Does My Spouse Need a Separate IRA?

An individual retirement account, known as an IRA, allows you to save for retirement. As the name implies, an IRA is solely for your retirement. If your spouse is not offered the option to contribute to an IRA, you may worry about protecting her financial future. Depending on your finances, you and your spouse might want to explore separate IRAs to maximize your retirement savings and tax deductions.

IRA Savings

There is no such thing as jointly owned IRA. Since there are annual contribution limits imposed for both traditional and Roth IRAs, having two separate IRAs allows you to save the most money towards retirement. At the time of publication, the maximum contribution amount per year is $5,000. If you are over age 50, the limit is raised to $6,000.


Although you cannot own an IRA together, you can designate your spouse as the beneficiary. When you name a beneficiary, the funds in the account bypass the probate process. You can update your beneficiary at any time by completing a simple form provided by your IRA custodian. If you get divorced, it is important to change your beneficiary because a divorce decree alone is not always enough.

Spousal IRA

If your spouse has little or no income, you can choose to establish a spousal IRA. A spousal IRA is not a special type of account. It is simply an IRA funded with contributions from a spouse. To qualify for a spousal IRA, you must be married to your spouse at the end of the tax year. You are also required to file a joint federal income tax return. Your taxable compensation must exceed your spouse's taxable compensation for that year.

Income Restrictions

Traditional IRA contributions are tax deductible. With a traditional IRA, there are no income limits for contributing to the account. However, there are deduction limits. At the time of publication, the IRA deduction for married couples begins to phase out when your adjusted gross income reaches $90,000 and is phased out completely at $110,000. Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible. The amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA is based on your income. If your combined AGI is below $173,000, you are allowed to contribute the maximum amount to your Roth IRA. The contribution amount declines with an income between $173,000 to $183,000. No contributions are allowed for an income above $183,000.