IRAs ceilings remain unchanged

Published 2:44 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

There are no changes to the contribution limits set for traditional or Roth IRAs in 2009.

The ceiling remains as it was last year: you may contribute up to $5,000 if you’re under 50 years of age, or $6,000 (using the “catch-up” provision that allows an additional $1,000 if you’re over 50 or turn 50 during 2009).

Current legislation stipulates that future limits will be adjusted for inflation in $500 increments.

It’s worth remembering that even if you contribute to an employer-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan, you can still contribute to an IRA, although you may not be able to do so with pre-tax dollars, depending on your income. Individual retirement arrangement account limits may seem small compared to salary-deferral retirement plans, but steady contributions to a tax-advantaged IRA can build up a substantial retirement nest egg.

You still have time—until April 15—to contribute to your 2008 IRA, if you haven’t yet reached the $5,000 ($6,000 if you’re 50 or over) limit.

If you have already contributed the maximum for last year, you can begin contributing for 2009 at any time. The earlier the better—early contributions have a chance to grow tax-free with any reinvested interest, dividends and capital gains that collect during the year.

If you have a non-working spouse and have enough earned income to qualify, you can also contribute to a spousal IRA (the same limits apply).

If you qualify, contributions to a traditional IRA can be made with pre-tax dollars. When funds are withdrawn, they are taxed as regular income. Anyone 70-1/2 or older has been required to take a minimum distribution every year. The amount is determined by a table provided by the Internal Revenue Service.

However, for 2009 only, the rule has been suspended.

Mandatory withdrawals are scheduled to resume in 2010. Because contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, qualified distributions are tax-free. In addition, you are not required to withdraw any money from your Roth IRA, and you may continue to contribute to it as long as you have earned income.

Planning for retirement should begin early in your working life, because years of compounding are likely to improve your chances of achieving the retirement you desire.