Minimum and Maximum Age Limits for IRA Contributions

IRA age limits apply to traditional IRAs, but not to Roth IRAs.

Senior couple happy to find out they are the right to make an IRA contribution.
Think you are past the age where you can contribute to an IRA? Think again. Blend Images/Ariel Skelley/ Vetta/ Getty Images

There is a maximum IRA age limit for Traditional IRAs, but not for Roth IRAs. Here are the age-related rules that apply to making IRA contributions.

Maximum Age Limit for IRA Contributions

  • Roth IRA: There is no upper age limit to make a contribution to a Roth IRA. You must have earned income though. So, if neither your or your spouse are working then you cannot contribute to a Roth regardless of age.
  • Traditional IRA: For a Traditional IRA, once you reach the year in which you turn age 70 ½ you are no longer eligible to make a Traditional IRA contribution.

No IRA Age Limit on IRA Rollovers or Transfers

Don’t confuse IRA contributions with an IRA rollover or transfer. Some retirees mistakenly think they cannot open an IRA account and then roll their lump sum pension distribution or 401(k) plan to the IRA because they exceed the IRA age limit. This is incorrect!

An IRA contribution is not the same thing as an IRA rollover or IRA transfer. When you move money from a company sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), directly to an IRA, that is called a rollover. You can do this at any age. When you transfer money from one IRA to another IRA it is called an IRA transfer and you can do this at any age.

A contribution is new money, that was not previously in a tax-deferred account, and now you are putting it into an IRA.

The upper age limit on Traditional IRAs applies only to contributions; not to rollovers or transfers.

According to the IRS Retirement Plans Page, “You can’t make regular contributions to a traditional IRA in the year you reach 70½ and older. However, you can still contribute to a Roth IRA, and make rollover contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA regardless of your age.”

Do not confuse Roth conversions with contributions either. There is no upper age limit on your ability to convert Traditional IRA assets to a ROTH IRA. You can do this at any age.

Spousal IRA Contributions

Many people are not aware that they can make a spousal contribution to an IRA on behalf of a non-working spouse as long as one of you has enough earned income.

For example, let's assume you have reached the Traditional IRA age limit of 70 ½ and can't contribute, but your spouse is younger than you. You should still be able to make what is called a Spousal IRA contribution to their Traditional IRA, which would allow you to use the tax deduction for the IRA contribution. Spousal IRA contributions to Roth IRAs are also allowed.

Minimum Age Limit for IRA Contributions

There is not a minimum age limit to make any type of IRA contribution. However to be eligible to make an IRA contribution you must have earned income in an amount that equals or exceeds the amount of your IRA contribution. Earned income is income that is considered taxable compensation – income from wages that you worked for.

For minors, as a general rule, income earned from household chores doesn’t count, although there are ways minors can earn enough that parents can fund a Roth for them.

Other Age-Related IRA Rules

There are two additional age-related IRA rules that all IRA account holders should know.

1. Age 59 ½: this is the age at which you can access your IRA money and take withdrawals and the IRA early withdrawal penalty tax will not apply. However, ordinary income taxes will still apply. This age 59 1/2 rule applies primarily to Traditional IRAs. Roth IRAs work a little differently. With a Roth, you can withdraw your contributions anytime without an age restriction - but if investment gains or converted amounts are withdrawn then age limits or time limits are applied to determine what portion will be taxed. 

2. Age 70/12: this is the age at which you must begin to take withdrawals from Traditional IRAs and most qualified retirement plan money (such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SEPs, etc.).

These withdrawals are called required minimum distributions. Required minimum distribution rules do not apply to Roth IRAs while you are alive, however, they do apply to Designated Roth Accounts offered in a 401k plan, and they do apply to Roth IRA accounts that are inherited.