My last two posts were about the differences between a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA, and a 401(K) plan. Today, we're going to talk about how to invest the most effectively within each of those investment vehicles. By effectively, I mean in order to achieve the maximum tax advantage since all of these investment vehicles are in fact tax savings vehicles. Let's begin.
As I mentioned in the second to last post, the Roth is the most flexible of the three. And when you withdraw your money from a Roth IRA at 59.5, you will not be taxed on any of the gains. The reason that you will not be taxed is because the dollars that you are putting into the Roth IRA are after-tax dollars. That is to say, they have already been taxed. Because you will never be taxed, you want to load up your Roth IRA with stocks that pay dividends and stocks of smaller companies with lots of room to grow. Let's start with dividends first.
Normally, dividends are taxed at 15%, so they already have preferential tax treatment and since you're not paying taxes on any capital gains, it doesn't matter that dividends have a lower rate of taxation than regular capital appreciation on a stock. However, dividends, when reinvested and coupled with capital appreciation on a stock can generate significant income. When you receive this income, you can choose to reinvest it and buy more of the same stock, or some other company's stock, or just take it out and spend it. But the idea is to create a stream of income that is nontaxable and that flows into your account no matter what the stock market does.
Take a company like Pepsi for example. At the beginning of 2001, Pepsi paid $.14 a share every quarter. So this means that whether Pepsi stock went up or down in the first 3 months of 2001, if you owned 100 shares, you got a guaranteed $14 (100 * $.14) in 3 months. If you owned 1000 shares, you received a guaranteed $140 ($.14 * 1000) in 3 months. In the second quarter of this year, Pepsi's dividend was approximately $.54. This means that if you owned 100 shares, you earned $54 whether Pepsi's stock went up or down. If you owned 1000 shares, you earned a guaranteed $540. And the longer you hold dividend paying stocks, the more dividends you get, which allows you to purchase more dividend paying shares without even having to sell anything from your portfolio to do so. Click here for a visual demonstration of what I was just saying about Pepsi. As you can see, Pepsi's dividend nearly quadrupled over 11 years. Companies whose stock price increases along with increasing their dividends are prime candidates for your Roth IRA.
Unfortunately most companies that have dividends like the ones that I'm referring to are really large, and as a result, do not provide as much potential for capital appreciation. However, small cap stocks (stocks of smaller companies) that have dividends are what you should really look for when trying to build up a nest egg. Small cap stocks can potentially provide for 10- to 20-fold gains over several year periods, and when the company grows, the dividend usually grows along with it. Further, since Roth IRAs only allow you to place a limited amount of money into them, you need to supercharge the gains that you receive within them to make up for the limited contributions. Small cap stocks allow you to achieve outsized gains that can help you achieve financial independence. And because you cannot access the money in full until 59.5, you can afford to sit back and let those small cap stocks you've chosen run their course to maturity.
Take Deckers Outdoor Corporation - the maker of UGG boots - for example. Had you bought $1000 worth of this company's stock in May 2005, you would have $7000 today, even after all of the stock market ups and downs from 2008 to 2010. The moral of the story is that even though you are always trying to achieve maximum returns when investing, you want to make sure you achieve the maximum amount when using a Roth IRA because your gains will never be taxed.
If you are looking for a stock newsletter that has recommendations of dividend paying stocks, I recommend
Dick Davis Dividend Digest or if you want a dividend exchange traded fund, check out the iShares Dow Jones Select ETF or the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF. For newsletters that recommend small cap stocks, I recommend Cabot's Small Cap Confidential or TheStreet.com's Stocks Under $10. I've just said a mouthful, so I'll continue talking about tax advantage maximization in the next post.