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When You Should — and Shouldn’t — Tap Your Roth IRA

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Most retirement accounts are for one purpose: The money goes in and stays in until retirement — specifically, until the investor turns 59 1/2. Pull it out early and you’ll have to pay taxes and penalties.

Understandably, that lengthy lockdown doesn’t always sit well with younger investors. Sure, you may not need that money now, but there could be plenty of future circumstances in which you might. Having thousands of dollars stashed behind bars won’t bail you out of a job loss, get you out of debt or unlock the door to your first home.

Enter the Roth individual retirement account. Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars, so its distributions in retirement are tax-free. That’s a good perk, but there’s more: Because you’ve...

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