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Weighing a little late here, and hopefully will add a bit to the discussion. I zipped through the whole thread pretty quickly, so hopefully I'm not stating something that's already been said.

Traditional IRAs: love them... I estimate my income for the year, and contribute to my 401K and traditional IRA to get my taxable income below the 25% barrier (around $65K). I do this regardless because I don't know what tax bracket I'll be in in retirement, and if it's 25%, then I'm doing well enough, and by not paying taxes, my gains add up quicker.

Roth IRA: love them as well... once I get my taxable income below $65K, I max out the Roth's for the wife and myself. Why you ask? Because ALL the gains are tax free... sure I give up some tax benefits now, but for me it's no big deal since the tax break would be at 15%... likely to be at least that in retirement, so at best a wash... plus if my $5K a year grows to $100K after 10 years ($50K of mine that doubles... O.K. perhaps a bit optimistic) I've only paid taxes on the first half... with the other half truly being tax free...

Agree with everyone that stated you shouldn't put money in an retirement accounts that you might need... with that said there is a way to get your money out early without penalty... on either the Roth or Traditional... called the 72(t) rule (from the IRS code)... may not give you what you need for an emergency, but will certainly let you retire earlier then 59 and a half.
Bottom line is it really depends on the individual and the situation... I know for me it changes every year based on combat pay for either me or the wife etc... besides, gotta save something... Social Security isn't going to cover the lifestyle I'm gonna live in retirement. ;P

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