Individual Retirement Account

Article byKosha Mehta
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Definition

Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) enable people to make tax-deferred investments to ensure their financial stability in retirement. IRA is a straightforward and user-friendly vehicle for accumulating savings for one’s retirement.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

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A wide variety of choices are available regarding IRA account types and investment techniques. Individuals can choose the one that suits them best in terms of contribution, income, and withdrawal specifications. Contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can be made by individuals who do or do not have a source of regular income.

Key Takeaways

  • Individual retirement accounts, known as IRAs, are savings accounts for retirement that offer certain tax benefits.
  • Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs are the several types of individual retirement accounts.
  • If money is taken out of an IRA before the owner turns 59 and a half, the owner is subject to a significant tax penalty equal to 10% of the amount taken out of the account.
  • IRAs are designed to be long-term savings vehicles for retirement. Withdrawing money before retirement defeats the point of having the account in the first place.

How Does An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Work?

An IRA is a type of savings account for retirement that allows a person to avoid paying taxes on the growth of investments and offers a variety of other tax benefits.

An individual’s money may grow within an IRA tax-free, making it one of the most useful instruments to plan for a financially secure retirement. Because of this unique approach, one will see compound growth in addition to what one would see in a taxed investment account.

Consider the following example: if one puts away $5,000 each year for the next four decades in an individual retirement account (IRA), earning an average annual return of 7%, they would have just over one million dollars by the time they retired.

Given the effect of income taxes and capital gains taxes from the trades necessary to oversee their portfolio over a period of four decades, if one builds the same investment in a taxable brokerage account, one would have just under half of that amount. But, again, this is because they would have been required to manage portfolios more frequently. Because of this, putting money away in an account that offers favorable tax treatment might significantly boost retirement savings.

Depending on whether one chooses to invest in a standard IRA or a Roth IRA, by standard individual retirement account definition IRAs come with additional tax benefits that one may take advantage of.

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Following are the types of IRA.

Individual Retirement Account Types

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#1 – Traditional IRA

In the traditional IRA format, Donations are often deductible from taxable income. IRA profits are exempt from taxes until the account holder reaches retirement age, at which point withdrawals are taxed as income. If an employer does not provide a retirement plan, contributions to a regular IRA are eligible for a hundred percent tax deduction.

#2 – Roth IRA: 

 in a Roth IRA contributions are made with money that has already been taxed and therefore does not qualify for a tax deduction; nevertheless, both profits and withdrawals are exempt from taxation.

#3 – SEP IRA

It is an Individual Retirement Arrangement that enables an employer, often a small business or a self-employed individual, to pay retirement plan contributions into a regular IRA formed in the employee’s name.


This is an option for proprietors of small enterprises who do not have access to any other type of retirement savings program. In a manner analogous to that of a 401(k) plan, the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees, or SIMPLE, Individual Retirement Account (IRA), makes it possible for both employees and employers to make contributions. However, the administration of the SIMPLE IRA is much easier and less expensive, and the contribution limits are significantly lower.


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act was passed in 1974 when individual retirement plans were first made available (ERISA). Contributions made by taxpayers may be deducted from their taxable income. Up to the lesser of fifteen percent of their yearly income or $1,500 each year, whichever was lower. Contributions would decrease taxpayers’ taxable income by that amount. The contributions might be placed in a trust that a bank or an insurance firm manages. They could also invest in a special United States bond, which pays an interest rate of six percent.

Initially, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 placed restrictions on who might open an IRA. However, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 made amendments. It made it possible for taxpayers working and under 70, to make contributions to an individual retirement account. Additionally, it increased the maximum yearly contribution to $2,000. It also enabled members to contribute $250 on behalf of a spouse who does not work outside the home.

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 eliminated, step by step, the deduction for individual retirement account (IRA) contributions for workers who were already captured by a job retirement plan and earned more than $35,000 if filing as a single person or more than $50,000 if filing as a married couple. However, contributions made by other taxpayers that aren’t tax deductible can still be sent to IRAs.

The maximum amount that could be contributed to an IRA was $1,500 between the years 1975 and 1981. It gradually increased over time. It is $6,000 between the years 2019 and 2021. In addition, people who were over the age of 50 in 2002 were allowed to make catch-up contributions. It means they could contribute an additional amount of up to $1,000.


Let us have a look at the following examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Sam decided to form an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) since he was aware that saving through an IRA results in lower overall expenditures in terms of current spending. For example, in order to put $1,000 into a standard savings account, he will need to cut his annual spending on goods and services by the same amount. But as an individual, he falls in the tax bracket with a marginal rate of thirty percent. Thus it is possible to save one thousand dollars by cutting expenditures for present goods and services by only seven hundred dollars. This is because one thousand dollars minus the three hundred dollars in tax does not need to be paid on one thousand dollars contributed to an IRA.

Example #2

An article published by Nasdaq provides readers with information on the top six investments that may be made using a Roth IRA. They underline that Roth IRAs provide one of the greatest methods to save for retirement, and many analysts believe them to be the best retirement account. This is one of the reasons why they are so popular. This is because Roth IRA funds can grow tax-free for several years and then be withdrawn tax-free when reaching retirement age.

Pros And Cons

The following are the advantages of an IRA.

#1 – Easily accessible

An individual or their spouse just needs to have taxable income to form a typical IRA and contribute to it. An IRA may be opened quickly and easily at many banks and brokerage firms. There is also the option of going the automated route. In this case, investments will be regularly monitored and rebalanced to assist in achieving objectives.

#2 – Tax-Advantaged

Users won’t have to pay taxes on untaxed earnings or contributions until they reach the age of 72 when they are obligated to begin receiving distributions from their traditional individual retirement account (IRA). This is the primary benefit of traditional IRAs. In addition, when a user opens a traditional IRA, it requires a larger initial investment than a standard brokerage account. Therefore, investing more now and continuing, is likely to help people have more money to withdraw when they retire.

#3 – Flexible And Varied Options

According to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, just 67% of people in the United States have exposure to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k). Even if a person does have one, an IRA enables them to dodge several 401(k) issues. However, they get to retain everything that is put into an IRA. Even if a person transfers employment in the future, they won’t lose access to their IRA. If they wish, they may even roll over assets from their previous 401(k) into a new IRA. Having own Individual Retirement Account (IRA), one can tailor an investment strategy. This helps meet specific retirement objectives, risk tolerance, and financial circumstances.

The following are the disadvantages of IRA.

#1 – Minimal Yearly Contribution Caps 

Using individual retirement accounts as a vehicle for saving for retirement comes with a few drawbacks. One of which is that the yearly contribution limitations are rather modest. For example, the maximum amount that may be contributed to a 401(k) plan in 2022 is $20,500. But the maximum amount that can be contributed to an IRA is just $6,000. However, if a person is at least 50 years old, the ceiling increases to $7,000.

#2 – Early Withdrawal Fees

There are instances in which early withdrawal fees apply to IRAs. For example, an individual has a conventional Individual Retirement Account. Also, they remove money from the account before reaching the age of 59 1/2. In that case, that individual will typically be subject to a 10% penalty on top of the regular income tax.

#3 – Required Minimum Distributions

Required minimum distributions are a feature of certain types of IRAs. Once users reach 72, they need to take the required minimum distributions. These are also known as required minimum contributions, from any conventional individual retirement account (IRA).

Individual Retirement Account Vs. 401k

  • In 2022, the maximum amount one may contribute to conventional and Roth IRAs combined is limited to $6,000. It is $7,000 for people aged 50 or older. In 2022, the maximum amount for a 401(k) is $20,500 (or $27,000 for individuals at least 50 years old).
  • Compared to 401(k)s, IRAs have lower contribution caps (k).
  • If an individual does not have a 401(k), experts recommend funding IRA or a Roth IRA first. Then, after reaching the IRA contribution limit, one should start making contributions to 401(k).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are individual retirement accounts?

An individual retirement account, sometimes known as an IRA, is a type of long-term savings account that people who have earned income may use to put money down for the foreseeable while also taking advantage of certain tax benefits.

What is a roth individual retirement account?

Per the laws of the United States, an individual retirement account known as a Roth IRA is one that, in most cases, does not result in the payment of taxes upon withdrawal, provided that certain requirements are satisfied. Although Roth IRAs do not contain a matching contribution from the employer, they offer to provide a wider range of investing opportunities.

When did individual retirement accounts start?

Traditional IRAs were first made available by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 helped to popularize them. 1996’s Small Business Job Protection Act created the SIMPLE IRA, a feasible alternative to the 401(k) in many situations.

This article is a guide to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and its definition. Here, we explain its working, history, types examples, and pros & cons. You may also find some useful articles here:

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