Investing Step #7: Home Ownership

Photo by: Hamed Saber

This post is step 7 in our Investing Template.

While there are no explicitly tax-deferred savings plans for housing, the Roth IRA can work very much like one.  If you are looking to buy your first home in the future, more than 5 years from now, or if you have a Roth IRA opened already, such an account may be a very reasonable option for your investing dollar.  While you cannot take your contribution out pre-tax, any income you make over those 5 years can be used tax-free to buy a house, up to $10,000 per person.  This can be a considerable savings.

While retirement and college may seem like distant issues, buying a home is much closer on our investment timeline for most of us.  If you already own a home, or have in the past, you can pretty much skip this section as a Roth IRA will not do you much good.  Its exemption for buying a home only applies to first time buyers, but it can be very powerful for those looking to maximize their earnings.

Your Strategy

When you contribute to your Roth IRA, the account must have been opened for 5 years for you to be able to withdraw money to help buy your first house.  Additionally, you can only withdraw a maximum of $10,000 per person.  This means that if you are married you can withdraw $20,000.  If you are slowly saving for a house, putting money into an Roth IRA can be a great option, since all of your investment proceeds can be used without ever paying any tax on them.

Generally your approach here would be to contribute money towards your Roth IRA until it looks like your window is getting close.  At the point where you approach your maximum contribution for your home, you will have to consider whether continuing to contribute to your Roth makes sense.  You may have better options for your other investment goals, but why pay taxes on your home down payment investment when you don’t have to?

An Example

Imagine if you want to buy a house in 10 years.  Each year you put $1000 in your Roth IRA and it earns 11% (a lofty goal, but it helps illustrate the power.)  If you pay 33% in taxes each year, by the time you were ready to buy the house you would have almost $3,500 more dollars in your Roth IRA than you would in a regular investment account.  The Roth would have $18,561 vs $15,097 in the regular account.  You made $3,500 simply by selecting the right account in which to save your money.

This is a fairly narrow option.  It only applies to those who have never owned a home and who can qualify for the specifics of the Roth IRA, bu it should be included in your timeline if it applies to you.  Dedicate some of your investment funds to your Roth and you can get the massive returns that the absence of taxes can provide you.

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