Ask a Fool: Am I Eligible to Invest in a Roth IRA?

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Q: I'd like to start a Roth IRA in 2017. What are the eligibility requirements?

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The first requirement to contribute to any IRA is having earned income. For the 2017 tax year, your IRA contributions are capped at a maximum of $5,500 ($6,500 if you're 50 or older) or your earned income, whichever is lower. If all of your income is from passive sources, like investments, you cannot contribute to an IRA.

Assuming that you earn income, you then need to make sure you don't earn too much. Unlike a traditional IRA, whether you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan or not has no influence on your ability to benefit from a Roth IRA.

Instead, Roth IRA income limits apply to everyone. For the 2017 tax year, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be below $186,000 if you're married, filing jointly or below $118,000 if you're single/head of household in order to make a full Roth IRA contribution in 2017.

If your income exceeds these thresholds, but is less than $196,000 (married, filing jointly) or $133,000 (single/head of household), you can make a partial contribution. Married individuals filing separately cannot make a Roth IRA contribution at all if they earn more than $10,000 in 2017, and may be able to make a partial contribution if they earn less than that amount.

Finally, it's important to mention that even if you exceed the AGI threshold, you can contribute to a Roth IRA indirectly using the "backdoor" method, which basically involves contributing to a traditional IRA and immediately converting the account to a Roth IRA.

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