Best IRAs of 2022

Learn which traditional IRA broker is best for your retirement strategy

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Traditional IRAs are tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts. Short for individual retirement accounts, traditional IRAs enable holders to save for retirement with pretax dollars, meaning you don’t have to pay income taxes on contributions and instead pay taxes during retirement, presumably at a lower tax rate than when you were working.

The best traditional IRAs offer investors a wide range of investments at low cost. Some investors prefer a completely do-it-yourself investing experience, while others want in-depth guidance or fully automated investing, known as robo-advisor accounts. Here’s a closer look at the best IRA accounts to help you remain on track for your retirement goals.

Best IRA Accounts of 2022

Fidelity Investments


Fidelity Investments
  • Account Types:  Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, HSA, trust
  • Fees: No recurring account fees, commission-free trades
  • Key Features: Low-cost accounts, retirement planning tools
Pros
  • No recurring fees and no account minimums

  • Wide range of stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds with no commissions

  • Self-directed, robo-advising, and full financial advising available

  • Free retirement planning calculators and tools

Cons
  • 0.50% annual fee for access to a human advisor

Why We Chose It

Fidelity Investments is a large brokerage firm with a wide range of low-cost investment accounts. Investors can choose from traditional, Roth, and self-employed SEP IRAs, among others. Like other investment products from Fidelity, the traditional IRA account has no recurring fees and no minimum balance requirements. You can buy and sell stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and a selected list of mutual funds with no commissions, making the account fee-free for many investors.

In addition to the self-directed IRA, Fidelity offers an automated robo-advisor version and, for a fee, access to a human financial advisor. Fidelity Go, the automated investing product, is fee-free for balances up to $10,000, then costs $3 per month up to $49,999, and 0.35% for larger accounts. Traditional financial advising requires a $25,000 minimum and 0.50% annual for hybrid robo-advising with assistance from human financial professionals. Other wealth management products are available to those with balances of $250,000 and above, though higher fees may apply.

When picking your investments, you may want to consider Fidelity’s zero expense-ratio mutual funds, available to Fidelity account holders without minimum or transaction fees. Fidelity also offers a suite of financial calculators and planning resources to keep you on track for your retirement goals. Overall, low fees, a wide range of available investments, and retirement planning tools make Fidelity a top choice for traditional IRA accounts. The firm offers other banking and investment accounts that could round out all your financial-account needs.

Charles Schwab


Charles Schwab

 Charles Schwab

  • Account Types: Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust
  • Fees: No recurring account fees, commission-free trades
  • Key Features: Low-cost accounts, fee-free robo-advisor
Pros
  • No minimum balance and no recurring fees

  • Fee-free robo-advising account available

  • Many commission-free investment options

Cons
  • Low-interest rates on cash balances

  • Limited availability in fractional share program

Why We Chose It

Charles Schwab is a nationwide brokerage firm with low costs and a large variety of accounts and assets. Schwab IRA accounts have no recurring fees and no commissions for stock and ETF trades and a sizable list of no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Schwab is noteworthy for a no-cost robo-advising feature, where you’re assigned a professionally designed portfolio based on a series of questions about your investment goals. Upgrading to a premium version where you get help from a human financial advisor requires a $300 starting fee, then costs $30 per month.

Schwab’s suite of accounts makes it a good choice for banking and investing beyond your IRA, giving you the option to keep all your finances with one company and one log-in. The biggest downside to Schwab is poor interest rates on cash balances. Otherwise, the low-fee accounts and excellent customer service make Schwab a solid choice for an IRA.

Merrill


Merrill Edge Guided Investing
  • Account Types: Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust
  • Fees: No recurring account fees, commission-free trades
  • Key Features: Customer loyalty program
Pros
  • IRAs with no minimums or recurring fees

  • Most assets trade commission-free

  • Discounts and benefits for loyal customers with high balances

Cons
  • Robo-advising products are more expensive than some competitors’

  • No fractional share purchases

Why We Chose It

Merrill, formerly known as Merrill Edge and a legacy of the Merrill Lynch brand, is the consumer investment division of Bank of America. Merrill Edge features a self-directed traditional IRA account with no recurring fees or minimum balance requirements and no commissions for most trades. That could work well for many investors' needs, but it is best for those with a strong relationship with the Bank of America family of brands.

The bank’s Preferred Rewards program includes discounts and benefits with Merrill and other Bank of America products. For example, with a combined balance of at least $20,000 across eligible bank and investment accounts, you would qualify for 0.05% to 0.15% off the annual fee for the robo-advising and human-upgraded investment products normally cost 0.45% or 0.85% per year, respectively.

Like other large competitors, Merrill’s total offerings allow you to do your banking and investing with one log-in. The added benefits as your balances grow could make Bank of America and Merrill a good combination. While the guided-advising products are more expensive than some competitors’, the self-directed IRA is very competitive and could be used for free by many investors.

Wealthfront


Wealthfront

Wealthfront

  • Account Types: Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust
  • Fees: 0.25% annual fee
  • Key Features: Automated investing
Pros
  • Curated portfolios to automate your investment strategy

  • No trading fees or commissions

  • Features for beginners and experienced investors alike

Cons
  • Required 0.25% fee on all accounts

  • Fewer than 250 ETFs to choose from

Why We Chose It

Wealthfront is a top robo-advising product that’s good for both new investors and experts who want more control over their portfolio allocation. The site charges a flat 0.25% fee on your total portfolio value, and that’s all you can expect to pay. There are no additional commissions or fees for typical activities.

The core feature of Wealthfront is curated portfolios. The site suggests an ideal portfolio based on questions you answer about your investments. But you can also choose to invest in other portfolio themes, such as socially responsible investments, sector-focused investments, and other investment strategies.

Wealthfront also offers a no-fee banking option and lines of credit using your investments as collateral, but curated portfolios are the biggest draw to Wealthfront over other IRA accounts. Whether you want to invest in a traditional, diversified retirement portfolio or focus on other areas important to you, Wealthfront makes either easy to set up and maintain.

M1 Finance


M1 Finance

M1 Finance

  • Account Types: Taxable brokerage, retirement, trust
  • Fees: No fees for typical investment activity
  • Key Features: No fee investing, portfolio “Pies”
Pros
  • No account fees or commissions

  • Option to choose expert portfolios or customize your own

  • Portfolio “Pies” help you manage your portfolio

Cons
  • No investment advising services

  • Inactivity fee applies to some accounts with low balances

Why We Chose It

M1 Finance is a good choice for several reasons. Most notably, most investing activity on the platform is free. There are no account or trading fees to worry about, only fees for some less-common activities. Because fees are so important to your investment results, choosing this nearly fee-free account could be a wise decision.

The standout feature, which applies to traditional IRA accounts and all others, is the company’s unique portfolio management system. Whether you pick an expert-designed portfolio or want to customize and build your own, portfolios are represented as “Pies,” displayed as a pie chart in your investment account. You can adjust your allocation any way you choose, and M1 automatically works to keep your account balanced to that target allocation in the future.

Each Pie can hold up to 100 unique investments, or “slices,” including stocks and ETFs. You can choose from more than 80 Expert Pies or build a pie of your own, with no fees in either case. M1 also offers banking, credit cards, and loans, making it a potential one-stop shop for your money.

Betterment


Betterment logo
  • Account Types: Taxable brokerage, retirement, trust
  • Fees: From 0.25% annual fee
  • Key Features: Automated investing
Pros
  • Fully automated investing, based on your goals

  • Option to focus on socially responsible investments

  • Feature to upgrade for human financial advising

Cons
  • Minimum 0.25% annual fee

  • Limited flexibility in picking your investments

Why We Chose It

Betterment is a pioneer in robo-advising, paving the way for the modern automated-portfolio industry we know today. The core service, which applies to traditional IRA accounts and others, is the Digital account, a fully automated investment management account with a flat 0.25% annual fee. It’s easy to use and includes options to focus on socially responsible investments, among other options.

The Digital product is straightforward to use, though Betterment also offers a product through which you get unlimited access to a team of financial advisors, which requires a 0.40% annual fee. This is competitively priced compared with similar competitor products but is still more than many investors may want to spend on investment management.

Betterment also offers banking and a range of investment account types. If you want an investment account that you can set up and mostly forget about, Betterment is ideal for your needs.

Final Verdict

An IRA may play an important role in saving and investing for your retirement. While your golden years may seem far away, starting to take advantage of the tax benefits of an IRA could be vital to your retirement plans. Also, consider Roth IRAs and other options to save and invest for your future that enable tax savings.

Compare the Best IRA Accounts

Company Account Types Fees Key Features
Fidelity Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, HSA, trust No recurring account fees, commission-free trades Low-cost accounts, retirement planning tools
Charles Schwab Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust No recurring account fees, commission-free trades Low-cost accounts, fee-free robo-advisor
Merrill  Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust No recurring account fees, commission-free trades Customer loyalty program
Wealthfront Taxable brokerage, retirement, 529 college savings, trust 0.25% annual fee Automated investing
M1 Finance Taxable brokerage, retirement, trust No fees for typical investment activity No-fee investing, portfolio “Pies”
Betterment Taxable brokerage, retirement, trust 0.25% annual fee Automated investing

How Does a Traditional IRA Work?

A traditional IRA is an investment account that helps you save on taxes when investing for the future. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible in the year you make the contribution, which lowers your taxable income in the year of your contribution. The more you contribute this year, the lower your taxes would be this year, up to annual limits.

When you make qualified withdrawals in the future, those withdrawals are taxed as regular income. However, most people plan to earn less in retirement than during their working years, so it's likely they will withdraw in the future at a lower tax rate.

Early withdrawals are subject to taxes and penalties, so it’s best to avoid taking funds out of an IRA outside of retirement.

How Much Can I Contribute to an IRA Per Year?

Traditional IRA contributions are limited, based on IRS rules. Most Americans can save up to $6,000 per year in an IRA, depending on their taxable income. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 per year, or $7,000 total.

The contribution limit can change annually, though the IRS has held the same rates since 2019. From 2015 to 2018, for example, the limit was $5,500 per year or $6,500 for those 50 and older.

Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA

Traditional IRA Roth IRA
Pretax contributions After-tax contributions
Qualified withdrawals are taxed as regular income Qualified withdrawals are tax-free

When looking at retirement accounts, it’s also wise to consider the Roth IRA. Roth IRA accounts also have tax benefits for retirement, but deliver them a bit differently.

Unlike the pretax contributions of traditional IRAs, a Roth IRA contribution is made with after-tax dollars. That means you have to pay regular taxes on it as income the year of your contribution. However, qualified withdrawals in the future are tax-free.

Depending on your time horizon before retirement, the ability to invest with no taxes on your investment gains could be more valuable than a tax deduction just for this year. When in doubt, do the math to see which makes sense for you, or consult with a trusted financial professional.

How Should You Choose the Best IRA Account?

When choosing the best IRA account for you, it’s important to focus on fees and costs first, as even small percentages can remove a big chunk of your retirement account over time. Accounts with low fees, or even better, no fees, are ideal for long-term investment returns.

Also, consider the investments available and the type of advice and assistance you want and need when managing your money. Some investors want to pick every investment and build a portfolio independently, while others prefer the recommendations of an advisor or want to hand everything over to someone else to figure out. Knowing your investment preferences and goals can help you find the right investment brokerage for your unique needs.

Methodology

We are dedicated to providing readers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs, and fees, security, the mobile experience, and customer service. A rating scale was established based on these criteria, collecting thousands of data points that were weighed into a scoring system.

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