Spousal IRA

A spousal IRA allows you to contribute to an individual retirement account for your spouse — if your spouse has little or no income. Spousal IRAs bypass the federal regulation that someone has to have earned income to contribute to an IRA. They have the same contribution limits as other IRA types. In 2024, the contribution limit is the same as other types of IRAs: $7,000 per individual contributor with an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution for people 50 and over.

Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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  • Edited By
    Lee Williams
    Lee Williams, senior editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lee Williams

    Senior Financial Editor

    Lee Williams is a professional writer, editor and content strategist with 10 years of professional experience working for global and nationally recognized brands. He has contributed to Forbes, The Huffington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, AskMen.com, Electric Literature and The Wall Street Journal. His career also includes ghostwriting for Fortune 500 CEOs and published authors.

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  • Reviewed By
    Ebony J. Howard, CPA
    Ebony J. Howard, CPA

    Ebony J. Howard, CPA

    Credentialed Tax Expert at Intuit

    Ebony J. Howard is a certified public accountant and freelance consultant with a background in accounting, personal finance, and income tax planning and preparation.  She specializes in analyzing financial information in the health care, banking and real estate sectors.

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  • Published: January 5, 2021
  • Updated: October 6, 2023
  • 4 min read time
  • This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
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APA Turner, T. (2023, October 6). Spousal IRA. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/investing/accounts/ira/spousal/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Spousal IRA." RetireGuide.com, 6 Oct 2023, https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/investing/accounts/ira/spousal/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Spousal IRA." RetireGuide.com. Last modified October 6, 2023. https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/investing/accounts/ira/spousal/.

What Is a Spousal IRA?

Generally, you can only contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) if you have earned income. But a spousal IRA lets you get around this regulation if one spouse has little or no earned income.

Earned income includes wages, salaries, tips and other taxable income you earn.

You are eligible for a spousal IRA if you file a joint tax return and one spouse reports earned income, but the other spouse has little or no earned income.

The couple can contribute money to a spousal IRA for the partner without earned income.

Did You Know?
If neither you nor your spouse participated in a retirement plan at work, you can deduct all contributions to your IRA and a spousal IRA from your federal income tax — as long as you file jointly.

Why Consider a Spousal IRA?

In addition to the tax advantages of socking away retirement savings for a spouse, spousal IRAs can be an important part of retirement planning for a spouse outside the workforce, or a spouse who take breaks from the workforce to raise their children as stay at home parents.

This situation tends to affect women disproportionately when it comes to retirement savings. The Employment Benefits Research Institute has found that women typically have much lower average IRA balances than men have.

IRA Savings Gap Chart

Maintaining a spousal IRA can help fill in retirement savings gaps for a spouse who leaves the workforce — even if it’s only temporary.

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How Does a Spousal IRA Work?

Spousal IRAs are not a special type of individual retirement account. They are standard IRAs used by someone who’s married. Both spouses can use either a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

If one spouse is working and the other spouse isn’t, the working spouse can contribute up to the maximum amount in his or her IRA. Then, the working spouse can contribute up to the maximum amount in the non-working spouse’s IRA.

Individual retirement accounts give you a tax break, either when you contribute or when you take money out after retirement.

Tax Breaks for Individual Retirement Accounts
Traditional IRA
Your contributions are typically tax deductible and you don’t pay taxes on your contributions or IRA earnings until you retire and withdraw money from the IRA.
Roth IRA
You have to pay income taxes on the money you contribute to a Roth IRA, but your earnings on the account and the withdrawals you make after retirement are tax-free.
Taxes on IRA Withdrawals

You can open a spousal IRA through any bank, financial institution, mutual fund, life insurance company or stock broker that deals in IRAs. These can be in physical locations or online.

Once you set it up, you can choose assets in which you want to invest your contributions.


Contribution Limits and Regulations for Spousal IRAs

In 2024, the standard contribution limit for an individual retirement account was set at $7,000, but you can contribute an additional $1,000 if you are 50 or older. This limit applies to both traditional and Roth IRAs.

The total contributions to the working spouse’s IRA and the non-working spouse’s IRA cannot be more than the couple’s total taxable income reported in their tax return.

There are also rules on how you have to file your tax return and who owns the spousal IRA.

Spousal IRA Rules
  • A couple has to file their taxes as “married filing jointly.”
  • A non-working spouse can open a traditional or Roth IRA only if he or she qualifies based on the income limit for that IRA.
  • A spousal IRA is not owned by the couple, but by the non-working spouse named in the IRA.
  • Spousal IRAs are standard IRAs that are simply opened in the spouse’s name.
  • There are no age restrictions on contributing to a spousal IRA.

There are no income limits on how much a couple can contribute to traditional IRAs. But there are income limits the couple have to meet before setting up any Roth IRA.

The maximum amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA is determined by your income. The IRS uses a phase-out range based on your annual income and tax filing status. In 2024, it is $230,000 to $240,000.

If your income falls below the low number, you can make the contributions up to the full limit — $7,000 in 2024.

If your income falls within that range, your contribution limits are reduced. If your income exceeds the upper income threshold, you are not eligible to make any contributions to the IRA.


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Last Modified: October 6, 2023

7 Cited Research Articles

  1. Internal Revenue Service. (2020, December 4). Retirement Topics – IRA Contribution Limits. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-ira-contribution-limits
  2. Internal Revenue Service. (2020, November 9). What Is Earned Income? Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit/earned-income-and-earned-income-tax-credit-eitc-tables#Earned%20Income
  3. Employee Benefits Research Institute. (2020, September 17(. EBRI IRA Database: IRA Balances, Contributions, Rollovers, Withdrawals, and Asset Allocation, 2017 Update. Retrieved from https://www.ebri.org/docs/default-source/ebri-issue-brief/ebri_ib_513_iras-17sept20.pdf?sfvrsn=a8103a2f_6
  4. Internal Revenue Service. (2020, February 24). Publication 590-A (2019), Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/publications/p590a
  5. VanDerhei, J. (2019, January 17). How Retirement Readiness Varies by Gender and Family Status: A Retirement Savings Shortfall Assessment of Gen Xers. Retrieved from https://www.ebri.org/content/how-retirement-readiness-varies-by-gender-and-family-status-a-retirement-savings-shortfall-assessment-of-gen-xers
  6. Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. (n.d.). Spousal IRAs. Retrieved from https://wiserwomen.org/fact-sheets/investment-basics-and-types/spousal-iras/
  7. FINRA. (n.d.). Individual Retirement Accounts. Retrieved from https://www.finra.org/investors/learn-to-invest/types-investments/retirement/individual-retirement-accounts