Spousal IRA - how much can we contribute?

If my wife and I both have Roth IRA’s and let’s say our income is as follows:
Wife: $12K
Me: $1K
And we are over 50, she can contribute $8000 to her Roth IRA and I can contribute $1000 to mine. Right?

But what’s the deal with the spousal IRA law? From what I’ve read, under that law I can contribute using her income also, thus doubling our contribution. Am I understanding this correctly?

Can I contribute $8K to my Roth IRA? Do I need to open a special separate “spousal ira”?


Assuming the $12k and $1k are wage (compensation) income, and you file taxes as MFJ, then you can contribute a maximum of $13k to your IRAs. It can be divided however you want, up to the maximum of $8k ($7k + $1k for the over 50 extra contribution) per IRA. So you could do $6.5k in each IRA, or $8k in one and $5k in the other. Or anything else as long as you don’t go over $8k in either one.

A “spousal IRA” is simply an “IRA” and can be opened at any institution that does IRAs.

NOTE: If this is truly the case, and income is indeed in the very low, or zero, tax brackets, it is probably a much better choice to contribute to a Roth IRA rather than a Traditional IRA.

What Is a Spousal IRA? Definition, How It Works, and Contributions.


Thank you.
But I read somewhere, and I’m trying to find it again, that made it sound like we can double the contribution, based on one person’s income, such that if one person made $8K, we can both contribute $8K.
But what you are saying is that, no, the grand total cannot go over the total of earned income. So I probably misunderstood what I read (which I cannot find again).

That is the essence of the rule (but being the US tax code, naturally it’s more complicated than that in certain cases). Basically, you can’t contribute more than total taxable compensation. See Publication 590-A -Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) for all the details. See page 9, right column, section headed “Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA Limit”


Thanks for your help!

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Darn, I missed the boat on several years of being able to contribute but didn’t know about the spousal IRA! Oh well, I’ll do it for 2023. Thanks.

You may want to get MarkR to confirm, but I think if your wife’s wages were $20,000 and yours were $1000, then you could both contribute the $8000 max to your own IRAs, $16,000 total.

You each could contribute the individual $8000 max for a total of $16,000 since it is less than the $21,000 total income. That gets you the “double” contribution that you read about, but you need the higher income of $16,000 to do it.

@RBMunkin I would also point out that if you don’t have a Roth IRA already set up and funded, at least with a small amount, you probably want to do that by the year you will turn 54 1/2 (or now, if you’re over 54 1/2). That’s because you have to have had a Roth IRA account funded for at least 5 years by the time you reach 59 1/2 in order for the distributions to be qualified distributions, and therefore, totally tax-free.

If your Roth IRA has not been open and funded for at least 5 years, even though you are 59 1/2, you will still be subject to ordering rules, and therefore, may have to pay taxes on some of your distributions.



Thanks, but I’ve had a Roth IRA for many years now. And I’m about to turn 67 by the way.

Yes, I now get that we can contribute the maximum allowed if we have at least that much in earned income. Otherwise, we can contribute up to 100% of our earned income. Thanks. :slight_smile:

But could you simply choose to not take any withdrawal from your Roth IRA and only take withdrawals from the TIRA (or 401k) instead? Or do the apportionment rules “cross over” the two different types of IRAs?

Sure, you could take withdrawals from a Traditional account, but would owe taxes on those withdrawals, while Roth IRA distributions can be tax-free.

Ordering rules are only applicable to Roth IRAs. What I’m trying to point out is that a lot of people think as long you have reached 59 1/2, Roth IRA withdrawals are always tax-free. Those people are wrong because they are forgetting the 2nd requirement. Even if you’re 59 1/2, distributions aren’t necessarily tax-free, if you haven’t had a Roth IRA open and funded for at least 5 years.


What if you are over 59 and 1/2 and have had a Roth account for over 5 years, does each yearly contribution you put into the Roth have to be in the account for 5 years? For example, if you made a contribution 4 years ago and you take a distribution of that 4-year-old money, is that particular distribution tax free because the account has been open 5 years?


Ah, yes, I understand this part. I was thinking that for most people, it makes more sense to keep the money inside the Roth IRA as long as possible. Certainly until RMDs kick in which may bump you up to the next tax bracket. And possibly even until one spouse dies which almost surely kicks you up a bracket or two once you switch from MFJ to S. The other thing is that, for most people, their Roth IRA is much smaller than their IRA/401k, because it’s existed for a shorter time, and has had mostly lower contribution limits than tax-deferred options, so it (the Roth IRA) can’t really supply enough income for enough time on its own. In my case, my 401k+TIRA is nearly 5 times as big as my Roth IRA.

I figure if you retire with “level” income from non-investments, but don’t take social security yet, and are pre-RMD, then you should expect two bumps in [taxable] income, one when you begin social security, and two when you begin RMDs. That might be the optimum time to start withdrawing from a Roth IRA if necessary because it won’t add even more to your income in your highest bracket.

No. Once the age of the account hits 5 years, you can withdraw tax free at will. You do not have to keep track of each contribution to see if it hits 5 years.


Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner .

And not even then if the beneficiary is a spouse. Non-spouses will have up to 10 years to empty the account, but RMDs may be required.

But Roth IRA distributions can be useful if, during retirement, you want to realize more income without paying more in taxes. Say, for instance, you are right at an IRMAA cliff, but you found the classic car of your dreams (or insert your own personal dream here) for sale for a great price, but it’s more than you have cash on hand for. Realizing capital gains or pulling money out of a TIRA will push you over the IRMAA cliff in addition to having to pay taxes, but if you take a qualified distribution from a Roth, it won’t cost you either IRMAA premiums or taxes.

Note: My guess is that qualified Roth IRA distributions not counting toward things like IRMAA or SS taxability is probably not going to last past the next re-do of ‘saving’ SS and Medicare, which is likely to occur in the next 10 - 12 years.



I am just over 59.5, my TIRA is 85% of our joint retirement balance after forced rollovers from several 401ks while i have still been working. That 5 year rule is disappointing as I want to semi-retire next year. I guess the bottom line is start one now; then do some math about withdrawals needed to live on vs dumped into the Roth… in 5 years may not save more than 1 year’s expenses as a tax-free withdrawal anyway… I don’t expect big future RMDs unless the market takes off signficantly.

In that case, you will probably be drawing mostly from the TIRA. Unless you have enough in regular taxable accounts to sustain you.

If you don’t have a Roth IRA yet, then you wouldn’t be drawing much tax free money from it anyway. Remember, the money you put in was taxed, only the gains are tax free. And you need years of compounding for any meaningful gains.

It’s definitely still worth opening the Roth IRA because you can contribute to it for the remaining years you work (either directly or the backdoor Roth IRA method), and if you have years in a low tax bracket (perhaps the few years after you stop working, but before taking social security and/or RMDs) then you can convert TIRA to Roth IRA using up the lower brackets.

Keep in mind, you have about 14 years till RMDs kick in (the April after age 73 or something like that). That means that your TIRA with 85% or your retirement balance could triple or even quadruple between now and then. So the RMDs could be bigger than you think.


I will point out that if your income is low enough to fit under the Roth contribution limit for 2023, you can make a Roth IRA contribution for 2023. That will start the 5 year clock in 2023. If you have already made a deductible T-IRA contribution, you can recharacterize that contribution to a Roth contribution. You will have to work with your broker to get that recharacterization done, as the contribution will need to be moved into a Roth IRA. Additionally, if there have been earnings in your IRA since the contribution was made, you will owe some taxes on those earnings, as they will also need to be moved.

Given that 85% of your retirement account balance is in your TIRA, I would not recommend doing a back-door Roth, unless you are willing and to roll your entire TIRA into a 401(k) (or other qualified employer-sponsored retirement plan) before making the after-tax IRA contribution.

If your income is too high and you aren’t able to accomplish the rollover into a 401(k) before April 15, you can do a conversion this year, which will start the clock in 2024.



Have you actually run calculations on that? If not, I would suggest that you do so, adding in expected investment returns and removing living expenses. I will point out that if you start out with an expectation of just 5% in investment returns, a 3% inflation rate, and an initial 4% withdrawal rate, your account will continue to grow, even as you take out living expenses. The RMDs could be significantly larger than you think they will be because of that.