Working Toward Retirement Goals With IRAs

  • You can probably make an IRA contribution, even if you participate in a qualified employer-sponsored retirement plan (QRP).
  • The Roth IRA is an attractive retirement account if you meet the income thresholds.
  • You may benefit from the tax-deferred growth potential of a Traditional IRA as long as you have earned income and are under the age of 70 1/2.

Why contribute to an IRA?

An IRA allows you to save for your retirement and take advantage of tax benefits. As fewer companies offer pensions and Social Security makes up a smaller percentage of the average retiree’s income, individuals will have to rely more on their own savings for living in retirement.

Even if you already participate in a 401(k) or another qualified employer-sponsored retirement plan (QRP), you should consider investing in an IRA. It can help supplement these savings and gain access to a potentially wider range of investment choices than typically offered in a QRP.

Similar to 401(k) plans, investments in Traditional and Roth IRAs have the potential for tax-advantaged growth. This allows you to potentially accumulate retirement savings faster than you would in a taxable account. Distributions from Traditional IRAs are not taxed until you begin taking withdrawals. Roth IRA distributions are tax-free as along as certain conditions are met.1

Exploring the types of IRAs

Just about anyone with earned income can contribute to an IRA. Each type of IRA has its own set of rules and tax advantages.

Traditional IRA - offers tax-deferred growth potential. You pay no taxes on any investment earnings until you withdraw or “distribute” the money from your account, presumably in retirement.1 Additionally, depending on your income, your contribution may be tax deductible.

If you or your spouse are covered by a QRP2, the deductibility of your IRA contribution depends on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Your income must be at or below the MAGI limits in order to qualify for a deduction.

The IRS requires you take your first required minimum distribution (RMD) from your Traditional IRA by April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70½. For each subsequent year, you'll need to take your annual RMD by December 31.

Even if your contribution is not deductible, contributing to an IRA can still be a great way to grow retirement savings.

Roth IRA - offers tax-free growth potential. Investment earnings are withdrawn tax-free in retirement, provided that certain conditions are met.1 Since contributions are made with after-tax dollars, Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible, regardless of income.

If you, or your spouse, if filing a joint tax return, have earned income, you are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA as long as your MAGI is at or below the phase-out limits. There are no age limits for making a Roth IRA contribution.

Also, you can convert a Traditional IRA and QRP to a Roth IRA. Be aware you will owe ordinary income tax on the taxable portion you convert but no 10% IRS penalty.

Roth IRA owners do not have to take RMDs during their lifetime.

SIMPLE & SEP IRAs - small business owners may use SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs to provide a retirement plan for their employees. These plans are intended for small businesses with a few employees. A SEP IRA is a Traditional IRA that holds employer contributions under the SEP plan.1

Retirement Plan Distribution Options - if you change jobs, are displaced, or retire, one of the most important decisions you may face is how to handle the money you’ve worked hard to earn and save in your QRP. You generally have four options for your retirement plan assets:

  1. Roll assets to an IRA
  2. Leave assets in your former employer’s plan, if the QRP allows
  3. Move assets to your new/existing employer’s plan, if the QRP allows
  4. Cash out through what’s called a “lump sum distribution” and pay taxes and perhaps a 10% IRS tax penalty

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and the one that is best depends on your individual circumstances. You should consider features such as investment choices, fees and expenses, and services offered3.

It can be a confusing decision to make. Here are some things to think about:

  • The difference in fees and expenses between the QRP and IRA
  • When penalty-free distributions are available
  • Your need for help making investment decisions and other services offered
  • Any special considerations regarding your employer stock
  • Timing of RMDs
  • Protection of assets from creditors and bankruptcy

Your Financial Advisor can help educate you regarding your choices so you can decide which one makes the most sense for your specific situation. Speak with your current retirement plan administrator and tax professional before taking any action.

IRA contribution limits and deadlines

The IRS rules determine how and by what date you can make IRA contributions. Whether your contribution is deductible or not, you need to make your IRA contributions by the tax filing deadline, generally April 15 for the prior year.

What is your Roth or Traditional IRA limit? How much can you contribute? How much can you deduct?
IRA Contribution Tool

Your total contributions to all of your Traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than 100% of your taxable compensation for the year, if your compensation was less than the maximum contribution limit:

2018 Tax Year Limits

  • $5,500 (if you’re under age 50)
  • $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older in a particular tax year

2019 Tax Year Limits

  • $6,000 (if you’re under age 50)
  • $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older in a particular tax year

It is generally a good idea to maximize your IRA contributions to potentially gain the full benefit of tax-advantaged savings and increase your retirement assets.

At Wells Fargo Advisors, you can make contributions to your IRA online and using your mobile device.4 IRA contributions received between January 1 and the tax filing deadline, generally April 15, must indicate if the contribution should be attributed to the current year or prior year. If no contribution year is indicated, the contribution will be considered a current-year contribution.

What is earned income for an IRA contribution?

You or your spouse, if filing jointly, generally must have earned income such as wages, tips, or commissions to qualify to contribute to an IRA. Eligible compensation must be from personal services currently rendered. Review IRS Publication 590-A (PDF) for a comprehensive list of what is and is not earned income.

Next steps

  • Open or fund an IRA. You may be able to contribute to an IRA even if you participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
  • Ask your advisor which IRA may be best based on your situation.
  • Find out if you can deduct your Traditional IRA contribution. If not, you may still benefit from tax-deferred growth potential or, if eligible, consider funding a Roth IRA.

IRA Disclosure Statement and Custodial Agreement: The Disclosure Statement and Custodial Agreement is designed to provide you with an overview of an IRA including tax benefits and considerations, as well as contribution and distribution rules. The first part of each document includes the disclosure statement required by the Internal Revenue Service. The disclosures will explain the basic rules and tax considerations you should understand if you adopt an IRA. The second part of the document includes the Custodial Agreement. Click here to view the documents.

1Traditional IRA distributions are generally taxed as ordinary income. Qualified Roth IRA distributions are tax-free provided a Roth account has been open for more than five years and the owner is at least age 59 1/2, or as a result of their death, disability, or using the first-time homebuyer exception. Qualified Roth IRA distributions are not subject to state and local taxation in most states. Both may be subject to a 10% IRS tax penalty if distributions are taken prior to age 59 1/2. For SIMPLE IRAs, the IRS penalty increases to 25% if a distribution is taken prior to two years from when the first deposit was made into a participant’s account if under 59 1/2.

2The “Retirement Plan” box in Box 13 of your W-2 tax form should be checked if you were covered by a retirement plan at work.

3Please keep in mind that rolling over assets to an IRA is just one of multiple options for your retirement plan. Each of the following options is different and may have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Roll assets to an IRA
  2. Leave assets in your former employer’s plan, if plan allows
  3. Move assets to your new/existing employer’s plan, if plan allows
  4. Cash out or take a lump sum distribution

When considering rolling over assets from an employer plan to an IRA, factors that should be considered and compared between the employer plan and the IRA include fees and expenses, services offered, investment options, when penalty free withdrawals are available, treatment of employer stock, when required minimum distributions begin and protection of assets from creditors and bankruptcy. Investing and maintaining assets in an IRA will generally involve higher costs than those associated with employer-sponsored retirement plans. You should consult with the plan administrator and a professional tax advisor before making any decisions regarding your retirement assets.

4Brokerage IRAS with Brokerage Cash Services are eligible for this feature. Online access is required. Talk to your Financial Advisor for more information about the benefits of Brokerage Cash Services.