What Is a Traditional IRA?

Traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) can be a good way to save for retirement. If you do not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or would like to supplement that plan, a traditional IRA could work for you.

A traditional IRA is simply a tax-deferred savings account that has several investing options and is set up through an investment institution. For instance, an IRA can include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cash equivalents, real estate, and other investment vehicles.

One of the benefits of a traditional IRA is the potential for tax-deductible contributions. You may be eligible to make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $7,000 ($8,000 if you are 50 or older) in 2024, an increase of $500 from 2023. Contribution limits are indexed annually for inflation.

You can contribute directly to a traditional IRA or you can transfer assets directly from another type of qualified plan, such as a SEP or a SIMPLE IRA. Rollovers may also be made from a qualified employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), after you change jobs or retire. (Make sure you understand the pros and cons of rolling funds from an employer plan to an IRA, including leaving the funds in your employer plan if the plan allows it, before you take any action. You may also be able to rollover the funds to your new employer's plan if the plan allows it,)

Not everyone contributing to a traditional IRA is eligible for a tax deduction. If you are an active participant in a qualified workplace retirement plan — such as a 401(k) or a simplified employee pension plan — your IRA deduction may be reduced or eliminated, based on your income.

In 2024, for example, if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is $77,000 or less as a single filer or $123,000 or less for married couples filing jointly, you can receive the full tax deduction. On the other hand, if your AGI is more than $87,000 as a single filer or $143,000 for married couples filing jointly, you are not eligible for a tax deduction. Partial deductions are allowed for single filers whose incomes are between $77,000 and $87,000 (up from $73,000 and $83,000 in 2023) or between $123,000 and $143,000 for married couples filing jointly (up from $116,000 and $136,000 in 2023). If you are not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you are eligible for a full tax deduction.

Nondeductible contributions may necessitate some very complicated paperwork when you begin withdrawals from your account. If your contributions are not tax deductible, you may be better served by another retirement plan, such as a Roth IRA. (The maximum combined annual contribution an individual can make to traditional and Roth IRAs is $7,000 in 2024 (up from $6,500 in 2023.)

The funds in a traditional IRA accumulate tax deferred, which means you do not have to pay taxes until you start receiving distributions in retirement, a time when you might be in a lower tax bracket. Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income. Withdrawals taken prior to age 59½ may also be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty unless an exception applies.

You must begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a traditional IRA starting no later than April 1 of the year after the year you reach 73 (for individuals who reach age 72 after December 31, 2022). If you attained age 72 in 2022 or earlier, you are already required to take annual RMDs. The RMD age will rise to 75 in 2033. If you do not take the required minimum distribution, a penalty of 25% will be assessed on the RMD amount that should have been taken, dropping to 10% if timely corrected by making up the missed RMD. "Timely" means corrected generally in 2 years (unless the penalty is assessed earlier). Of course, you can always withdraw more than the required minimum amount or even withdraw the entire balance as a lump sum.

An IRA can be a valuable addition to your retirement and tax management efforts. By working with a financial professional, you can determine whether a traditional IRA would be appropriate for you.


The information in this newsletter is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the ­purpose of ­avoiding any ­federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek guidance from an independent tax or legal professional. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the ­purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2024 Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.