How Teens Can Start Investing Through a Roth IRA

By beginning to invest in a Roth IRA at an early age, today’s teens can become tomorrow’s millionaires.

A teenager works at a coffee shop.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A Roth IRA can be a great way for a child or grandchild to begin saving for retirement while learning about investing.

A child can utilize a Roth IRA as long as he has some kind of income for the year. If the child isn’t a minor, he can open a Roth IRA at an investment firm. However, if the child is younger than 18, an adult will have to open what is known as a custodial IRA. These accounts are managed by an adult, such as the parents or grandparents, until the child is no longer a minor (typically at age 18). At that time he assumes control of the account.

In the IRA, the child will be able to invest in a variety of stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds. Target-date funds, for instance, are a good option for investors who are getting started and unsure of what to invest in. Your child or grandchild selects the target-date fund with the date closest to the year he expects to retire, say 2065, and a professional manager does the rest – from choosing investments to gradually shifting to a more conservative portfolio as investors approach retirement.

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Make sure you check the investment and account fees, which can erode returns over time. Look at a fund’s expense ratio to find out the percentage of your assets that will go toward management, administrative and other expenses each year. Other fees might also apply.

There are limits on contributions to Roth IRAs. For 2021, the maximum Roth contribution is $6,000 for workers younger than age 50.

A Roth IRA is a particularly powerful tool for young workers. It allows them to turn even small contributions into a sizable tax-free nest egg in retirement. Money goes into the account after taxes have been paid, but thereafter it grows free of taxes. And the Roth offers flexibility: Contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty or taxes.

It is smart to have your child or grandchild get an early start on saving and investing. For instance, if he is 18, continues to add $1,000 a year to his Roth and earns a 7% average annual return, he will amass more than $325,000 by age 65. That amount could reach $1 million or more by retirement if he increases his contributions over time.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.