An individual retirement account (IRA) is a savings plan that uses tax advantages to help you grow your nest egg. There is a maximum amount you are allowed to contribute each year, as well as other restrictions. You can open or contribute to an IRA for a given year until federal taxes are due.
Opening a Traditional IRA
You can open a traditional IRA if you earn income during a given year, and are younger than age 70 1/2. The income has to be from working, and you can't open an IRA with money from an annuity or pension. You can open a traditional IRA even if you have a retirement plan where you work, and you can deduct your contribution.
Opening a Roth IRA
Opening a Roth IRA is similar to opening a traditional IRA. One difference, however, is that there is an income limit to open a Roth IRA. For the 2010 tax year, you can contribute to a Roth IRA if you're married filing jointly and have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $177,000. Your contribution is lowered if your income is between $167,000 and $177,000. If you're single, or married filing separately and have lived away from your spouse throughout 2010, you can contribute to a Roth IRA if your AGI is less than $120,000. Your contribution limit is lower if your income is between $105,000 and $120,000. If you're married and filing separately but live with your spouse, you can't make a contribution if your AGI is $10,000 or more. The time frame for opening a Roth IRA is the same as the time frame for opening a traditional IRA.
The IRS limits the amount you can contribute to an IRA (traditional or Roth) each year. The limit for 2011 is $5,000 for example. If you're age 50 or older, you can make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution to increase your retirement savings. You also can't contribute more than you earned. For example, if your income was $3,000, the maximum you could contribute to an IRA is $3,000. You can contribute to multiple IRAs, and different types of IRAs, but your total contributions can't exceed the contribution limit.
You can make your IRA contribution all at once, or over several months.You can make contributions for a given tax year from January 1 of that year through the federal income tax due date for that year. If you don't contribute the maximum for that year, you can't make it up in a subsequent tax year.