In most families, one spouse does better financially than the other. For example, if you stayed home to look after the children while your spouse worked full-time, you may not have accumulated as much money for retirement as your spouse.
But having a low income doesn't necessarily mean you can't make significant contributions to a retirement account. You and your spouse might consider a spousal IRA. If at least one of you has earned income, you both can contribute to a traditional IRA for your spouse as well, within certain limits, until the working spouse reaches age 70½.
The annual limit for IRA contributions is $5,500 or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older. That ceiling is effectively doubled for a spousal IRA—for example, if both spouses are 55, they can contribute a total of $13,000.
To qualify for a spousal IRA, you must:
File a joint income tax return for the year of the contribution; and
Together have earned income of at least as much as your total contribution to all IRAs.
Your contributions might be tax-deductible, but even if your income is too high to qualify for that tax benefit, you still can benefit from tax-deferred growth within the IRA.
Finally, you might opt for a Roth IRA—your contributions won't be deductible but distributions during retirement normally are tax free. And you don't have to take money from the account during your lifetime. (Eligibility is phased out for high-income taxpayers.)
This article was written by a professional financial journalist for The Hogan-Knotts Financial Group and is not intended as legal or investment advice.