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2019 Roth IRA eligibility, income, contribution limits, and more

Quick Summary

  • You can contribute to a Roth IRA only if your income is less than a certain amount.
  • The maximum contribution for 2019 is $6,000; if you’re age 50 or over, it’s $7,000.
  • You can withdraw contributions tax-free at any time, for any reason.
  • You can withdraw earnings, but it may trigger taxes and penalties.

A Roth IRA can be an excellent way to stash money away for your golden years. Of course, like other tax-advantaged retirement plans, the IRS has specific rules regarding Roth IRAs, including contribution limits, income limits, and how you can withdraw your money.

Roth IRA Contribution Limits

You can contribute to a Roth IRA at any age if you have earned income from a job. There are two ways to get earned income: Work for someone else who pays you, or own a business or farm.

Earned income includes wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, and disability retirement benefits. Some types of income don’t count, including alimony, child support, income from rental property, investment earnings, retirement income, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and pay you receive while an inmate in a penal institution.

For 2019, the contribution limit is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re age 50 and over. If your earned income is less than the contribution limit, you can only contribute up to your earned income. For example, if your earned income is $4,000, that’s the most you can contribute.

Roth IRA Income Limits

The IRS uses income limits that restrict higher-income earners. The limits are based on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and tax-filing status.

MAGI is calculated by taking the adjusted gross income from your tax return and adding back deductions for things like student loan interest, self-employment taxes, and higher education expenses (here’s an explanation from the IRS).

In general, you can contribute the full amount (for 2019, that’s $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re age 50 and up) if your MAGI is below a certain amount. If your MAGI is in the Roth IRA phase-out range, you can make a partial contribution. You can’t contribute at all if your MAGI exceeds the limits. Here are the Roth IRA income and contribution limits for 2019:

2019 Roth IRA Income and Contribution Limits
Filing Status MAGI Contribution Limit
Married filing jointly Less than $193,000 $6,000*
$193,000 to $202,999 Begin to phase out
$203,000 or more Ineligible for a direct Roth IRA (learn more about a “Backdoor Roth IRA”)
Married filing separately** Less than $10,000 Begin to phase out
 $10,000 or more Ineligible for a direct Roth IRA (learn more about a “Backdoor Roth IRA”)
Single Less than $122,000 $6,000*
$122,000 to $136,999 Begin to phase out
$137,000 or more Ineligible for a direct Roth IRA (learn more about a “Backdoor Roth IRA”)

*If you’re age 50 and over, you can contribute up to $1,000 extra per year to “catch up” for a total of $7,000.

**Married (filing separately) can use the limits for single people if they have not lived with their spouse in the past year.

Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules

You can take out your Roth IRA contributions at any time, for any reason, without owing any taxes or penalties. Withdrawals on earnings work differently. In general, you can withdraw earnings without penalties or taxes as long as you’re 59 ½ or older and you’ve owned the account for at least five years (the “5-year rule”).

Your withdrawals may be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty, depending on your age and whether you meet the 5-year rule.

If you meet the 5-year rule:
  • Under 59 ½: Earnings are subject to taxes and penalties. You may be able to avoid taxes and penalties if you use the money for a first-time home purchase or if you become disabled or pass away (and your beneficiary takes the distribution).
  • Over 59 ½: No taxes or penalties.
If you don’t meet the 5-year rule:
  • Under 59 ½: Earnings are subject to taxes and penalties. You may be able to avoid the penalty (but not the taxes) if you use the money for a first-time home purchase, qualified education expenses, unreimbursed medical expenses, or if you become disabled or pass away (and your beneficiary takes the distribution).
  • Over 59 ½: Earnings are subject to taxes but not penalties.

Other Roth IRA Rules

  • Roth IRAs don’t have age limits. You can continue to contribute well past your retirement age. Also, you can open a Roth IRA for your child, as long as he or she has earned income for the year.
  • 15 months to contribute. You have 15 months to make a contribution for the current tax year. In 2019, for instance, you can contribute any time from Jan. 1, 2019, to April 15, 2020 (the tax filing deadline).
  • No RMDs. Unlike traditional IRAs, there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) for Roth IRAs.
  • Non-working spouses. A non-working spouse can open a Roth IRA based on the working spouse’s earnings (and the couple’s tax filing status).
  • Backdoor Roth IRAs. If you make too much money, you may be able to get around income limits by converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.

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