Save for Retirement

Retirement savings is a top priority for many Savers. If you are Active-Duty Military or a DoD civilian employee you have access to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  Uniformed servicemembers do not receive matching contributions from the Department of Defense into TSP but FERS employees do qualify for matching contributions. The contribution limits are set each year by the IRS; to see the limits click here.  

Unfortunately, many spouses and family members do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan.  Even if a spouse or family member's employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you can still save for their retirement, and get some tax benefits in the process, by putting money in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Saving at Work

Who qualifies to make IRA contributions?

Anyone who earns income (or receives alimony) can put money in an IRA. Couples can also put money in an IRA for a non-working spouse.

Each person per year can put up to $5,500 in an IRA if you are age 49 or below and up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or above for the 2014 tax year, so long as your contributions do not exceed your earned income. Each year, you have until the April 15 tax filing deadline to make your IRA payment for the previous tax year.

There are two main types of IRA – traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. In addition, those who are self-employed can put money in a SEP-IRA. Each has its own set of rules and offers different tax benefits. This article will deal with traditional and Roth IRAs.

Traditional IRAs are open to anyone up to the age of 70 1/2. Money in a traditional IRA grows tax-deferred. In other words, you won’t have to pay taxes on any earnings until you take the money out. That allows your money to grow faster than it would if you had to pay income tax each year on those earnings.

Traditional IRAs Offer Tax Deductible Contributions

Your contributions to a traditional IRA may also be tax deductible, which is an attractive feature for many people. That’s because you get a portion of your IRA payment “back” immediately in the form of a lower tax bill.

If you are not eligible for an employer sponsored retirement plan, you can make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. You can also do so if your income falls below certain levels, regardless of your retirement plan status.

For tax year 2014, couples filing a joint tax return who report adjusted gross income of up to $96,000, or singles with income up to $60,000, are eligible to make fully deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. In addition, taxpayers with incomes slightly above those limits – $96,000 to $116,000 for couples and $60,000 to $70,000 for singles – can make partially deductible contributions.  Find out more information at irs.gov.

When you put money in a traditional IRA, you can’t get it out before you reach age 59 1/2 without paying a penalty, although there are exceptions. Some people consider this a disadvantage of traditional IRAs, but it can help keep your retirement savings on track.

Once you start taking money out of a traditional IRA in retirement, you will have to pay ordinary income tax on any earnings and on your tax-deductible contributions, but no federal taxes on withdrawals of non-deductible contributions. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay state taxes on those withdrawals.

ROTH IRAs Offer Tax-Free Withdrawals

The benefits of Roth IRAs are almost exactly opposite those of traditional IRAs.  Spousal ROTH IRAs are the same.

You can’t make tax-deductible contributions to a Roth IRA. On the other hand, the money you put in a Roth IRA grows not just tax-deferred, but tax-free. In other words, you won’t have to pay any federal taxes, or state taxes in most states, on your earnings when you take money out, provided you meet certain requirements. You are also less likely to have to pay a tax penalty if you withdraw money early from a Roth IRA.

There are no age limits for contributions to a Roth IRA, so long as you have earned income. On the other hand, there are income limits. However, those limits are quite high.  Singles who report adjusted gross incomes of up to $114,000 in 2014 and couples with incomes up to $181,000  qualify for a full contribution. Taxpayers with slightly higher incomes – $114,000 - $129,000 for singles and $181,000 - $191,000 for couples filing jointly – can make partial contributions.  Find out more information at irs.gov.

Where Can You Open an IRA?

Virtually all major financial services companies – such as banks, brokers, insurance, and mutual fund companies – offer IRAs and make it easy to open an account.

A reputable mutual fund company that offers a wide selection of funds, low costs, and reasonable minimum investment requirements, is a particularly good option for many. Many of the top companies also offer excellent educational materials to help you pick the best funds for you.

Regardless of where you decide to open an account, your retirement savings will get a real boost if you commit yourself to making annual contributions an IRA.

Back to For Savers

Tip of the Day

  • #Save automatically using an allotment with #myPay to automatically transfer funds monthly into a #savings account http://ow.ly/sGWxb

Pledge to Save

I pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. I will encourage my family and friends to do the same

Pledge to Save

Saver Stories View all »

Airman Succeeds Through Dedication to Building Wealth Not Debt

I came into the Air Force at 23 years old in 1993 with about 12 outstanding bills (hospital bills, car loan, car insurance, school loans, credit cards, etc.). You name it, I had the bill. Thanks to the Family Support Center, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and many other sources, I now have no outstanding bills.

Read more...

Meet Wacinque BeMende

Meet Wacinque BeMende. He’s so passionate about encouraging savings and promoting financial literacy, he’s established his own Kid’s Savings Program. Wacinque donated $15,000 to the Community Action of Laramie County in Cheyenne Wyoming to begin the Wacinque “ Rhino” Fund Endowment to help kids open savings accounts.

Read more...

One That Almost Got Away

Brody Lockwood - Like a typical fledgling, I started down the track of financial indebtedness. Nineteen years old and nothing to lose. Credit - who need it? Savings - that was for older people with responsibility. Debt - my parents were in debt ergo it must be OK. When I was eligible for reenlistment, I reenlisted for a multiple of 3 worth $15K. I was happy to pay off my debt, but would I be able to stay out of debt?

Read more...