IRA Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Knowing what an IRA is can save you a lot of money and headaches as life goes on — here is IRA’s meaning and how to use it!

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Saving money for a retirement plan is one of a person’s most important financial decisions. There are countless ways to do this, including investing in a savings account, mutual fund, or social security. But one of the most important things to focus on in your individual retirement arrangements is creating IRA accounts. 

However, understanding how IRAs work can be very confusing — knowing how to navigate traditional and Roth IRAs, contribution limits, and other forms of retirement savings is essential. If you want to learn how to make the most of your earned income for the benefit of your future, learning about how to use an IRA as a powerful tool is absolutely essential. 

Here is everything you need to know about how IRAs work and how you can make the best use of them in your own life! 

What Is an IRA? 

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a tax-advantaged account that allows you to save for retirement. You can contribute money to an IRA if you work or earn income from other sources. 

The money going into an IRA is meant to be invested rather than spent before retirement. You can open and maintain a traditional or Roth IRA at most financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and online brokerages.

There are several different types of IRAs, and they all have their own rules. The one thing they have in common is that they all allow you to put away money for retirement in a tax-advantaged way. A traditional IRA offers tax benefits on income up to a certain amount. A Roth IRA also allows you to contribute after-tax dollars that will grow tax-free until retirement. 

There are also other types of IRAs like SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs that are often used by small business owners and self-employed individuals who want to set aside money for retirement in a way that helps reduce their tax liability.

How Do Roth IRAs Work? 

Roth IRAs are a type of retirement account in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States. They have restrictions on who can use them and how much money you can contribute, but they allow you to contribute after-tax income and make tax-free withdrawals.

The maximum income you can earn to be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA is $114,000 for single filers and $181,000 for married couples filing jointly. These limits are based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). 

This number is calculated by adding several items to your adjusted gross income (AGI), which is found on your tax return, including foreign earned income exclusion, student loan interest deduction, domestic production activities deduction, and any exclusion of interest from series EE or I U.S. savings bonds used for higher education expenses.

You can contribute up to 100% of your taxable income up to a total annual contribution limit of $5,500 if you are under 50 years old or $6,500 if you are over 50 years old. You cannot make contributions after the age of 70 and a half unless you are still working or receiving earned income or alimony.

How Do Traditional IRAs Work? 

Traditional IRAs are tax-deferred retirement accounts. Many people like tax-deferred retirement accounts because they can save money and let their investments grow tax-free.

Contributions to your traditional IRA can be made with pretax dollars, reducing your taxable income. When you retire, the contribution will also have a tax benefit since all of your withdrawals will be taxed as ordinary income.

The maximum contribution is $6,000 (if age 50 or older). You may contribute the maximum if your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is less than $65,000 (single filers) or $104,000 (for married couples filing jointly).

You must begin taking required minimum distributions from your traditional IRA at age 72. When you take an RMD, you’ll pay taxes on the amount you withdraw at ordinary income rates. It’s important to remember that RMDs are required. If you miss taking an RMD for a year, there’s a penalty: 50% of the amount that should’ve been distributed to you.

Can You Convert Between IRA Types? 

If you have a Roth IRA and want to convert it into a Traditional IRA, you can do so without incurring any taxes or penalties. However, this might not always be the best financial move: a conversion might increase your taxable income and push you into a higher tax bracket, which could mean you will pay more taxes overall. In some ways, it will count as an early withdrawal, which can often be a negative thing in IRAs. 

In many cases, converting will remove some of the tax-deductible benefits that your traditional IRA contributions might have. However, if time goes on and you need to work with different income limits or switch to a different savings incentive match plan for employees, it can be a good move in the long run. Just be sure that you know exactly what you’re doing with your IRA account, and use that knowledge to make the right decision! 


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  1. Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Definition | Investopedia
  2. What is an IRA? Definition and How it Works | NerdWallet
  3. Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) |