What Is a Roth IRA and How Can It Help Me Save for Retirement?

A Roth IRA is a versatile retirement-savings account that provides tax-free money in retirement. Even if you’re already contributing to a 457 plan, you can contribute to a Roth IRA, too, which can be a good way to tax-diversify your retirement savings. Here’s some more information about who qualifies for Roths and how they work.

  • You have until April 15, 2020, to contribute up to $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA for 2019 (or $7,000 if you were age 50 or over in 2019). The contribution limits remain the same for 2020.
  • The Roth has income limitations. To contribute, your 2019 adjusted gross income must be less than $137,000 if single or $203,000 if married filing jointly (the amount you can contribute to a Roth starts to phase out if your income was more than $122,000 if single or $193,000 for joint filers). The income limits rise slightly in 2020.
  • You don’t get a tax deduction for your contributions, but you can withdraw the earnings tax-free after age 59½, as long as you’ve had a Roth for at least a five-year period.
  • You can withdraw your Roth contributions without taxes or penalties at any time – making it a good back-up emergency fund or extra source of savings for a house down payment. It’s a good way to save if you worry that you may need to access the money before retirement, although you’ll have more money growing tax-free for the future if you keep it in the account.
  • You usually need to have earned income from a job to contribute to any IRA. But if you work and your spouse doesn’t, you can contribute to a spousal IRA on his or her behalf, as long as you meet the income limits.
  • If you have kids who earned some money from a summer or after-school job, they can contribute to a Roth IRA, too. This can be a great way for them to develop a savings habit and build tax-free savings.


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