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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 |

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

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Investing

CNote 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.

In recent years, finding stable, reasonable yield has been difficult for savers. A traditional savings account rarely offers an attractive yield and the bond market has been somewhat anemic in recent years. This is where CNote comes in.

CNote is a company that takes your money and invests it in community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Basically, these lenders issue loans to local governments, nonprofits and businesses owned by minorities and women. CNote invests your money with its partners and offers you a return.

CNote
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The Bottom Line: CNote offers you the chance to earn relatively stable yields that beat traditional savings accounts while allowing you to make a positive social impact in communities across the country.

  • Annual return beats that of most traditional savings accounts.
  • Investments are used for social impact.
  • CNote has no fees, but it does come with liquidity restrictions.

Who should consider CNote

CNote is meant as a savings account or bond market alternative. It’s not designed to offer inflation-beating potential returns like those seen in the stock market. Instead, it’s more likely to be appropriate for savers who are frustrated with their current yields and want a relatively stable way to boost what they’re earning each year.

Additionally, the social impact aspect of CNote could make it attractive to those looking for socially conscious ways to put their money to work. CNote’s CDFI partners invest in small businesses and community development projects, so for those who like the idea of doing good while their money earns interest, this can be an option.

However, CNote comes with limited liquidity. There are only four times a year that CNote allows for withdrawals (with 30 days’ notice), and at those times you’re limited to withdrawals of $20,000 or 10% of your balance, whichever is higher. (CNote does consider special circumstances and may allow larger or unscheduled withdrawals at their discretion.)

Those who need access to their money for goals in the medium term (four to seven years out) could benefit from CNote, but withdrawals require planning. As a result, it likely doesn’t make sense to use CNote as an emergency fund where immediate liquidity is needed.

CNote fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $1
Commission$0
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Trust
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of CNote

CNote offers an interesting twist on social investing with the expectation of relatively stable returns.

  • Yield that beats traditional savings accounts: One of the stand-out features is CNote’s advertised return of 2.75% APY (or more). This is much better than most traditional savings accounts. In fact, as of this writing, CNote offers returns higher than the five-year Treasury yield. That means you could see a higher yield for medium-term savings than what’s available with other savings options.
  • No fees: CNote doesn’t charge any fees. Instead, the service makes money on the difference between what they pay you in yield and what they receive from investments made with CDFI partners.
  • Social impact investing: If doing good is important to you, CNote offers a way for you to do that. Your money goes toward helping provide affordable financing to underserved communities for projects like affordable housing, community development and minority-owned businesses.
  • Trust and business accounts: You can open a CNote account as part of a trust or use it for business purposes. Depending on your needs, this can be helpful in your asset management plan.

The service is fairly straightforward and comes with no costs, but it has the potential to help you earn a higher yield on money that might otherwise be sitting in a low-yield savings account.

Drawbacks of CNote

While CNote offers an innovative way to maintain a stable yield, there are some issues that you need to be aware of before you invest.

  • Limited liquidity: This isn’t a deposit account and your money doesn’t remain immediately accessible to you. CNote isn’t simply holding your money; instead, it’s investing your money with its partners. As a result, you need to provide advance notice before withdrawing your money — and you can only withdraw at certain times during the year.
  • Yield is still too low for long-term wealth building: Even though the yield is higher than a traditional savings account, it’s still not high enough for effective long-term wealth-building. If you’re looking for a way to build your nest egg, consider Stocks, Mutual funds and ETFs.
  • No tax-advantaged options: CNote doesn’t offer you the opportunity to invest with tax advantages. There aren’t IRA or 529 options.

If you decide to use CNote, it’s important to understand how you want to use it in your overall portfolio, since there are limitations to when you can access to your money and limited usefulness as a long-term investment vehicle.

Is CNote safe?

It’s important to note that CNote isn’t a depository institution and it isn’t protected by the FDIC. That means if CNote fails, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back. However, the loans made by its CDFI partners to community and municipal projects are generally considered low-risk with stable returns, on par with high-quality Bonds. Most of the projects funded by CDFIs are usually vetted heavily and CDFIs impose their own requirements on borrowers.

CNote also uses what it calls Triple Protection to limit potential losses. Because CNote isn’t a holding company, they don’t keep your money; instead, it goes to CNote’s CDFI partners. CNote only contracts with partners that use government-guaranteed programs, which offer a layer of protection. CNote’s partners are also contractually obligated to repay the loans they receive from CNote, even if something goes wrong. Finally, CNote has a loan loss reserve to help cover potential losses.

However, like any investment, there is still a risk, and you could lose capital in addition to missing out on returns.

Final thoughts

If you’re interested in boosting your yield on a chunk of capital that isn’t doing much, CNote could be an interesting place to park your cash. The returns could be fairly stable and may beat what you’ll get at with a savings account. Plus, you get the added bonus of feeling good about making a positive social impact.

However, you do need to be aware of the liquidity limitations and understand that pre-planning is needed before you access the money you invest using CNote.

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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.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit |

Miranda Marquit is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Miranda here

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Investing

SpeedTrader 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.

SpeedTrader is an online broker that caters to active day traders. It offers a choice of platforms and a full selection of research and data tools, making it a competitive option. You also get direct market access with more than 25 routing options, a choice of per-share or per-trade pricing, and the ability to trade Stocks, Options, and Bonds.

However, SpeedTrader has a higher minimum deposit requirement than TradeStation and Lightspeed, which are designed for active traders as well. SpeedTrader doesn’t offer as many options for trading platforms as Lightspeed does, and you won’t have access to multiple free trading platforms with SpeedTrader — unlike with either of its close competitors.

SpeedTrader
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The bottom line: SpeedTrader offers direct market access and advanced trading features, including point-and-click trading, real-time market data and hot keys for faster order entry.

  • SpeedTrader provides a choice of trading platforms, including ActiveWeb, SpeedTrader Pro, and SpeedTrader Mobile.
  • Investors get direct market access — with a choice of more than 25 routing options — to allow for faster execution and better filling of orders.
  • Commissions and fees are affordable, especially for high-volume traders.

Who should consider SpeedTrader

If you’re a day trader who needs real-time market data at your fingertips with the ability to place and execute orders as quickly as possible, then SpeedTrader could be an ideal broker for you. SpeedTrader allows you to save multiple screen layouts, create customized watchlists, stream quotes in real time, manage multiple trading accounts in one platform, and customize 100 different hot key options for the fastest possible order entry.

SpeedTrader also provides support for institutional clients, including hedge funds. Or if you are diving into day trading for the first time, you can request free virtual practice accounts with virtual buying power to make sure you’re ready before you risk any real money.

But if you’re looking for features that cater to hands-off traders, such as commission-free ETFs, no-load Mutual funds, or robo-advising services, SpeedTrader is the wrong tool for you. Online brokers such as Ally Invest, Charles Schwab and E-Trade would be more your speed.

SpeedTrader fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $30,000
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $75 full account transfer fee
  • $75 partial account transfer fee
  • $30 inactivity fee per quarter
Current promotions

When you open a new account with SpeedTrader, you can get up to $100 in free trades or one month of free trading.

Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account(ESA)
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • SEP IRA
  • Solo 401(k) (for small businesses)
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
  • Guardianship or Conservatorship
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS
Customer supportPhone, Chat, Email

Strengths of SpeedTrader

Some of the key benefits of SpeedTrader include the following:

  • Affordable commissions: With SpeedTrader, you have a choice of how the commissions are structured. You could pay a per-trade fee as low as $2.95 if you make 500 trades or more per month or up to $4.49 per trade if you trade less frequently at under 200 trades in a month — or you could pay a per-share fee instead. Per-share fees start at just $0.0025 if your monthly share volume is at least 500,000 and goes up to $0.0044 if you trade under 250,000 shares. This is comparable to Lightspeed, which charges $0.0045 if you trade under 249,999 shares per month and as low as $0.0010 if you make 15,000,000 or more in trade volume per month. And it’s below TradeStation’s pricing of $5 per trade.
  • Tools to facilitate timely ordering: SpeedTrader is focused on allowing you to place orders as quickly as possible. That’s why you have direct market access with a choice of routing options as well as hot keys to facilitate trades. Most conventional brokers don’t offer direct market access, instead routing customer orders to centralized trading desks, which in turn route to other liquidity providers.
  • Advanced data, charting and research tools: SpeedTrader has multiple platforms, each of which offers customization and advanced tools to help active traders. Investors can create customized watch lists; view streaming quotes as well as time and sales data in real time; and choose from a full array of chart types, including candlestick and price charts.

Drawbacks of SpeedTrader

  • High minimum deposit requirements: SpeedTrader offers only margin and options accounts, and there is a minimum $30,000 deposit for U.S. and foreign clients. There is also a minimum $30,000 deposit if you want to open a day trading account.
  • Costly inactivity fees: There is a $30 inactivity fee per quarter if you execute less than 15 trades.
  • A lack of options for free trading platforms: Lightspeed offers two free trading platforms, while TradeStation doesn’t charge software fees and provides free access to its advanced trading tools. SpeedTrader, on the other hand, charges a minimum of $25 monthly for ActiveWeb unless you generate at least $199 in monthly commissions. And its other platforms are even costlier, with SpeedTrader Pro Level I starting at $49 monthly unless you generate $199 in commissions and SpeedTrader Pro Level II coming in at $104 per month if you have less than $499 in monthly commissions.

Is SpeedTrader safe?

SpeedTrader is committed to account security. It is in full compliance with all regulatory requirements, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. And client assets held with SpeedTrader are insured up to $500,000 since SpeedTrader is a member of the SIPC.

SpeedTrader clients also get additional protection through Lloyd’s of London for up to $24.5 million in assets. That means a combined total of $25 million per client is protected, including up to $1 million in cash.

This insurance does not, however, protect you if the assets you invest in lose value. There are inherent risks to investing, and you could end up losing money if your investments perform poorly.

Final thoughts

SpeedTrader, more than most other online brokers, focuses on facilitating the fastest ordering speeds possible, which is a big benefit for day traders. If speed is of the essence, SpeedTrader is likely the right choice for you. But if you’re looking for a wider choice of trading platforms and are interested in not paying a fee to use them, then you may want to consider Lightspeed or TradeStation instead.

Open a SpeedTrader accountSecured
on SpeedTrader’s secure website

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.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy |

Christy Rakoczy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christy here

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