How to Contribute to Both a Traditional and a Roth IRA

Learn How to Maximize Your Retirement Savings

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A Roth IRA and a traditional IRA are among the most valuable retirement saving opportunities after an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Both types of IRAs offer tax-deferred growth, but with the otherwise different tax treatment of the contributions going in and the distributions that come out.

Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs both have their benefits, and as a result, motivated retirement savers often ask a simple question: “Can I contribute to both a traditional and a Roth IRA?”

It’s an important question, but the answer requires a little background on both types of individual retirement accounts, particularly when it comes to who is eligible and the current contribution limitations. Let's start with some frequently asked questions about IRAs.

Contributing to an IRA

Anyone who earns a wage during the tax year can make a contribution to an IRA. This could be through earned income from a wage-earning job or through self-employment. In addition, married workers can also contribute to a spousal IRA on behalf of their spouse if that spouse did not have any earned income that year. Regardless, income from interest, dividends, and capital gains alone does not permit a person to contribute to an IRA.

How Much You Can Contribute to an IRA

Provided your compensation is at least as much as the amount of your contributions, taxpayers under 50 years old may currently contribute up to $5,500 per year to their IRAs. Those at least 50 years old by the end of the tax year may contribute an additional $1,000 in catch-up savings annually for a total of $6,500. The contribution limit has historically been raised to keep pace with inflation and will continue to be raised in $500 increments for every year for which there is measurable inflation.

How Your Income Affects Your Contribution Limit

Although some high-income taxpayers have IRA contribution deduction limitations, your income does not affect your ability to actually make a traditional IRA contribution. However, your income will affect the ability to deduct your contributions, and the deduction might be limited to as low as zero.

You should also recognize how your income influences the ability to make Roth IRA contributions. Certain upper-income taxpayers may not contribute to a Roth IRA due to the Roth IRA contribution limits and restrictions. With these details in mind, now let's look at whether retirement savers can have and contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA.

Contributing to a Regular and a Roth IRA

Provided you meet the earned income requirements and the income limitations for each type of IRA, you may contribute to both a Roth and a traditional IRA. In fact, many savvy investors who are qualified to make contributions to both types of IRAs do in order to reap the immediate benefits of tax-deductible contributions and the long-term benefits of tax-deferred and tax-free future income.

Others find that due to changing circumstances and incomes, their eligibility for tax-deductible contributions or ability to contribute to a Roth may change and, therefore, fund one or both accounts in the tax years in which they can.

That being said, there are still limitations to contributions. The combined amount may never exceed the annual contribution limit. For example, should a 45-year old be eligible and choose to contribute $3,500 to his Roth IRA during the 2017 tax year, the most he could contribute to a regular IRA for the same tax year would be $2,000, given the current $5,500 annual limit.

It does not matter how you split your Roth and traditional IRA contributions as long as you do not exceed the combined annual contribution limit. As this limit increases over the years, retirement planning experts expect that the annual contribution will continue to hold for both types of accounts combined.

Roth vs. Traditional IRA contributions

Still trying to figure out if a Roth or traditional IRA makes the most sense for your financial plan? You can learn more about the process of determining which option is the best for your situation by running a few simple calculations or learning how to choose the right IRA. Because it is hard to predict where tax rates are heading in the future, it helps to know that you can get the best of both account types by making contributions to both a traditional and Roth IRA.