An IRA (and its corollary, the Roth IRA) is a form of tax-advantaged retirement account that lets you save money during your working years so you can withdraw it during retirement. There is no age limit to contributing to an IRA, meaning that you can do so at any point in life. However, you can only contribute earned income to this account, not investment income. So even if you’re technically retired you must be working in some form to make additional IRA contributions. A financial advisor may be able to help you figure out how to manage your IRA. SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool can help you find advisors that serve your area.
What Is An IRA?
An IRA, or individual retirement account, is a form of tax-advantaged retirement account. Its structure mirrors that of a 401(k), however, you can make contributions to an IRA directly rather than through the employer relationship that a 401(k) requires. Any money that you contribute to an IRA does not count as taxable income for the purposes of federal income taxes.
When you withdraw this money later in life you pay taxes on any gains that the account made. Since people typically contribute to IRAs throughout the course of their lives and invest at the same time, IRA balances can be quite high when you hit retirement age.
As noted, the structure of a 401(k) mirrors that of an IRA. When you leave a job through which you had a 401(k), that account is often rolled over into an IRA. This is a standard practice and allows you to continue to accrue money from 401(k) accounts that you’ve had at different jobs over the years.
What Is a Roth IRA?
A Roth IRA resembles the IRA structure. This, too, is a form of tax-advantaged retirement account. However, with a Roth IRA you contribute with post-tax income. When you withdraw the money from your Roth IRA account later in life you can do so free of any taxes on the account’s growth. This makes a Roth IRA by far the better savings vehicle for many. The taxes you save with a Roth IRA will be considerably higher than the taxes you pay on that original income.
With both accounts you can begin to make withdrawals at age 59 1/2. Unless you meet one of the IRS exemptions, the IRS will charge you taxes and penalties if you withdraw money from these accounts earlier than 59 1/2. In some cases, this can be worth it. However, it’s unlikely that it will make sense for you to withdraw from your IRA early.
Contributing to an IRA After Retirement
While it may seem counterintuitive, there are many potential benefits to making IRA contributions after you retire. The average retirement lasts around 20 years (closer to 18 for some people). If you continue making IRA contributions at age 67, you can build a solid portfolio for your 80s.
However, you can only contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA with what is known as “earned income.” The IRS defines earned income as “all taxable income and wages you get from working for someone else, yourself or from a business or farm that you own.” Earned income specifically does not include money such as capital gains, interest and dividends, sale of assets such as a house or car, and Social Security payments. Savings also do not count toward the earned income requirement, even if this money was earned in previous tax years.
You absolutely can make IRA and Roth IRA contributions while in retirement. You can do so at any point in your life. However, you must be working while in retirement; you can only make IRA contributions with the income you earned from this work; and you cannot contribute more to your IRA or Roth IRA than you earned in that tax year. For example, say you have a part time job at the local library. It pays you $4,000 per year. Even though your annual contribution limit might be $7,000, you can’t contribute more to your IRA than the $4,000 that you earned this year.
Tips for Retirement
- Retirement can be a difficult part of life to navigate, and a financial advisor can help. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Is an IRA the right retirement plan for you? How late in life should you consider one, and how should you use it? To start understanding these questions, take a look at our article exploring what IRAs are and how they work.
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