe?

Fidelity uses sophisticated technology to safeguard client accounts and transactions. Accounts at Fidelity are encrypted with two-factor identification, requiring an extra step of replying to a text message when it comes to sensitive transactions. Voice recognition technology is used to authenticate your identity over the phone. Fidelity’s systems are under 24/7 surveillance, from security at local branches to monitoring transactions for identity theft and protecting Fidelity’s website with the industry’s strongest firewalls.

Fidelity accounts also are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000 and SIPC-insured for up to $500,000 per account.

Final thoughts

To be a successful investor, it helps to have the right tools. It also helps to understand exactly what you’re paying for so you don’t lose too much of your investment earnings to commissions and fees. Fidelity provides both to investors, which is meaningful for a company that’s been around for more than 70 years.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Melissa Phipps
Melissa Phipps |

Melissa Phipps is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melissa here

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Investing, Reviews

Charles Schwab Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Charles Schwab has been known as a discount broker for decades, and its online brokerage outfit maintains that reputation. But don’t think just because you’re not paying a lot that you don’t get a lot. For a competitive trading fee, you’ll receive great customer service, solid execution, an easy-to-navigate website with a sophisticated trading platform, and a wealth of research and educational tools. It’s really hard to go wrong with this venerable broker.

Charles Schwab
VISIT CHARLES SCHWABSecuredon Charles Schwab’s secure site
The bottom line: With competitive pricing and excellent tools, Schwab is a great choice for any level of investor.

  • Trading platforms and tools for every level of investor
  • Excellent customer service
  • Low trading fees

Who should consider Charles Schwab

Schwab is going to do right by any level of investor. Beginners should love its extensive educational resources and its responsive customer service, while advanced investors should love its sophisticated trading platform. All investors will love its competitive pricing, with the benefits of a full-service broker.

Cost-conscious investors should love Schwab not just for its trading fees but also for its research and plethora of commission-free ETFs and no-load mutual funds. Anyone looking for a complete experience at a bargain price will feel right at home here.

Charles Schwab fees and features

Current promotions

500 free trades with a qualifying net deposit of $100,000

Stock trading fees
  • $4.95 per trade
Account minimum
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
  • Futures / commodities
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $50 full account transfer fee
  • $25 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • 529 Plan
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account(ESA)
  • Custodial Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Custodial IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • Solo 401k (for small businesses)
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
  • Guardianship or Conservatorship
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 346 branch locations
Research resources
  • SEC filings
  • Mutual fund reports
  • Earnings press releases

Strengths of Charles Schwab

  • Competitive trading fees and no minimum: Schwab makes it easy for those with little coin to get started in the investing game. Schwab’s pricing at $4.95 per stock trade (and $4.95 plus $0.65 per contract for options) puts it right at the standard for low-cost full-service brokers. Plus, its $0 account minimum means you can get rolling with even less. That’s a solid deal for all the other extras Schwab provides, including research and a professional trading platform. Compare that pricing to Fidelity at $4.95 per trade, while TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Merrill Edge sit higher at $6.95.
  • Extensive research and educational tools: Speaking of research, Schwab offers a lot of it. From market commentary to stock screeners, advanced charting to Schwab stock lists, the broker offers many resources that allow you to ferret out interesting stock ideas. All of that is aided by stock pages with news, press releases and SEC filings to help you with your primary research. You’ll also receive free research from Morningstar, Ned Davis, Credit Suisse, CFRA and others. It’s a wide range of well-regarded reports. Meanwhile, those just getting started will benefit from online courses and modules that get you up to speed on how to invest.
  • Customer service: Need someone on the phone at 3 a.m.? Schwab can handle that. The company offers phone service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But if you don’t need that level of service, Schwab also offers web chat and email. Plus, while Charles Schwab is known for its discount online service, the company also has more than 340 branches around the U.S., so you can stop by for a full consultation. You really can interact in any way that works for you.
  • Low-cost funds: Schwab has done a lot over the years to make investing low-cost, and its current selection of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds follows that tradition. The broker offers more than 250 no-commission ETFs, and these funds have no early redemption fees. You won’t have to guess which funds are covered, either, as the broker provides an easily searchable list that helps you sort for the kind of fund you’re looking for and provides details on the expense ratio and performance.Schwab doesn’t stop there, offering around 7,300 no-load mutual funds. These funds are sold without a sales charge (otherwise known as 12b-1 fees). But Schwab makes mutual funds even more investor-friendly by offering more than 4,000 with no transaction fee. So these are all savings that can be rolled into your investments.
  • Sophisticated trading platform: Schwab’s basic trading platform is completely serviceable — offering smooth, no-frills order entry that works if you’re entering a one-off order or not trading frequently. But for advanced traders who need efficiency, Schwab also offers a more robust platform, StreetSmart Edge.StreetSmart Edge is available on the web or as a downloadable app, and it includes free streaming data, a customizable trading layout and tools. It also provides the ability to expand the platform to multiple monitors. The app provides a stream of CNBC, and an all-in-one trade ticket allows traders to enter multiple order types and securities in just one window. Real-time news and screeners allow you to hunt for profitable ideas, while real-time trading alerts let you move on an idea immediately.

Drawbacks of Charles Schwab

  • Difficulty qualifying for new account bonus: While many brokers offer a nice bonus for any new trader, with Schwab you’ll have to deposit $100,000 to get it. But then Schwab rolls out the red carpet, with 500 free stock or options trades that are good for up to two years. Still, for that kind of deposit, you can sign up for 100 free stock trades every month from Merrill Edge, though without options trades. However, there is a more modest bonus available: If you can get a friend to refer you to Schwab and you open a new account, you can pocket a $100 bonus.
  • Pricey foreign stock trades: Pricey stock trades might not be a deal breaker, but if this is a must-have for you, then you’ll be better off somewhere else. Schwab charges at least $100 or 0.75% of the principal, with no limit, on stock trades placed directly on foreign exchanges, and you won’t be able to place an online or automated phone order. It’s important to note that this pricing does not include foreign stocks traded on American exchanges. However, if you’re looking to buy a foreign stock on the over-the-counter market, you’ll need to cough up an additional $50 foreign transaction fee, though you can place these trades online or via automated phone order.

Is Charles Schwab safe?

Charles Schwab has been around since 1971 and numbers 11.5 million active client accounts. Plenty of investors trust Schwab because it’s done right by them, and they’ve entrusted the company with about $3.4 trillion in assets under management. The brokerage is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which protects investors’ assets up to $500,000 per account (including up to $250,000 in cash only) if the brokerage is unable to return the assets. Investors still can lose money in the market, of course, because those investments are subject to risk.

Final thoughts

For a very reasonable trading fee, investors receive the full gamut of research, customer service, trading platforms, low-cost funds and a well-organized web interface. While many brokers are trying, it’s difficult to beat the total package that Schwab offers investors, and it’s simply hard to go wrong.

Schwab ranks among the best of the full-service brokers, and its most comparable peers include Fidelity Investments, Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade, though the latter two charge higher trading fees.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James F. Royal, Ph.D.
James F. Royal, Ph.D. |

James F. Royal, Ph.D. is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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