Retire without taxes

Only one savings plan gives you the chance to free yourself from taxes in retirement. Are you making the most of it?

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1. How is a Roth different?
Think of a Roth as the mirror image of a regular IRA or 401(k): Instead of collecting a tax benefit up front, you get your break at the back end. When you fund a traditional IRA, you can take an immediate tax deduction on your contributions, but you then pay income taxes when you pull your money out. When you open a Roth IRA you're not entitled to a deduction, but you can withdraw all your money, including earnings, tax-free. The Roth 401(k) works the same way.

Mathematically, there's no difference between getting a tax break at the beginning or end. All else being equal, you end up in the same place whether you pay taxes at the outset or in retirement.
NEXT: Why would I pick a Roth?
Last updated September 16 2008: 11:34 AM ET
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