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Make the Most of Your IRA

In this article
  • Employee-funded retirement savings plan
  • Tax treatment
  • Matching contributions
  • Compounding

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): Two Options

There are two primary types of IRAs. The first is a traditional IRA, which may permit an annual, tax-deductible contribution. The second is a Roth IRA which, while not permitting a tax-deductible contribution, does allow for a tax-free distribution of both contributions and earnings under certain circumstances.

Before you make a decision on which one is right for your situation, you may want to talk to your financial professional.

What Is a Traditional IRA?

A traditional individual retirement account allows your investment earnings to grow tax deferred until withdrawn, typically at retirement. Generally, if you have earned income or receive alimony, you can establish as many IRAs as you want prior to the tax year in which you reach age 70½, provided the total of your contributions doesn't exceed the limits discussed below. You may also have a traditional IRA even if you participate in a qualified pension, profit-sharing, or other retirement plan. However, if you are an active participant in a qualified plan, your entire contribution may not be tax deductible, depending on your income and tax filing status.

Traditional IRAs offer two distinct advantages in terms of taxes: potential deductibility of contributions and current tax deferral on investment earnings.

Rules on IRA Contribution Limits

You and your spouse can each contribute annually up to $5,500 (for 2016) or 100% of your earned income, whichever is less, into an IRA. In 2016, married couples filing jointly can generally contribute a total of $11,000 ($5,500 per spouse) even if only one spouse had income. These limits apply no matter how many IRAs you have, or if you have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. That is, the total of your contributions to all IRAs must not exceed the appropriate limit.

Also, in 2016, IRA owners aged 50 and older are eligible to make a catch-up contribution of up to $1,000. Like the $5,500 limit, the catch-up of $1,000 applies to whether you have one or more IRA accounts.

In addition, you can open an IRA or make contributions to an existing IRA as late as the deadline for filing a tax return for that year.

 Income Limits For IRA Deductibility
 Tax Year  Joint Filers  Single Filers
 2016  $98,000-$118,000  $61,000-$71,000


Taxpayers who are not participants in an employer-sponsored retirement plan can deduct their IRA contributions up to the specified limit. Taxpayers who participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans may not be able to deduct all of their contributions to a traditional IRA depending on their income. For example, married taxpayers filing jointly, where both participate in their employers' retirement plan may not deduct any portion of their IRA contribution if their adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2016 exceeds $118,000. The amount is pro-rated between $98,000 to $118,000. Below $98,000, their full contribution is tax deductible.

In situations where only one spouse is a participant in a retirement plan, a deductible IRA contribution may be made for the other spouse under a spousal IRA contribution -- provided the AGI is below $193,000 (the deduction is prorated between $183,000-$193,000).

Possible Benefits of Tax-Deferred Compounding

As you evaluate the potential benefits of an IRA, consider the advantage of tax deferral. This chart shows the result when a hypothetical $100 monthly investment is made for 30 years in a tax-deferred plan versus the same investment taxed at 25% annually, assuming an 8% average rate of return compounded monthly. If the final tax-deferred amount is withdrawn at retirement and taxed at 25%, it exceeds the taxable final amount by nearly $12,000.

 

Change Jobs Without Losing Any Retirement Benefits

IRAs can also come in handy when you're about to leave jobs and need to move your retirement plan assets. If your former employer permits you to withdraw your retirement money, you can move these funds to an IRA account and postpone the payment or move them from your former employer's qualified retirement plan into a rollover IRA and avoid owing current income tax on the distribution.

If you choose to physically receive part or all of your money and do not replace the entire amount within 60 days, you may be subject to an early withdrawal penalty tax and income taxes on the amount you don't rollover to an IRA or other plan. Some exceptions may apply.

Strict Rules on Withdrawals From Traditional IRAs

Generally, any distribution you receive from an IRA before the day you reach age 59½ is subject to a 10% penalty tax imposed by the IRS, in addition to federal and state income tax. Beginning at age 59½, you can withdraw money (of which any deductible contributions and investment earnings are taxable at your then-current income tax rate) from your IRA without penalty, whether or not you are still employed.

Distributions before age 59½ are not subject to the penalty tax under certain circumstances:

  • You become permanently disabled.
  • You die before age 59½ and distributions are made to your beneficiary or estate after your death.
  • You make withdrawals to pay unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
  • You make withdrawals for a qualified home purchase (lifetime limit of $10,000).
  • You make withdrawals to pay qualified higher education expenses for yourself, a spouse, children, or grandchildren.

You must begin withdrawals from your IRA by April 1 following the year in which you reach age 70½. A great advantage of taking only the required minimum distribution is that the balance continues to compound tax deferred. However, if your distributions in any year after you reach age 70½ are less than the required minimum, you will be subject to a penalty tax equal to 50% of the difference.

Your IRA: A Strong Foundation for Your Financial Future

An IRA can become the cornerstone of your personal retirement savings program, providing the foundation for your financial security. That's why it is so important to start planning today. Consult with your financial professional to help you maximize the power of your IRA to help build a more secure retirement.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions. 

This article is provided for your informational purposes only.

Please be advised that this material is not intended as legal or tax advice.  Accordingly, any tax information provided in this material is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.  The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transactions(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent advisor.

Please be advised that this materials is not intended as legal or tax advice. Accordingly, any tax information provided in this material is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transactions(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent advisor.

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (NY, NY) issues life insurance and annuity products. Securities offered through AXA Advisors, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC. AXA Equitable and AXA Advisors are affiliated and does not provide legal or tax advice. does not provide legal or tax advice.

GE 91368 (07/2015)