A Roth IRA comes with seriously sweet benefits for retirement savers.
It’s an individual retirement account — that means you open and fund it, not your employer.
Here’s the best thing about it: You invest money you’ve already paid taxes on. Your money grows… and grows… and once you reach age 59 ½ and you’ve had the account for at least five years, all those earnings are yours tax-free. Plus, you can withdraw your contributions whenever you want without paying taxes or penalties.
Because Roth IRA tax savings are generous, Uncle Sam limits how much you can contribute and how much you can earn to be eligible to contribute to one.
Here are the Roth IRA limits you need to know about.
Roth IRA Limits for 2021
The IRS typically adjusts Roth IRA contribution and income limits every year. These are the limits for 2021.
Roth IRA Contribution Limits: How Much Can You Invest?
If you’re under age 50, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA in 2021. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000, meaning your limit is $7,000.
Note that these are the limits for your overall IRA contributions. If you have both a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA and you’re under 50, your total contributions to both accounts can’t be more than $6,000.
What about married people? A couple can’t open an IRA. Remember: It’s an individual retirement account.
Provided that you’re eligible under the Roth IRA rules, you could each open a Roth IRA and contribute up to the maximum, so you’d contribute a total of up to $12,000 between your two IRAs, or up to $14,000 if you’re both part of the 50-plus crowd.
You can fund your Roth IRA for the year all the way up to the tax-filing deadline, so you have until April 15, 2021, to max out your contribution for 2020.
Roth IRA Income Limits: Do You Earn Too Much?
First off, to contribute to any type of IRA, you need taxable income, such as money you earn at a regular job or self-employment income.
To determine whether you qualify, you’ll need to calculate your modified adjusted gross income, often abbreviated as MAGI or modified AGI. That’s your adjusted gross income — which you can find on your 1040, 1040a or 1040ez tax form — plus some deductions, such as student loan interest payments or contributions to a health savings account. (Since your MAGI is what matters for Roth IRAs, that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to income throughout this article.)
If you’re single, head of household or married filing separately and didn’t live with your spouse at any time for the tax year, you can contribute:
- The maximum amount if your income is less than $125,000;
- An amount that phases out as you earn more if your income is at least $125,000 but less than $140,000;
- Nothing if your income is $140,000 or higher.
If you’re married filing jointly or you’re a qualifying widow(er), you can contribute:
- The maximum amount if your income is less than $198,000;
- An amount that phases out as you earn more if your income is at least $198,000 but less than $208,000;
- Nothing if your income is over $208,000.
If you’re married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any point during the tax year, you can contribute:
- A reduced amount if your income is under $10,000;
- Nothing if your income is $10,000 or higher.
Your IRA contributions can’t be higher than your income for the year, so if you earn $5,000 in 2021, that’s your maximum contribution for the year.
How Much Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA
|Tax-filing status||2021 income||Maximum contribution|
|Single, head of household or married filing jointly||Under $125,000||$6,000 ($7,000 if 50 or older)|
|Over $140,000||Not eligible|
|Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)||Under $198,000||$6,000 for each individual ($7,000 if 50 or older)|
|Over $208,000||Not eligible|
|Married filing separately (lived with spouse at some point in tax year)||Under $10,000||Reduced amount|
|$10,000 or higher||Not eligible|
Roth IRA Age Limits: Do You Ever Have to Stop Contributing?
You can open a Roth IRA at any age, so long as you have taxable income. Then you can keep contributing to it forever — as in for the rest of your life — as long as you’re earning income because Roth IRAs do not have an age limit.
You also never have to take money out of your Roth IRA because there are no required minimum distributions, or RMDs, which is IRS speak for mandatory withdrawals. That means you can leave it to a beneficiary who can make tax-free withdrawals on it after you die.
But if you withdraw your Roth IRA earnings early, one important thing to know is that you’ll often pay taxes plus a 10% penalty. Early means before before the account is 5 years old and before you reach age 59-1/2. You can, however, withdraw your contributions at any time. And you may be able to avoid early withdrawal penalties in some circumstances, such as if you’re using the money for a home purchase or certain medical expenses.
3 Clever Ways to Get Around Roth IRA Limits
Now that you know the Roth IRA limits for 2021, you also need to know that there are some completely legit ways to get around them. Here are three ways that won’t get you in trouble with the IRS.
1. Increase Your 401(k) Contributions
Unlike a Roth IRA, a 401(k) plan is funded with pre-tax dollars, so it lowers your taxable income. So if you earn too much to fund a Roth IRA but have access to a 401(k) or another employer-sponsored plan, reducing your taxable income through additional contributions could be an option.
If you’re under age 50, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k) in 2021. If you’re 50 or older, the maximum contribution is $26,000.
2. Open an IRA for a Non-Working Spouse
Remember how we said you need to earn income to open an IRA? Well, there’s an exception.
If you have a spouse who doesn’t work, you can open an IRA — Roth or traditional — for them and contribute the maximum amount allowed for their age, provided that you have income equal to the amount you’re putting in your spouse’s IRA and your own IRA.
The regular IRA limits apply to spousal IRAs: You can’t contribute more than $6,000 in a year if your spouse is under 50, or $7,000 in a year if your spouse is 50 or older. If you’re married filing jointly with an income over $208,000, you’re not eligible to fund a Roth IRA for you or your spouse, though you can still fund traditional IRAs for both of you.
3. Open a Backdoor Roth IRA
There’s a big loophole in those Roth IRA income limits we just told you about: If you make too much to open a Roth IRA, you can open a backdoor Roth IRA, which is basically where you open a traditional IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA.
There are a lot of complicated rules and tax consequences when you open a backdoor Roth IRA, so be sure to talk to a financial adviser if you’re considering one.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.