Can You Have a Traditional and a Roth IRA?

Maximize your retirement savings if you're eligible for both

A senior couple meets with a financial planner.
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Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs are great ways to save for retirement, and you can open them even if you already have an employer-sponsored retirement plan. You can have both a traditional and a Roth IRA, and you can even open them in the same year. But how much you can contribute to each per year depends on eligibility factors and contribution limitations.

Learn the differences between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA and whether you should choose just one or contribute to both.

Key Takeaways

  • You can contribute to both types of IRAs as long as you meet the eligibility requirements and limits.
  • Contributions to Roth IRAs are made with after-tax dollars. Contributions to traditional IRAs are typically made with pretax dollars.
  • Your total IRA contributions are capped at $6,000 in 2022, but you're permitted to make another $1,000 in catch-up contributions if you're age 50 or older.
  • Your taxable income cannot exceed $144,000 in 2022 if you're single or $214,000 if you're married and filing jointly to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Traditional IRAs vs. Roth IRAs: What Are the Differences?

The major distinction between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA is the characterization of the money you contribute to each.

Traditional IRAs Roth IRAs
Contributions are tax-deductible. Contributions are not tax-deductible.
Savings are taxed upon withdrawal. Savings are tax-free at withdrawal.
Earnings and growth are taxable upon withdrawal. Earnings and growth are tax-free if withdrawals are "qualified."
You must begin taking withdrawals known as required minimum distributions by a certain year. You don't have to take the required minimum distributions.

Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars. You won't be taxed on the principal when you withdraw that money later in retirement because you've already paid tax on the money. You can stay invested in a Roth IRA as long as you like. There's no age at which you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs).

Contributions to traditional IRAs typically are typically made with pretax dollars. You can claim a tax deduction for those amounts in the year you make them. Traditional IRA distributions from principal are therefore subject to taxation in the year you take them.

You must begin taking required minimum distributions from a traditional IRA after you reach age 70 1/2 unless you turn 70 on July 1, 2019, or later. The SECURE Act of 2019 allows you to wait until age 72 to start taking distributions in this case.

Money in a Roth IRA grows tax-free if distributions are qualified: You're age 59 1/2 or older at the time you make the withdrawal and you've held the IRA for at least five years.

IRA Contribution Limits

Your total IRA contributions are capped at $6,000 a year as of 2022, whether you have one type of IRA or both. But you're permitted an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions for a total of $7,000 if you're age 50 or older.

This contribution limit applies to all your IRAs combined. Your total contributions for all accounts combined can't total more than $6,000 (or $7,000 for those ages 50 and up) if you have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. You get to decide how to allocate the contribution. You can put $50 in a traditional IRA and the remaining $5,950 in a Roth IRA, or you can put the maximum amount in just one IRA. It's up to you.

You'll have to pay a 6% excise tax on the excess if you make a mistake and contribute more than your legal limit to an IRA, unless you catch the mistake and correct it in time.

Anyone who has taxable income during the tax year can make a contribution to an IRA, whether that income is the result of a wage-earning job or earned through self-employment. But income from interest, dividends, and capital gains doesn't count as earned income for IRA contributions.

You can't contribute more to an IRA than you earned in the year. You could only put $4,000 into an IRA if your taxable income was $4,000. But a married worker can contribute to a spousal IRA on behalf of their spouse if their spouse didn't earn income during the year.

How Your Income Affects IRA Contribution Limits

Some high-income taxpayers have IRA contribution deduction limitations, but income doesn't affect your ability to make traditional IRA contributions. It only affects whether you can claim a tax deduction for contributing that money.

Roth IRA contributions are different. Certain upper-income taxpayers can't contribute to Roth accounts due to restrictions associated with these accounts. Your taxable income can't exceed $144,000 in 2022 if you're single or file as head of household. The limit is $214,000 if you're married and file a joint return.

You can contribute a portion of the $6,000/$7,000 limit if your income falls between $129,000 and $144,000 and you're single or head of household, or between $204,000 and $214,000 if you're married and file a joint return. You can only contribute up to the full limit if you earn less than $129,000 or $204,000 respectively.

Your taxable income couldn't exceed $140,000 if you were single, or $208,000 if you were married and filing jointly, in tax year 2021. Contribution limits began phasing out or decreasing at $125,000 for single filers and $198,000 for those married filing jointly in 2021.

Married taxpayers who file separate returns and who lived with their spouses at any time during the tax year are subject to much more stringent limits: just $10,000 in income, and they can only make partial contributions. They don't qualify for the full $6,000 or $7,000 limit at all.

Should You Contribute to a Traditional and a Roth IRA?

You can contribute to both types of IRAs as long as you meet all the requirements. You'll reap the immediate benefits of tax-deductible contributions if you contribute to a traditional IRA. You'll potentially get the long-term benefits of tax-free retirement income if you contribute to a Roth.

Your income might change over time, affecting your eligibility to contribute to a Roth. You might want to fund only one type of account or both accounts, depending on your situation.

You can determine which option is best for you by running a few simple calculations. Ask yourself whether you expect your income to rise or fall over time, and whether you expect your tax bracket to be higher or lower after you retire. Plot a few scenarios using this information to see what the effects of your investment choices might be.

It's hard to predict where tax rates are headed in the future, so it helps to know that you can get the best of these account types by making contributions to both a traditional and a Roth IRA when possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many IRAs can I have?

You can have as many traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs as you like. A brokerage may limit you to one account per account type, but you can always open additional accounts with another brokerage. But opening multiple Roth IRAs or traditional IRAs is not a way to get around the contribution limits. They still apply as a total limit across all your accounts.

When will IRA contribution limits for the next year be announced?

The IRS typically provides inflation adjustment figures in the fall. But IRA contribution limits aren't always adjusted or increased every year. The $6,000/$7,000 contribution limits have been in place since 2019.

Article Sources

  1. Internal Revenue Service. "IRA FAQs."

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Traditional and Roth IRAs."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Topics - IRA Contribution Limits."

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2022."

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Retirement Topics — Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)."

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 550 (2021), Investment Incomes and Taxes."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2021."