How Roth IRAs Affect Financial-Aid Eligibility

The money isn't considered an asset, even if it's in your child's name.

We have two daughters who have both earned some income from part-time jobs and are eligible to make Roth IRA contributions. We’d like to help them start building their retirement savings by matching what they contribute. Will owning the Roth in their names affect their eligibility for financial aid?

Money in your daughters’ Roth IRAs won’t affect their aid eligibility as long as they don’t make any withdrawals. Retirement account balances -- such as in Roth and traditional IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s -- aren’t reported as assets on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), regardless of whether they’re owned by the student or the parent, says Mark Kantrowitz of And the CSS Profile, an aid form that many private colleges use, does not factor retirement assets into need analysis, either.

But distributions from retirement accounts are reported as income on both applications and could affect your daughters’ financial aid in the year after they take the distribution. The key, says Deborah Fox, founder of Fox College Funding in San Diego, is to not withdraw the money until you are no longer applying for financial aid.

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For more information about Roths for kids, see Roth IRAs for Kids. And for more information about financial aid, see Cracking the Financial Aid Code.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.