When the movie 300 debuted my best friends and our wives all journeyed just under two hours to the closest IMAX theater excited to to catch an awesome flick. We were so pumped right up until we arrived to the ticket window and the show was sold out. Have you ever been so excited for something only to find out you weren't eligible to get in? For some, the Roth IRA has been “the” thing to have, but many have income limits that prevent them from partaking. Not sure what the Roth IRA eligibility guidelines are? Let's take a closer look at all the guidelines for Roth IRA eligibility.
Don't worry. If you think your Roth IRA ticket is sold out, there is a strategy that might let you in through the backdoor 🙂
Are You Old Enough?
For all the kids out there, don't worry- the Roth IRA is not a Rated R movie. Minors are just as eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA as easy as seniors are. Think of the Roth IRA as the “movie for all ages.”
A minor is eligible to open a Roth IRA so as long as they have “earned income”. Babysitting won't cut won’t cut; either will mowing your neighbor’s lawn. Your child will actually have to get a W-2 or 1099 showing real money made. This goes for senior citizens, too.
Roth IRA Contribution Limits
Contribution limits have stayed at $5,000 for 2010. For boomers over the age of 50, you are entitled to catch up. Catch up contribution remain at $1,000 for 2010 for a total contribution limit of $6,000. If you’re married, that’s $6,000 for you and your spouse.
MAGI Affects Roth IRA Eligibility
MAGI is not an Oscar nominated flick starring Sandra Bullock, it stands for Modified Adjusted Gross Income. Most people believe that the Roth IRA eligibility is based on your gross income, but that is not the case. Your MAGI calculation will be the triggering number to determine if you exceed the phaseout limits to be able to contribute to a Roth IRA.
For those that fall in the middle of the phaseout range, it can be tricky trying to find out how much you can exactly contribute to a Roth. Below is three examples of how much you’ll be able to contribute based on your MAGI. For the purposes of the illustrations, we’ll be assuming that is an individual filing single.
Phaseout Examples for Roth IRA Eligibility
Example 1: MAGI is $95,000. This is pretty basic. Contribution allowed is $5000. So far, so good.
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Example 2: MAGI is $135,000. Bummer! Sorry Charlie, you make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA. You still have the backdoor Roth IRA option, though.
Example 3: MAGI is $115,000. This is where it gets a wee bit complicated. You might want to break out your calculators on this one or just follow these easy steps.
- Step 1. Find the amount of the phase for you. In our example, the phase is $15,000. ($120,000-$105,000).
- Step 2. Subtract your AGI from the upper amount of the phase. We would use $120,000-$115,000 = $5000.
- Step 3. Divide the amount in Step 2 ($5000) by the phase range ($15000) to arrive at .3333 or 33.33%
- Step 4. Take 33.33% of the contribution limit of $5000 for a total contribution limit of $1666.67. So $1666.67 is the full amount that a single/head of household under the age of 50 could contribute to their Roth IRA with an MAGI of $115,000. If you need to take a water break after that one, I totally understand.
Guidelines for the Roth IRA Conversion
Whether you are filing as an individual or married filing joint, the adjusted gross income level of $100,000 will become nonexistent for the Roth IRA conversions of 2010. For higher wage earners, this is a prime opportunity to convert money into the Roth IRA for the possibility to have tax-free growth at retirement.
Don’t Forget the Nondeductible IRA Account
In the past, there was nothing all that attractive about the nondeductible IRA. It was kind of like the movie that nobody went to see until it was nominated for an Oscar. You did get tax deferral, but no immediate tax deduction and you still had to pay tax at retirement. The Roth IRA conversion event of 2010 has given the nondeductible IRA Oscar like status, allowing high wage earners a backdoor way into the Roth. If you are not eligible to contribute new money into a Roth IRA in 2010, you can open up a traditional non-deductible IRA and immediately convert it to a Roth.
A few words of caution: if you already have pre-existing traditional IRA's, you will have to pay a pro-rate share of the tax if you try to convert the non-deductible IRA. Refer to my post that discusses the Roth IRA conversion tax rules.
Eligibility is a Virtue
With the Roth IRA now a reality for all investors to take advantage of, it's time for you to really consider starting a Roth. You can always rewind a movie and start it over in case you missed the best part. When it comes to saving for retirement, you get one shot- so make it count!
*Restrictions, penalties and taxes may apply. Unless certain criteria are met, Roth IRA owners must be 59 1/2 or older and have held the IRA for 5 years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. A Roth IRA should be considered as an option but not everyone reading this blog should open one.