Traditional ira brokerage account vanguard

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Whether you’re saving for retirement or stashing away money for a college education, Vanguard has options that match up with your goals. Passive investing in ETFs, mutual funds, and stocks is one of the best ways for everyday people to create a healthy financial future.

Vanguard is one of the biggest names in investing and is known for its low-cost mutual funds and ETFs, which is why NextAdvisor named it one of the best online brokerages for 2021. The company is good for investors who select the more passive approach to investing. Investors who want a more hands-on approach — or those who want to select their own individual investment types — might want to look elsewhere. 

Read on to learn more about Vanguard.

Pros and Cons of Vanguard

With about $7.2 trillion in assets under management, Vanguard is in the top five investment management companies according to size. It’s well-known for its low- or no-fee products and wide array of mutual funds. A mutual fund helps diversify your investments and protects your money from volatility in the market. 

Here are some ways the company stands out.


  • Different accounts for different needs. You have your choice of IRAs, education savings, trusts, and brokerage accounts.

  • Fee-free investing. You can invest in exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, options, and some stocks without paying for commissions.

  • No minimums for some accounts. You don’t need a set dollar amount to start investing in exchange-traded funds, stocks, or bonds, except for most mutual funds, which are $3,000 to get started.


  • Basic user interface. While great for new passive investors, active investors or those who want to learn more analytics might find the platform a little too simplistic.

  • Limited customer service. If you need to chat with someone about your account, you can only do it Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. An automated service runs for 24 hours a day, but that only gives you information on your account and market updates.

Vanguard at A Glance

  • Offers both self-managed and robo-advisors, depending on what type of investor you are.
  • You can choose the right account based on your needs, including individual and joint taxable accounts, traditional and Roth IRAs, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, 529s, UGMAs, and trusts.
  • Multiple investment types are available, including stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, mutual funds, and other services.
  • Mostly fee-free, except some mutual funds and options have transaction fees. 

Investments Available on Vanguard

If you decide to invest through Vanguard, you have your choice of thousands of:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Mutual Funds
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • CDs

You can’t invest in fractional ETFs with Vanguard. Only full shares are available. Investing in fractional shares allows investors to determine how much they want to invest in a share by buying a piece of it without buying the whole share.

Vanguard Fees

Vanguard has $0 commission fees and low expense ratios. An expense ratio is the fee an investor is charged for investing in that fund. 

Commission fee $0 
Management fees0.15% to 0.30%
Annual fee$20 to $25, depending on the account, but can get waived in some instances.
Account minimum$0 and up, depending on the account
Transfer fees$0
Mutual fund fees (if applicable)0% to 1%, depending on the fund and fee
Expense ratios0.09% for ETFs
Trading fees0%
Account closing fees$0

Who Is Vanguard Best For?

Vanguard is best for new investors or those who don’t want to spend a lot of time managing investment accounts. While it’s a good idea to review your investment accounts at least once a year, you don’t have to spend a lot of time tinkering with your investments with Vanguard.

How to Open an Account with Vanguard

Head to the Vanguard investor page and click “open an account” to get started. If you already have an account somewhere else, you can select “start your transfer or rollover.” If you’d like to open a new account from scratch, select “start your new account.”

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll follow the prompts on each page. Options to fund your account include through an electronic bank transfer or employer plan, or by transferring investments from another financial firm. If you’ve never used Vanguard before, you’ll need to create a login to continue. 

If you’re rolling over an account, you can select what type of account you’re moving over. You can choose from:

  • Checking or Savings 
  • 401(k), 403(b), or other employer plan
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Inherited IRA
  • Inherited Roth IRA
  • Individual or Joint for general investing
  • Rollover IRA
  • UGMA/UTMA (for a minor)
  • 529 education savings plans

Vanguard Compared to Others

Many of the leading investment platforms are competing for your business. Vanguard, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab all have no-transaction-fee mutual funds and commission-free ETFs. And for many products, these big-name asset managers don’t have an account minimum to get started, aside from the cost of a trade. But they do stand out in other ways:

  • Charles Schwab has a 0.50% operating expense ratio. If you invest in other mutual funds aside from Schwab’s, you could get hit with a $49.95 charge per trade.
  • Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and TD Ameritrade all charge $25 for each broker-assisted trade. But online trades won’t cost you anything. 
  • TD Ameritrade offers investment opportunities in futures and forex, while Vanguard doesn’t. If you want to diversify your portfolio with these higher-risk options, you might want to look elsewhere.
  • Vanguard doesn’t have an account closing fee, but to transfer your full account out of TD Ameritrade, it’ll cost you $75. It’s $50 at Charles Schwab.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth investing in Vanguard?

Because Vanguard offers such a broad selection of investment options, most investors can find a fund that suits their long-term goals and needs. It’s always worth asking a financial advisor — either through Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (its financial advisors), or with an independent service provider — whether your choices are best aligned with your financial needs.

How trustworthy is Vanguard?

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are held to fiduciary standards under SEC and other applicable regulations. That means if you work with a Vanguard financial advisor to pick which funds you want to invest in, the advisors must make recommendations based primarily on your best interests. 

Vanguard advisors don’t make commissions. Thanks to the company’s large size and mass of assets under management, it is able to cut down on commissions from sales and trades and make its profits through low management fees or annual account fees. This reduces the likelihood that an advisor would make a risky trade with your money in order to try and earn a profit. 

In comparison, advisors who charge commissions only — such as a stockbroker — aren’t held to the same fiduciary standard and only have to recommend trades that are “suitable” to your needs (as opposed to trades in your “best interest”).

Is Vanguard a safe company to invest with?

Vanguard has been in business since 1975 and is a household name among most passive investors. While investing in the stock market comes with inherent risks, including the loss of money, it’s always important to understand what you’re investing in. Vanguard has a good reputation and is one of the top-five big investment managers.

Is Vanguard good for beginners?

Vanguard accounts are commonly used by beginners and passive investors who prefer a “set-it-and-forget-it” strategy. But all investors will find Vanguard’s low-cost ETFs and index funds appealing as they consider their long-term investment strategy.


Best IRA Accounts for October 2021

An IRA offers several major advantages over a traditional brokerage account. When deciding between a brokerage account vs. an IRA, the primary difference comes down to how your investments are taxed, which can have a huge impact on the ultimate value of your investments.

In a traditional brokerage account, any dividends, interest, or capital gains are taxable, whether you withdraw the proceeds or not. Thus, if you sell an investment that has appreciated by $5,000, you would owe taxes on the $5,000 gain. An investor who pays 20% taxes on long-term capital gains would thus have only $4,000 to reinvest after paying $1,000 in taxes.

With a traditional IRA, you pay taxes only when you withdraw from the account. So if you sell an investment that has appreciated by $5,000, you won't pay taxes on the gain unless you withdraw the money from the IRA. That allows you to lock in a gain and reinvest the money into another investment without paying taxes in between when you contribute and when you withdraw in retirement.

Likewise, a Roth IRA isn't taxed at all because it is funded with post-tax dollars. So if you have a $5,000 gain on an investment and you sell it, you could withdraw the money in retirement without paying taxes on the gain.

An example of IRA tax benefits

A simple example can really illustrate the benefits of using an IRA over a taxable account. We’ll assume you start with a $5,000 balance and pay 20% on any capital gains. We'll also simplify the scenario and assume that every time your account balance doubles, you sell your investments and reinvest elsewhere (thus triggering taxes for the taxable investor).

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Best Roth IRA accounts in October 2021

A Roth IRA offers many benefits to retirement savers, and one of the best places to get this tax-advantaged account is at an online brokerage or robo-advisor. Although a Roth IRA requires the account holder to pay taxes on the money going in, it allows any contributions and earnings to be withdrawn tax-free. This gives workers a chance to contribute to a tax-advantaged account, let the money grow tax-free and never pay taxes again on withdrawals in retirement.

That’s why many experts think the Roth IRA is the ideal retirement account.

Best Roth IRA accounts to open in October 2021:

How a Roth IRA works

A Roth IRA requires you to contribute after-tax savings to the account, rather than pre-tax savings, as with a traditional IRA. Then it allows you to withdraw qualified earnings tax-free at retirement. So you pay taxes today in exchange for keeping your savings and earnings tax-free in the future. That’s one of many ways that a Roth IRA beats a traditional IRA.

It’s best to think of a Roth IRA as a “wrapper” that can go around many types of accounts to protect them from the taxman. Many companies offer a Roth IRA, including banks, brokerages and robo-advisors, and each allows you to make various types of investments.

What you can earn in a Roth IRA all depends on what you’re invested in. At a bank you can invest in CDs, which are safe and insured by the FDIC so that you won’t lose principal (up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank).

At brokerages and robo-advisors, you can invest in assets such as stocks and bonds that can earn much more over time, but aren’t protected and can lose money. While a CD specifies what you’ll earn each year, these other investments can fluctuate, sometimes drastically.

Overview: Top Roth IRA accounts in October 2021:

If you’re looking to maximize your retirement savings, here are several of the best Roth IRA accounts to consider:

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab does it all: great education and training for newer investors, high-caliber tools for active traders, responsive customer service and no trading commissions on stocks and ETFs. Schwab shines all around, and it remains an excellent choice for a Roth IRA.

Schwab charges nothing for stock and ETF trades, while options trades cost $0.65 per contract. And mutual fund investors can find something to love in the broker’s offering of more than 4,000 no-load, no-transaction-fee funds. With no account minimum, it’s even easier to get started.

In addition to a fully featured trading platform called StreetSmart Edge, the broker offers mobile trading as well as a more basic platform. More advanced investors should find the array of research — from Credit Suisse, Morningstar, Market Edge and more — helpful, too

Read Bankrate’s Charles Schwab review.


Wealthfront is one of the top independent robo-advisors, and it brings a lot to the table for investors looking for someone to do the investing work for them. Wealthfront picks your investments based on your risk tolerance and time until retirement. All you’ll need to do is add money to the account.

Wealthfront chooses from investments in 11 asset classes, giving you a wide assortment of funds and increasing its diversification, which can reduce your risk. Besides picking your investments, Wealthfront also brings some serious tools, including a robust financial planner that can help you track all your assets in one place.

The management fee for Wealthfront is a reasonable 0.25 percent, right in line with the industry standard. If you want to hold cash outside your IRA (or amass cash waiting to go into it), you can also quickly open a “do anything” cash management account – with a debit card, competitive interest rates and early access to your paycheck – at no additional cost or monthly fee.

Read Bankrate’s Wealthfront review.


If you’re looking to have someone else do the investing and portfolio management for you, Betterment is an excellent choice. Betterment is a robo-advisor that does all the heavy lifting — selecting the appropriate investments, diversifying the portfolio and allocating funds — so that you can focus on something else. And it does that at a reasonable cost, too.

Betterment is one of the oldest and largest robo-advisors, and the company offers two tiers of service: Digital and Premium. In either case, Betterment will craft your portfolio based on your risk tolerance, time horizon and goals so that your portfolio meets the needs of your financial life.

Betterment Digital manages your investments from a selection of about a dozen exchange-traded funds and charges just 0.25 percent of your assets annually. You’ll get automatic rebalancing, so that your portfolio stays in line with its target allocation, automated tax-loss harvesting (which applies only to taxable accounts) and access to financial advisors via in-app messaging.

If you want the Premium package, you’ll need at least $100,000 in your account and will pay 0.4 percent in fees, but you’ll receive unlimited access to a team of certified financial planners.

Read Bankrate’s Betterment review.

Fidelity Investments

With its clean layout, helpful customer representatives, lack of commissions and all-around low fees, Fidelity is an excellent broker for beginning investors or those opening their first Roth IRA. Fidelity also features a well-developed educational section, which is great for customers who are new to the new investing game and want to get up to speed quickly.

Those investors opening their first Roth will appreciate how Fidelity makes it easy to invest, down to the little details like the layout of its web pages. It’s easy to place an order or find information.

Fidelity also takes a customer-first approach with its fees. The broker has slashed nearly all its fees, including pricey transfer fees. It also chopped fees on its mutual funds, becoming the first broker to bring the expense ratio of mutual funds to zero (for a handful of its own funds).

When you’re ready to advance, Fidelity can also provide research, offering reports from nearly 20 providers. You get all this for zero commission, too.

Read Bankrate’s Fidelity review.

Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers does everything that traders and professionals need, and does it at high quality. It excels at global trading and reach, speedy execution and its advanced trading platforms. In short, Interactive Brokers is great for advanced traders.

Interactive Brokers might be best known for its $1 commissions on trades up to 200 shares, and the broker charges a half-cent per share for additional shares. If you’re rifling through shares as an active trader, though, you may appreciate the broker’s volume-based discounts. Options pricing has no base commission and a per-contract fee of 65 cents, making it highly competitive.

Interactive Brokers also does surprisingly well on mutual funds, offering more than 4,100 without a transaction fee, and you can also trade about 50 different ETFs commission-free. In addition, the company offers a “lite” version of its service, which charges no commissions on stocks or ETFs and has no account minimum, competing effectively against Schwab and Fidelity.

At Interactive Brokers, you can trade almost anything that trades on a public exchange: stocks, bonds, futures, metals and more. Plus, you can access virtually any world market to make a trade, so the investing world is really at your fingertips. Altogether, these attributes make Interactive Brokers the best for active traders.

Read Bankrate’s Interactive Brokers review.


Fundrise is a relatively new player on the scene, and it’s known for getting investors access to real estate. Real estate is a popular investment, and because it tends to pay cash dividends, it can be a smart investment inside a Roth IRA, where dividends are earned tax-free. Fundrise won’t be a good choice for all investors, but for those looking for this niche, it could be a snug fit.

Fundrise creates real estate investment trusts, or REITs, using investors’ money to buy real estate or mortgages. It also offers a more speculative set of funds that use investors’ money to develop residential real estate. These investments tend to offer sizable dividends and some opportunity for appreciation over time. Like many alternative investments, Fundrise’s offerings require you to lock in your money for years, though you may be able to get it out with a penalty.

Fundrise’s returns have been solid so far, earning an average of 10.1 percent annually since 2014, compared to the 10 percent average annual return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over long periods. And it’s relatively easy to get started with an account minimum of $500.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

If you’re a fan of Schwab’s investor-friendly street cred but don’t want to invest your Roth IRA yourself, consider its robo-advisor: Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. This service will create a portfolio based on your financial needs, including when you want the money and how much risk you want to take.

One of the biggest positives of Schwab’s robo-advisor is its management cost: zero. That’s right, you won’t pay Schwab anything for managing your account, but you’ll still have to pay for the funds that you’re invested in, as you would anywhere. Schwab invests your money in its in-house funds, and these funds remain some of the market’s cheapest. So you’re putting the relatively low Roth annual maximum contribution into nearly full effect.

Schwab’s base service does not offer human advice, but you can upgrade to its premium tier and receive unlimited access to certified financial planners, if you need their help for those less-routine tasks. The cost for this upgrade is reasonable for what you’re getting: $30 a month, and a one-time $300 setup fee.

Perhaps the key downside for potential customers: Schwab requires a $5,000 minimum deposit to get started in the base service, though admittedly that’s less than one year’s maximum IRA contribution. If you want the premium tier, you’ll need $25,000 to get going.

Read Bankrate’s full review of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.


Vanguard is great for investors who are looking to minimize costs, especially if they’re long-term buy-and-hold stock investors. Vanguard has long been known for its low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, and it’s expanded that reputation into its brokerage, too.

Vanguard was founded on the principle of helping investors take advantage of the stock market in a low-cost way. So not only does the broker offer zero commissions on stock and ETF trades, it also provides more than 3,400 mutual funds without a transaction fee.

The brokerage adds to its reputation with education and planning tools. Investors will find videos, podcasts and articles that provide market commentary and help them make sound investment decisions. You’ll find tools to help you plan for retirement as well as for college and other financial goals.

Read Bankrate’s Vanguard review.

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge is the web-based broker from the storied and well-regarded Merrill, now owned by Bank of America. Merrill Edge is a great fit for those who already have an account at the bank. And for those who need customer service in person, it might be just what they need.

Merrill is a solid, full-service broker that does a lot right. It provides deep research from the broker’s large team of analysts, and it offers solid educational resources for new investors looking to get up to speed.

But where it really out-distances the competition is its ability to provide in-person assistance to clients. If you’re near one of more than 2,500 Bank of America locations offering the service, you can access customer support right at the bank. If you need a more personalized financial plan, Merrill’s team can also manage that.

Merrill is a great fit for current Bank of America customers, because your accounts are integrated on one platform, and you can access it all from the bank’s site.

Read Bankrate’s Merrill Edge review.

How much do you need to open a Roth IRA?

It doesn’t take a lot to get started with a Roth IRA. But every bank, brokerage and robo-advisor has its own requirements. However, it’s usually not difficult to find one that will allow you to open an account with no money.

While minimums aren’t a problem, one of the most important parts is not contributing too much. Investors need to be aware what the annual maximum contribution is and not go over it. For tax year 2021, you can contribute $6,000 to a Roth IRA (or $7,000 for those age 50 or older) as long as your income doesn’t exceed a certain amount. The maximum amount is tied to inflation and grows over time, so you’ll need to watch for changes.

One thing you won’t have to worry about, however, is having too many Roth IRA accounts. You’re allowed to have as many as you like, but you may not contribute more than the annual maximum. If you have three Roth accounts, you can divide that annual maximum among the accounts in any way you see fit.

The Roth IRA is a powerful retirement tool, and so it’s important that you pick the Roth IRA provider that’s going to give you the best results. Here are the best Roth IRAs to open.

Roth IRA vs Brokerage Account (Passive Investing for Beginners)

5 Things to Know Before Rolling Over to a Vanguard IRA

Thanks to its vast array of ultra-low-cost index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), Vanguard has become one of the largest investment companies in the world. It's also popular for those who are looking to roll over retirement savings from a workplace 401(k) plan to an individual retirement account (IRA). Many investment companies have worked to keep the rollover process as simple as possible to attract assets, and Vanguard is no exception.

Key Takeaways

  • You can roll over your 401(k) to Vanguard via its website or by phone.
  • You’ll likely have to fill out paperwork from your employer, who in most cases will send a check directly to Vanguard.
  • If the check is sent to you instead, be sure to send it to Vanguard within 60 days; otherwise, you’ll be subject to IRS penalties.
  • Vanguard has a large lineup of index funds and ETFs to choose from, and it also offers funds from other providers in addition to stocks, bonds, and other investments.

To avoid delays in the rollover process, it's important to know what to expect and what information is required to complete the transaction. Here are five things to be aware of:

1. Paperwork Required

To get the rollover started, you need to contact both Vanguard and your employer. You can use Vanguard's website to initiate the rollover to an IRA. If you need assistance, you can also contact the company's customer service by phone for help.

First, you need to select what type of account you need for your IRA. You can choose to purchase Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs directly from the company, or you can open a brokerage account for access to funds from non-Vanguard providers, as well as individual stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit (CDs). Include a recent copy of your quarterly 401(k) statement to verify your account information.

Many employers have their own rollover paperwork that you need to fill out to release the funds from your 401(k). You need to complete this and return it to your employer with the instructions that the rollover check be made out and sent directly to Vanguard.

Once you have completed all of your paperwork, the rollover typically takes around two or three weeks to complete.

2. Fees and Costs

Vanguard does not charge you any processing fees to complete your rollover. In most cases, your employer does not charge you any type of fee either.

When rolling over your 401(k) to an IRA don’t forget to name beneficiaries for the account.

Depending on how much money you are rolling over and which investments you choose, certain fees may apply. Vanguard charges a $20 annual account maintenance fee unless you meet specific minimum investment requirements or you enroll in electronic statement delivery.

Brokerage accounts may carry additional costs. Purchases of Vanguard index funds and ETFs come without any transaction costs, but buying shares of non-Vanguard mutual funds and products may come with fees. Additionally, purchases of individual stocks, bonds, or options contracts come with their own commission schedule, which depends on the overall balance of the account.

3. Available Investment Choices

One of the great benefits of rolling over your retirement dollars to an IRA is the vast wealth of choices it gives you. Whereas 401(k)s are generally limited to a handful of investment options, almost any type of security or investment is available in an IRA.

$7.2 Trillion

Amount of assets Vanguard manages globally, as of Jan. 31, 2021.

When you roll over your 401(k) to a Vanguard IRA, you have access to Vanguard's lineup of hundreds of index mutual funds and ETFs. If you are choosing a brokerage account for your IRA, you get access to the Vanguard family of funds as well as most other fund family products, in addition to individual stocks and bonds.

4. Indirect Rollovers

Some employers may choose to send the rollover directly to you instead of to Vanguard. This is known as an indirect rollover. If this happens, forward the check to Vanguard without delay. The money needs to arrive at Vanguard within 60 days so you can avoid any IRS penalties.

5. Rolling Over Roth Accounts

Many employers now offer the Roth 401(k) option within their retirement plans. If you are interested in rolling over a Roth 401(k) to Vanguard, the process is essentially identical. You would just be moving your money into a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA, with no additional costs involved.

The Bottom Line

Before you decide to roll over your 401(k) to a Vanguard IRA, it's important to understand what to expect, the fees and rules involved, and what information you'll need to provide—to your former employer and Vanguard—to complete the transaction.


Brokerage vanguard account ira traditional

These are the best IRAs for all types of investors, from beginners to the more experienced

Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

Many people use individual retirement accounts — more commonly known as IRAs — to save up money for their nonworking years.

Investing in an IRA is an effective way to make sure you're setting aside a retirement nest egg, especially if you don't already have a 401(k) plan offered by your employer.

IRAs also offer tax benefits, and they are set up to encourage you to leave your funds untouched by imposing early withdrawal penalty fees should you tap into your earnings before age 59 and a half.

To determine which IRAs are the best overall, Select reviewed and compared over 20 different accounts offered by national banks, investment firms, online brokers and robo-advisors. While there are several types of IRAs on the market, such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs, we chose to focus on only traditional IRAs for the purpose of this ranking.

To identify our top IRAs, we narrowed down the choices by selecting only those that require no minimum deposit, offer commission-free trading of stocks and ETFs, provide a variety of investment options and have educational resources or tools to help all sorts of investors.

We ranked the best IRAs by what type of investor you are, from beginner to experienced, as well as hands-on and hands-off investors. We included a best overall pick as well.

Below, Select's picks top five IRAs. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best traditional IRAs.)

Best individual retirement accounts


Best overall

Charles Schwab

Information about Charles Schwab has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by Charles Schwab prior to publication.
  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. No account minimum for active investing through Schwab One® Brokerage Account. Automated investing through Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® requires a $5,000 minimum deposit

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Schwab One® Brokerage Account has no account fees, $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades, $0 transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds and a $0.65 fee per options contract

  • Bonus


  • Investment vehicles

    Robo-advisor:Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium™IRA:Charles Schwab Traditional, Roth, Rollover, Inherited and Custodial IRAs; plus, a Personal Choice Retirement Account® (PCRA)Brokerage and trading: Schwab One® Brokerage Account, Brokerage Account + Specialized Platforms and Support for Trading, Schwab Global Account™ and Schwab Organization Account

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and ETFs

  • Educational resources

    Extensive retirement planning tools

See our methodology, terms apply.


  • $0 minimum deposit for active investing
  • No commission fees for stock and ETF trades and no transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds
  • Offers extensive retirement planning tools
  • Users can get on-demand advice from a professional advisor/Schwab expert
  • Robo-advisor Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® available as a no-fee automated service option (with Premium version available for a fee)
  • Trading platform StreetSmart Edge® available for more active investors
  • 24/7 customer support access by phone or chat
  • Charles Schwab offers over 300 brick-and-mortar branches across the U.S. for in-person support


  • Specific transactions may require commission fee
  • Robo-advisor Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium charges a one-time planning fee of $300, then a $30 per month advisory fee. For that price, you get unlimited 1:1 guidance from a CFP, interactive planning tools, plus a personalized roadmap for reaching your goals

Best for beginner investors

Fidelity Investments IRA

Information about Fidelity Investments IRA has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by Fidelity Investments prior to publication.
  • Minimum deposit


  • Fees

    $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades; $0 transaction fees for over 3,400 mutual funds; $0.65 per options contract

  • Bonus

    500 free trades

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and ETFs

  • Educational resources

    Tools and calculators that show users their retirement goal progress; Fidelity Five Money Musts online game to teach you about managing money in the real world

See our methodology, terms apply.


  • $0 minimum deposit
  • No commission fees for stock and ETF trades and no transaction fees for over 3,400 mutual funds
  • Abundant educational tools and resources
  • Offers robo-advisor Fidelity Go (free for balances under $10,000)
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Offers over 100 brick-and-mortar branches across the U.S. for face-to-face support


  • 0.50% annual fee to speak to a human advisor for accounts under $2 million
  • Some of Fidelity's mutual funds require reaching specific thresholds, i.e. $10,000 (an increase from the previous $1,000 per trade monitoring threshold)
  • Reports of platform outages during heavy trading days
  • Robo-advisor fee is $3 per month for balances between $10,000 and $49,999; 0.35% for balances over $50,000

Best for experienced investors

Vanguard IRA

Information about Vanguard IRA has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by Vanguard prior to publication.
  • Minimum deposit

    $0, but you'll need $1,000 to invest in many of its retirement funds

  • Fees

    $20 annual account service fee unless you sign up for electronic statements or meet minimum balance requirements; $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades; $0 transaction fees for over 3,000 mutual funds

  • Bonus


  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, ETFs and options

  • Educational resources

    Retirement planning tools

See our methodology, terms apply.


  • $0 minimum deposit
  • No commission fees for stock and ETF trades and no transaction fees for over 3,000 mutual funds
  • Large mutual fund selection
  • Offers retirement planning tools
  • Customers get access to GetHuman, a website dedicated to human-to-human customer service, with features that include talking to a Vanguard rep, notice of the current hold time, reminders to call when call center opens, as well as pro tips and talking points for customers


  • $20 annual account service fee (unless you sign up for electronic statements or meet minimum balance requirements)
  • Many retirement funds require $1,000 to invest
  • Trading platform is not as robust as others

Best for hands-off investors


  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For Betterment Digital Investing, $0 minimum balance; Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For Betterment Digital Investing, 0.25% of your fund balance as an annual account fee; Premium Investing has a 0.40% annual fee

  • Bonus

    Up to one year of free management service with a qualifying deposit within 45 days of signup. Valid only for new individual investment accounts with Betterment LLC

  • Investment vehicles

    Robo-advisor:Betterment Digital InvestingIRA:Betterment Traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs401(k):Betterment 401(k) for employers

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash

  • Educational resources

    Betterment RetireGuide™ helps users plan for retirement

See our methodology, terms apply.


  • $0 minimum deposit
  • No trade or transfer fees
  • Good for automated investing
  • Customizes users' portfolios around their financial goals, timeline and risk tolerance
  • Users can assign specific investing goals (short- and long-term) to each portfolio and invest using different strategies (less and more risk)
  • Quick and easy to set up account
  • Able to sync external retirement accounts to your Betterment retirement goal so all your accounts are in one place
  • Premium plan users get unlimited access to a financial advisor (otherwise, one-time advisor consultations cost a fee ranging from $199 to $299)
  • Advanced features include automatic rebalancing, tax-saving strategies and socially responsible investing
  • Betterment RetireGuide™ helps users plan for retirement


  • 0.25% annual account fee
  • 0.40% annual account fee for upgraded premium plan
  • Premium plan requires $100,000 minimum balance

Best for hands-on investors


Information about E*TRADE IRA has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by E*TRADE prior to publication.
  • Minimum deposit


  • Fees

    No account fees; $0 commission fees for stock and ETF trades; $0 transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds

  • Bonus

    For a limited time only: Get up to $3,000 when you open and fund within 60 days of account opening a new E*TRADE brokerage or retirement account by June 30, 2021, using promo code: BONUS21 (deposit minimums start at $10,000)

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, ETFs and options

  • Educational resources

    Educational library includes in-depth articles and videos

See our methodology, terms apply.


  • $0 minimum deposit
  • No commission fees for stock and ETF trades and no transaction fees for over 4,000 mutual funds
  • Offers automated investing through Core Portfolios platform (minimum $500 to open account)
  • Active traders receive volume discounts on options
  • Strong mobile platform


  • Website is not as user-friendly as others
  • Robo-advisor option Core Portfolios costs minimum $500 to open account


What is an IRA?

IRAs are tax-advantaged investment accounts. They offer a range of investments for your money, such as individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and cash.

You can open an IRA at most banks and credit unions, as well as through online brokers and investment companies.

If you already make automatic contributions into a 401(k) account through your employer, you may wonder if you also need an IRA. IRAs supplement these other retirement accounts and come with their own advantages. They are accessible and easy to set up, plus individuals can shop around for the right investments for their finances versus being limited to their employer's 401(k) plan. This gives you the flexibility to make your own investment selections, with the guidance of the brokerage firm or bank that manages your account.

You can also set up automatic contributions into your IRA from your checking or savings account. IRAs typically don't come with account setup fees, but you'll likely have to pay transaction and advisory fees when applicable, as well as fund expense ratio fees which cover operational costs.

Before funding an IRA, you need to understand the contribution limits and tax implications. How much you can contribute and deduct from your taxes depends on your age, income, tax filing status and whether or not you have a retirement plan through your employer.

Below are two handy resources from the IRS website that help guide you through how much you can contribute to an IRA and how much of it can be tax-deductible:

  1. IRA Contribution Limits: There is a maximum dollar amount you can contribute to your IRA each year, and it's determined by the federal government. In 2021, the limit is $6,000 if you're younger than 50 and $7,000 for those 50 and older.
  2. IRA Deduction Limits: There are also limits on how much of your IRA contribution you can deduct from your individual federal income tax return. This only applies to traditional IRAs as Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible. You cannot make a deduction if you (or your spouse, if married) have a retirement plan at work and your income is $76,000 or more as a single filer/head of household, $125,000 or more as married filing jointly/qualifying widow(er) or $10,000 or more as married filing separately. If you (and your spouse, if married) do not have a retirement plan at work, you can make a full deduction up to the amount of your contribution limit.

How do I choose an IRA?

Though there are several different types of IRAs, you may not be eligible for all of them. Individual taxpayers can choose from traditional and Roth IRAs, while anyone who is self-employed (think freelancers) or a small business owner can choose from SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) and SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRAs.

When choosing an IRA to start saving for retirement, you'll most likely be deciding between a traditional or Roth IRA. Key factors to think about are your financial goals, timeline to retirement and risk tolerance. If you're closer to retirement, you'll probably want to go with investments that are lower risk and have less potential to lose money as you near your nonworking years. The advantage of choosing an IRA from a well-known brokerage firm or bank is that they help you assess what would be the best investments depending on your other goals, how soon you want to retire and how conservative you want to be.

For the more active investors, look at IRAs offered by online brokers like E*TRADE. For the more passive investors, consider an IRA from a robo-advisor, such as those from Betterment. Robo-advisors rely on algorithms to manage your portfolio for you, taking into consideration your risk tolerance and goals.

For a more personal experience, consider IRAs offered by big brokerage firms like Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments and Vanguard that provide access to human advisors.

Traditional vs Roth IRA?

The big difference between traditional and Roth IRAs is when you pay taxes.

With a traditional IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars. While this is better for your immediate cash flow as you're taking out less from your disposable income now, your money grows tax-deferred and later in retirement you will have to pay income tax on any funds you choose to withdraw. This is a good option if you think you will be in the same or a lower tax bracket (have the same or less income) when you retire. If you withdraw either your pre-tax contributions or earnings from your traditional IRA before age 59 and a half, you'll be taxed in addition to incurring a 10% early withdrawal penalty fee.

With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes upfront by contributing after-tax dollars. While this is a bigger hit to your immediate cash flow since you are taking out more from your disposable income now, your money grows tax-free and so in retirement, withdrawals are generally not taxed as long as your account has been open for at least five years. This is a good option if you think you will be in a higher tax bracket (have more income) when you retire.

You can withdraw your after-tax contributions from your Roth IRA at any age tax- and penalty-free. If you withdraw any earnings you've made on your investments before age 59 and a half, you will incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty (though it won't be taxed like a traditional IRA). Some exceptions to this early withdrawal penalty on Roth IRAs include first-time home purchases, college expenses and birth or adoption expenses.

You can use calculators like this one from Charles Schwab to help you decide between choosing a traditional or Roth IRA.

How much should I contribute to my IRA?

There are strict contribution limits, so you can only deposit a certain amount of money into your IRA each year.

Both traditional and Roth IRAs have the same contribution limits: For 2021, those under age 50 can make a total contribution into their traditional and Roth IRAs of up to $6,000. Those 50 or older have a limit of $7,000.

With traditional IRAs, you can contribute regardless of how much money you earn, but with Roth IRAs there are income limits. High-earners may not be eligible to open or contribute to a Roth IRA. Here are the 2021 income thresholds for contributing to a Roth IRA:

  • Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er): Not eligible if your modified adjusted gross income is $208,000 or more
  • Single, head of household or married filing separately (and you didn't live with your spouse at any time during the year): Not eligible if your modified adjusted gross income is $140,000 or more
  • Married filing separately (if you lived with your spouse at any time during the year): Not eligible if your modified adjusted gross income is $10,000 or more

Can I lose money in an IRA?

In short, yes. Retirement accounts like IRAs invest your money in stocks and bonds, so your money fluctuates with the highs and lows of the market. You can also lose money if you take out cash before retirement and pay early-withdrawal penalties.

The good news is that retirement funds are long-term investments so market dips in the short term shouldn't affect you too much in the long haul. And while early-withdrawal penalties seem like punishment, they are there to encourage you not to withdraw from these accounts.

Our methodology

To determine which individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are the best for investors, Select analyzed and compared traditional IRAs offered by national banks, investment firms, online brokers and robo-advisors. We narrowed down our ranking by only considering those that offer commission-free trading of stocks and ETFs, as well as a variety of investment options so you can best maximize your retirement savings.

We also compared each IRA on the following features:

  • $0 minimum deposit: All of the IRA on our ranking don't have minimum deposit requirements.
  • Low fees: We considered each IRA's fees, commission trading fees and transaction fees.
  • Bonus offered: Some IRA offer promotions for new account users.
  • Variety of investment options: The more diversified your portfolio, the better. We made sure our top picks offer investments in stocks, bonds, mutual finds, CDs and ETFs. Most also offer options trading.
  • A hub of educational resources: We opted for IRA with an online resource hub or advice center to help you educate yourself about retirement accounts and investing.
  • Ease-of-use: Whether accessing your IRA via your laptop at home or on your smartphone while on the go, it's important to have an easy user experience. We noted when investment platform excelled in usability.
  • Customer support: Every IRA on our list provides customer service available via telephone, email or secure online messaging.

After reviewing the above features, we sorted our recommendations by what type of investor is a best fit, from beginners and hands-off investors, to the more experienced and hands-on investors.

Your earnings in an IRA depend on any associated fees, the contributions you make to your account and the fluctuations of the market.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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