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Custodial Roth IRA: How and Why to Start a Roth IRA for Kids

The world of finance is vast and complex, and for a newbie, it can be particularly daunting. Yet, it is essential to start early, and this is where the concept of a Custodial Roth IRA comes into the picture. A custodial Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that parents can open for their children, offering a great way to save and invest for their future. It is a tool to teach them about the importance of saving, investing, and planning for their retirement from an early age. This article aims to delve into the intricacies of a Custodial Roth IRA, understand its benefits, and provide a comprehensive guide to starting one for your kids.
What is a Custodial Roth IRA?
A Custodial Roth IRA is a type of Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that is opened by an adult for a minor. The adult, often a parent or a guardian, manages the account until the minor reaches the age of maturity, which is typically 18 or 21 years, depending on the state. The account is funded with the child's earned income, and the contributions are made with after-tax dollars. This means that the money grows tax-free, and the withdrawals made during retirement are also tax-free.

Custodial Roth IRAs have the same investment options as regular Roth IRAs. The money can be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment vehicles. This offers a significant advantage over traditional savings accounts and even custodial savings accounts, where the interest rates are often minimal. With a Custodial Roth IRA, the child can potentially earn much higher returns on their investments.
Why Start a Custodial Roth IRA for Kids?
Starting a custodial Roth IRA for kids can be an excellent way to teach them about money management and the importance of saving for the future. It can instill in them the habit of saving and investing, which can remain with them throughout their lives. This can be particularly useful in a world where many adults struggle with financial literacy and planning for retirement.

Moreover, starting a Custodial Roth IRA early allows the power of compounding to work in favor of the child. The longer the money remains invested, the more time it has to grow and generate returns. This can result in a sizable nest egg by the time the child reaches retirement age.
The Benefits of a Custodial Roth IRA
One of the most significant benefits of a custodial Roth IRA is the tax advantage. Since the contributions are made with after-tax dollars, the earnings and withdrawals are tax-free. This can lead to substantial savings over time, especially considering the long investment horizon that kids have.

Another benefit is the flexibility it offers. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not have Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), meaning the money can stay invested as long as the child wishes. Also, the child can withdraw the contributions (but not the earnings) without penalty for qualified expenses such as education or buying a first home.
How to Start a Custodial Roth IRA for Kids?
Starting a custodial Roth IRA for your child is a straightforward process. First, you need to ensure that your child has earned income. This can be from a part-time job, summer job, or even from a family business. Next, you need to choose a financial institution that offers Custodial Roth IRAs. Many banks, credit unions, and brokerage firms offer these accounts.

Once you have chosen a financial institution, you need to fill out the application form. This will require information like the child's Social Security Number, date of birth, and other personal details. You will also need to decide how much to contribute to the account. Remember, the maximum contribution for 2021 is $6,000, or the child's total earned income, whichever is less.
Rules and Restrictions of Custodial Roth IRA
While a custodial Roth IRA offers many benefits, it also comes with certain rules and restrictions. One of the primary rules is that the child must have earned income to contribute to the account. Gifts, allowances, and investment income do not count as earned income.

Another rule is the contribution limit. For 2021, the maximum contribution is $6,000 or the child's total earned income, whichever is less. Also, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA begins to phase out for individuals with Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) above certain limits.
Investing in a Custodial Roth IRA
Investing in a custodial Roth IRA can be a great way to grow your child's savings. The money can be invested in a variety of investment vehicles, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs. It's essential to choose investments that align with your child's risk tolerance and investment horizon.

Remember, investing involves risks, including the potential loss of principal. Therefore, it's crucial to educate your child about these risks and the importance of diversification. It's also a good idea to review the investments regularly and make adjustments as necessary.
Withdrawing from a Custodial Roth IRA
Withdrawals from a custodial Roth IRA are subject to certain rules. The child can withdraw the contributions at any time without penalty. However, withdrawing the earnings before age 59 ½ and before the account has been open for five years may be subject to income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, the child can withdraw up to $10,000 of earnings without penalty to buy a first home. Also, the child can withdraw the earnings without penalty for qualified higher education expenses.
Mistakes to Avoid When Opening a Custodial Roth IRA
When opening a custodial Roth IRA, it's crucial to avoid certain mistakes. One of the common mistakes is not verifying the child's earned income. Remember, the child must have earned income to contribute to the account.

Another mistake is overcontributing to the account. This can result in penalties. Therefore, it's important to keep track of the contributions and ensure they do not exceed the maximum limit.
Conclusion: The Long-Term Impact of a Custodial Roth IRA for Kids
A custodial Roth IRA can have a profound long-term impact on a child's financial future. It can provide a significant head start on saving for retirement. It can also instill in them the habit of saving and investing, which can serve them well throughout their lives.

Starting a custodial Roth IRA for your child may seem like a daunting task, but with proper knowledge and guidance, it can be a straightforward and rewarding process. It's an investment in your child's future that can offer substantial returns in the long run.
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July / 2023
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