Mothers with young kids bore the brunt of adapting to the stay-at-home, remote-learning demands of the coronavirus, leaving jobs at three times the rate of fathers, by one count.
The loss isn't just current income. Retirement security is also at stake, with the loss of a workplace retirement plan (if you were fortunate enough to have one) and the loss of 2020 income to boost your Social Security earnings record.
Spousal IRAs. For some, a spousal IRA can partly make up for these losses. OK, if you are up on your IRA rules you might be thinking, "Hey, but don't I have to have earned income to contribute to an IRA?" Yes and no.
The general rule is indeed that someone who contributes to their IRA must also report earned income on their tax return that is at least as much as the money they stuffed in their IRA.
But in a nod to spouses who do the work of keeping the family functioning — raising kids, caring for aging parents — that doesn't come with a paycheck, the IRS allows contributing to a spousal IRA, based on the earned income of the working spouse.
Spousal IRA rules. There's still time to contribute to a 2020 IRA. The deadline for all 2020 IRA contributions is May 17, 2021.
You must file a joint federal tax return. If you use the "married filing separately" option you aren't eligible for a spousal IRA.
You can contribute based on the other spouse's earned income. If you were younger than 50 in 2020 you can contribute up to $6,000. Over 50? Your annual contribution limit for the year is $7,000.
For example, if you are younger than 50 and want to make a maximum $6,000 contribution for 2020, your joint tax return needs to show that there was $6,000 of earned income. Doesn't matter who earned it. If both of you want to make $6,000 contributions, your tax return will need to show there was at least $12,000 in income.
Manage to sock away $6,000 pronto and keep that sum alone growing for 30 more years and you will have nearly $35,000, assuming a 6% annualized rate of return. Manage to save $6,000 a year for the next five years and in 30 years you will have nearly $155,000.
It's just a normal IRA account.
There is no special "spousal" IRA account you need to sign up for. The spousal refers just to the fact that you can contribute to any IRA even if you don't have earned income of your own, but you are married and file a joint tax return.
In fact, if you already have an IRA account, you can just add to that account.
New to IRAs? Don't worry, it's not a heavy lift. A quick course in opening an IRA:
• Open an IRA account at a discount brokerage, such as Fidelity, Schwab or Vanguard. You can do it online.
• Decide if you want to contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. (Hint, a Roth IRA can be a smart option for a variety of reasons. As long as your joint income for 2020 was below $196,000 you can contribute the full $6,000 to a Roth IRA. The limit is $198,000 for 2021 contributions.)
• Set up auto contributions for 2021 while you are at it. You need to polish off contributing to a 2020 IRA by May 17. But you have until April 15, 2022, to make contributions to a 2021 IRA.
• Choose the TDF. A target date fund can be a terrific workaround to keep your money instantly diversified in an age-appropriate mix of stocks and bonds.
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