I have traditional, Roth and SIMPLE IRAs. I'd like to get some total bond market index funds (VBTLX).

In terms of taxes, gains, dividends, etc. is there any difference between holding the fund in a traditional IRA vs a Roth IRA vs a SIMPLE IRA?

I assume Roth would be best, but am not sure.

  • 1
    why do you think the Roth is best? Commented Jan 3 at 22:56
  • Honestly not sure it makes a significant amount of difference.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 16 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Generally bonds would probably not appreciate as much as stocks in the long term, so Roth is probably not the best actually.

You'd want to put something with the most gain potential into the least taxable component (Roth), whereas something with the least up/down volatility into the most tax-exposed. So bonds component could even be in your taxable account, and then you can take advantage of tax-optimized funds (like munis funds or treasuries) to make it even more efficient.

  • Interesting. My limited reason was that the dividends would be regular and so having those not be taxed would be beneficial. When you refer to appreciation, is this taken into account?
    – pixelearth
    Commented Jan 4 at 14:23
  • No, but for bonds if you go munis/treasury route you can avoid dividends being taxable altogether
    – littleadv
    Commented Jan 4 at 18:13

The difference between choosing to fund a Traditional IRA (or SIMPLE IRA, which is just a Traditional IRA that is offered by your employer in lieu of a 401(k)) is whether your marginal tax rate now is higher or lower then you expect it to be at retirement. If you think your tax rate now is higher, then a Traditional IRA would have a larger impact (higher tax deduction now, can invest more cash). If your tax rate at retirement will be higher, then a Roth would be better (pay lower tax now, avoid higher tax at retirement).

Obviously you can't know that for certain unless you're at the max bracket now (even then it's possible that tax rate changes could put you in a higher bracket) but you're mostly optimizing at that point - it's not like either choice will cost you money. Some prefer to invest in both to provide a bit of a "hedge" against tax bracket changes, which is fine, but if you're in a very high bracket now (i.e. the peak of your earning potential) then a Traditional is most likely the best option, assuming you invest the tax savings rather than spending it, otherwise a Roth is a better choice.

Gains and dividends have no tax impact in either scenario - you are only taxed when you take money out regardless of how that money got there (via contributions, capital gains, or dividends/interest).

The choice of investments within an IRA should be determined by the level of risk you can tolerate and the expected total (price + dividend) return that you expect. Higher return investments generally come with higher risk (larger chance that you'll lose money but possibility of large gains).

One generally accepted rule is not to invest in Government or Municipal bonds within an IRA, since you don't get to take advantage of the tax breaks (your gains are taxed when you withdraw) and the returns are generally smaller than equivalent taxable bonds.

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