Can a Roth IRA Be Opened For A Married Couple?

By Motley Fool StaffFool.com

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After people get married, it's common to combine at least some of their finances. For example, most married couples have a joint checking account or joint credit card. So, a common question is "can we open one Roth IRA for both of us?"

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The short answer is no. IRA stands for "individual retirement arrangement," with individual being the key word. The IRS requires a separate tax ID number (Social Security number) for each account, so it isn't possible to open up a single account for any two people even a married couple.

Double the limit -- but in separate accountsIn order to be eligible to make a full contribution to a Roth IRA, you must be below the IRS income limits, which for 2015 is $183,000 for each person in the couple. You can make a partial contribution with income as high as $193,000. If you earn more than this amount, your ability to directly contribute to a Roth IRA goes away entirely -- although there is a "backdoor" method to contribute if your income is too high.

Assuming you qualify to contribute to a Roth, you need to open separate accounts for you and your spouse. For the 2015 tax year, each spouse can contribute up to $5,500 to their account, and an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution is allowed for each account holder over 50 years old. In other words, you and your spouse can save a total of $11,000 in your Roth IRAs each year, and up to $13,000 if you're over 50.

Furthermore, one spouse can contribute on behalf of the other. If one spouse doesn't work, or doesn't earn enough to set aside money in their Roth IRA, the other spouse can contribute up to the maximum, as long as the couple's combined income is more than the total contribution made. Only one spouse needs to have income in order for both spouses to open Roth IRAs.

Beneficiary considerationsFinally, when spouses name each other as beneficiaries on their Roth IRAs, there is a special benefit you should know about. Generally, when an IRA is inherited, it is treated as such, with mandatory required distributions. However, when a spouse inherits an IRA, they can treat it as their own, essentially combining it with their own retirement assets. Since Roth IRAs have no required minimum distributions, this means that a spouse-inherited Roth IRA can be held until the surviving spouse is ready to use it.

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