Understanding Spousal IRA Rates: A Guide

If you’re interested in securing your financial future as a married couple, you might want to consider a Spousal IRA. This article will provide important information on Spousal IRAs, their benefits, and how they can help non-working or low-income spouses save for retirement.

What is a Spousal IRA

Spousal IRA: Retirement Savings for Married Couples

A spousal IRA is a type of individual retirement account specifically designed for married couples in which one spouse is either not working or earns a low income. The primary purpose of a spousal IRA is to provide an opportunity for couples to save for retirement in a tax-advantaged way while taking advantage of benefits that normally come with having an earned income.

It allows the working spouse to contribute to the non-working or low-income spouse’s IRA up to the annual contribution limit, even if the non-working spouse does not have any earned income or has very limited income. This can be an incredibly beneficial tool for couples to save for retirement together and ensure that both spouses have the resources they need when they decide to retire.

Maximizing Tax Benefits with a Spousal IRA

One of the key advantages of a spousal IRA is that it enables couples to maximize their tax benefits. Contributions made to a traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, while Roth IRA contributions are made after-tax but grow tax-free. In both cases, the account’s earnings can potentially grow tax-deferred until they are withdrawn at retirement. This can significantly boost the retirement savings for both spouses, particularly the non-working or low-income spouse who may not have had access to an IRA without this provision.

Understanding Spousal IRA Eligibility and Contributions

A spousal Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a unique type of retirement savings plan designed for married couples, which allows a non-working spouse to contribute to an IRA using the income of the working spouse. The key objective of introducing spousal IRAs is to help non-working partners save for retirement, even in the absence of their own earned income. The spousal IRA is an individual account held in the non-working spouse’s name, and not a joint account. In order to qualify for a spousal IRA, couples need to meet specific requirements set by the IRS, such as marital status, filing status, and income limits.

A couple sitting together and planning their retirement savings.

Eligibility Criteria for Spousal IRAs

Income Requirements and Strategies for Spousal IRA Contributions

It’s crucial to understand the income requirements to be eligible for spousal IRA contributions. For the working spouse to make contributions to a spousal IRA, they must have earned income during the tax year they intend to contribute. Additionally, the couple must file a joint tax return, with their combined earned income being equal to or greater than the total IRA contributions made for both spouses. Meeting these requirements presents a valuable opportunity for couples to plan strategically for their retirement. This ensures that both partners have an equal stake in their future financial security and make the most of their retirement savings potential.

Requirements for Spousal IRA

First and foremost, the couple must be married and file their taxes jointly. This means that a person contributing to a spousal IRA must be legally married to their spouse and they must file their federal tax return using the “married filing jointly” status. Additionally, the working spouse’s income must be sufficient to cover both their own IRA contribution and the spousal IRA contribution. The contribution limit on a spousal IRA may vary yearly, and it’s important to check for the current year’s limit on the IRS website.

Understanding Income Limits for Spousal IRAs

Income limits play a significant role in determining eligibility and contribution amounts for spousal IRAs. For couples where the working spouse is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the tax deduction for spousal IRA contributions is phased out if the couple’s combined adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds a certain limit, which may change annually. It’s important to note that there might be different income limits that apply to Roth IRA contributions. These income limits can also change yearly, so consulting the IRS website or a tax professional is a wise choice to determine the current limits and how they impact spousal IRA rates.

A couple sitting at a table together, looking at financial documents and discussing a spousal IRA contribution limit for the year.

Types of Spousal IRA: Traditional vs Roth

Comparing Spousal IRA Options: Traditional vs. Roth

In the realm of spousal IRAs, understanding the differences between traditional and Roth IRA accounts is essential. While both types of accounts can offer long-term financial security for you and your spouse, they come with distinct contribution limits, tax deductions, and distribution rules. A thorough comparison of the benefits and drawbacks of each type will help you make an informed decision on the most suitable spousal IRA for your specific financial situation.

Traditional Spousal IRAs

Traditional spousal IRAs allow contributions up to $6,000 per year ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and offer tax-deductible contributions, potentially reducing your current taxable income. The withdrawals, however, are taxed as ordinary income.

Roth Spousal IRAs

Roth spousal IRAs also have the same contribution limits ($6,000 per year or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older), but the contributions are made with after-tax dollars, meaning there is no upfront tax deduction. However, withdrawals during retirement are generally tax-free. This feature makes Roth IRAs attractive to individuals who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement than when they were working.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spousal IRAs

Spousal IRAs provide an opportunity for couples with one income-earning partner to save for retirement for both individuals. There are two primary types of spousal IRAs: traditional and Roth. A significant advantage of traditional IRAs is that there are no income limits for contributing to a spousal account. However, the ability to deduct contributions on your taxes phases out based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), which varies depending on your filing status. Conversely, Roth IRAs have income limits for eligibility; once your MAGI exceeds certain thresholds, your ability to contribute diminishes.

Another important distinction between traditional and Roth spousal IRAs is the distribution rules. Traditional IRAs require you to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) at age 72, while Roth IRAs do not have this requirement, allowing you to let your investments grow tax-free throughout your lifetime.

Spousal IRA Contribution Limits

Understanding Spousal Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

A spousal Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is designed specifically for couples, where one partner earns an income while the other does not. This type of IRA allows both individuals to build up retirement savings, benefitting the non-income earning spouse. The contribution limits for spousal IRAs are the same as for traditional and Roth IRAs. In 2021, the maximum amount you can contribute to a spousal IRA is $6,000, or $7,000 if you are aged 50 or older. This limit applies to both the working spouse and the non-working spouse, allowing a couple to contribute a combined $12,000 or $14,000 if both spouses are aged 50 or older.

Deadline for IRA Contributions

Meeting the deadline for making contributions to a spousal IRA is an essential consideration for those choosing to invest in these retirement plans. The deadline for an IRA contribution typically coincides with the federal tax filing deadline, which is April 15 of the year following the tax year for which you’re making the contribution. This timeline allows individuals to make contributions for the prior tax year and potentially lower their taxable income. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that any contributions made between January 1 and the tax filing deadline should be appropriately designated for the correct tax year.

Catch-Up Contribution for Spousal IRAs

An essential feature of spousal IRAs, which are retirement savings plans offering valuable tax advantages for married couples where one spouse earns an income and the other does not, is the catch-up contribution for those aged 50 and older. This provision allows couples to save additional funds for retirement, recognizing that individuals often have higher earnings and increased financial stability as they age. The catch-up contribution for spousal IRAs is an additional $1,000 per individual per year, bringing the total annual contribution limit to $7,000 for those who qualify, and is meant to assist couples in bolstering their retirement savings and prioritizing their financial well-being as they approach retirement age.

Image of a couple discussing retirement savings and investment with a financial advisor.

Tax Advantages and Deduction Rules

Benefits of Spousal Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

By contributing to a spousal IRA, the working spouse can help the non-working spouse build retirement savings, while enjoying the tax benefits associated with traditional IRA contributions. These tax advantages include tax-deferred growth on investments within the IRA and the potential for tax-deductible contributions. In this way, a spousal IRA not only provides a valuable opportunity for couples to work together in securing their financial future but also offers significant tax benefits that can enhance their overall retirement savings strategy.

Tax Advantages of Spousal IRA

  • Tax-deferred growth on investments within the IRA
  • Potential for tax-deductible contributions

Tax Deductions for Spousal IRA Contributions

Tax deductions for spousal IRA contributions depend on the couple’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and whether the working spouse has access to a workplace retirement plan. If the working spouse does not have access to a workplace retirement plan, the couple can deduct the full amount of the spousal IRA contribution, up to the annual limit set by the IRS. For tax year 2021, the contribution limit is $6,000 per person, or $7,000 per person if age 50 or older. However, if the working spouse has access to a workplace plan, the tax deduction may be phased out or eliminated based on the couple’s MAGI.

Claiming Spousal IRA Tax Deduction

For couples looking to take advantage of the spousal IRA tax deduction, it is essential to file a joint tax return and report the spousal IRA contribution on line 32 of Form 1040 or line 17 of Form 1040A. Maintaining accurate records of all contributions to both the working and non-working spouse’s IRA accounts is crucial, as the tax deduction directly corresponds to the contributed amounts. Furthermore, the non-working spouse must have a separate IRA account in their name to be eligible for the spousal IRA tax benefits. By effectively utilizing spousal IRA contributions and tax deductions, married couples can optimize their retirement savings potential and minimize their overall tax liability.

illustration of a couple saving for retirement together with a spousal IRA plan

Withdrawing from a Spousal IRA

Withdrawing from a Spousal IRA

It is essential to comprehend the rules established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when planning to withdraw from a spousal IRA. A spousal IRA can either be a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, each having different withdrawal rules depending on the account type. By understanding these guidelines, couples can strategically navigate and make informed decisions when accessing their spousal IRA funds.

Traditional IRA Withdrawals

Withdrawals from a traditional IRA are subject to income taxes. Individuals must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) once they reach the age of 72. If withdrawals are made before age 59 and a half, an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty applies on top of income taxes.

Roth IRA Withdrawals

Contributions made to a Roth IRA are made on an after-tax basis, meaning that the individual has already paid taxes on the money being contributed. Withdrawals of the original contributions can be made tax-free and penalty-free, regardless of the account holder’s age. However, earnings on the contributions may be subject to income taxes and penalties, depending on the account holder’s age and the duration of the account. To make tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals of the earnings, individuals must be at least 59 and a half years old, and the account must have been held for at least five years.

Exceptions and Strategies

There are certain exceptions that may allow individuals to bypass the 10% early withdrawal penalty associated with Spousal IRAs. For instance, using withdrawals to fund qualified higher education expenses or costs related to purchasing a first home may be exempt from the penalty. Another option for penalty-free withdrawals is a substantially equal periodic payment (SEPP) plan, which allows individuals to take payments over a predetermined period from their traditional IRA. Given the complex nature of tax implications and potential penalties, it is advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to better understand the specific circumstances regarding a spousal IRA, particularly for early withdrawals.

Investment Options and Strategies

Spousal IRAs provide a valuable opportunity for non-working or low-income earning spouses to build their retirement savings using a tax-advantaged account. The investment options available within a spousal IRA will vary depending on the financial institution managing the account but generally include stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds, and certificates of deposit (CDs). To optimize returns and manage risk effectively, it is essential for individuals to diversify their investments by allocating their portfolio across various types of assets. This should be based on factors such as risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals. Combining diverse investments with the smart use of exceptions and strategies for withdrawals can maximize the benefits of a spousal IRA for a secure retirement future.

Passive vs. Active Investing

As part of a smart investment strategy within a spousal IRA, individuals should consider incorporating both passive and active investment approaches. Passive investing entails utilizing index-tracking funds, such as ETFs or low-cost index mutual funds, which aim to mirror the performance of a specific index, like the S&P 500. This approach can be particularly effective for those with limited investment knowledge or time to actively manage their portfolio, as it typically has lower costs and less risk associated with individual security selection.

On the other hand, active investing involves choosing individual securities or actively managed funds with the goal of outperforming the market or a particular benchmark. This approach may require more time, research, and potential for additional costs due to higher expense ratios and transaction fees associated with frequent trading.

A balanced approach that includes both active and passive investments can help create a well-rounded, diversified portfolio that is better positioned to weather market fluctuations.

Rebalancing your Portfolio

A critical component of maximizing returns in a spousal IRA is regularly reviewing and adjusting the investment portfolio to ensure it aligns with the individual’s unique financial situation, goals, and risk tolerance. This process, also known as rebalancing, involves periodically evaluating the performance of the investments within the account, and subsequently making changes in order to maintain the desired asset allocation.

Rebalancing can not only help control risk by periodically shifting away from assets that have experienced significant appreciation, but it may also allow for capitalizing on opportunities arising from market cycles or other economic factors.


By carefully exploring the available investment options within a spousal IRA and employing thoughtful, strategic approaches, individuals can work towards achieving their retirement goals while optimizing their portfolio’s potential for growth and risk mitigation.

Image of a couple planning their retirement savings together.

Overall, a Spousal IRA can offer substantial benefits for married couples, especially those with non-working or low-income spouses. By understanding the eligibility criteria, types of Spousal IRAs, contribution limits, tax advantages, withdrawal rules, and investment options, you can make well-informed decisions to optimize your retirement savings strategy. Start planning now to ensure a comfortable and secure retirement for both you and your spouse.