What Do I Need to Set Up a Roth IRA?

You’re ready to start investing, and that’s great. If you’ve chosen a Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) as one of your investment tools, you’re in luck. Most banks and financial institutions offer Roth IRA options, and you can set one up quite easily.

How a Roth IRA Works

A Roth IRA is an individual investment account that allows investors to contribute after-tax money that will grow until retirement age. Since contributions are already taxed, your distributions after the age of 59½ will be tax free. Contributions can be withdrawn at any time, tax- and penalty-free, even years before retirement. Need some of the earnings, too? In certain situations, those withdrawals are also allowed.

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure that you’re eligible to open a Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA). You must earn income to open an IRA, or be married and file joint taxes to open a spousal Roth IRA.
  • You’ll need basic documents to open an account, including a form of government-issued identification, your Social Security number, and account numbers for funding.
  • Once your account is open, you must choose funds, stocks, or bonds.

Am I Qualified to Open a Roth IRA?

The first step to opening a Roth IRA is determining if you’re eligible. Roth IRAs are extremely flexible, with no age limits. The only stipulation is that they must be funded using earned income.

Earned income can mean wages earned from an hourly job, a salary, bonuses, self-employment income, or even some stock sales or scholarships. Children who earn money are also eligible for a Roth IRA as long as they earn real income, such as from a part-time job or an entrepreneurial endeavor. Money earned from chores or allowance do not count as earned income.

If you are married but unemployed, you may be eligible for a spousal IRA as long as your spouse’s income falls within Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income guidelines.

For 2021, the working spouse may earn up to $198,000 in modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) to qualify for the full contribution amount. For 2022, they may earn up to $204,000. Incomes past these limits may qualify for partial contributions until their income exceeds the maximum allowed for a Roth IRA.

To open a spousal Roth IRA, you must file your taxes as married filing jointly.

These Are the Documents That You Need

Once you’ve determined your eligibility status, opening a Roth IRA is relatively simple. Most banking or investing platforms require just a few key pieces of information to open an account:

  • Driver’s license or some other form of government-issued photo identification
  • Your Social Security number
  • A way to fund the account, generally bank routing and account numbers
  • Your employer’s name and address, if applicable
  • Beneficiary information

If you’re transferring other assets or converting a traditional IRA into your new Roth IRA, then you may need the account numbers for those accounts as well.

What to Do After Opening Your Roth IRA

Once your account is open, you can transfer funds into the account from either your bank account or other investment vehicles. Make sure to choose funds to invest in—a Roth IRA is simply the investment account governed by the tax code. To grow your account, you must allocate the money in it into specific mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), index funds, or individual stocks, bonds, or other assets.

Since Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars, there’s no need to report your contributions when you file your taxes. You will receive a Form 5498 from your investment body at the end of the investing year. They file this form with the IRS, reporting how much you’ve contributed in that tax year. Keep your copy for your own records.

Can I have both a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) and a Roth IRA?

Yes. You can have both types of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and you can also have more than one Roth IRA. However, the yearly contribution limit remains the same. For 2021 and 2022, you may contribute up to $6,000 across all IRAs. People ages 50 and older may invest an additional $1,000 each year as a catch-up contribution.

Can I open a Roth IRA without a driver’s license?

Yes. You may use any form of government-issued identification, such as a non-driver’s ID, a green card, or United States-issued passport. Certain visa holders may also open a Roth IRA.

Can I fund my Roth IRA using alimony or child support?

Unfortunately, child support and alimony are not taxed income sources, so they do not count as earned income. The exception comes from taxable alimony income that was decided on or before Dec. 31, 2018.

The Bottom Line

A Roth IRA is an easy way to save for retirement using after-tax dollars to invest. With basic identification, a Social Security card, and a funding source, you can open one online at most banks or investment companies such as Fidelity, Vanguard, or with other asset management companies. Since Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars, there’s no additional reporting on your end for tax purposes.

Article Sources

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  1. Internal Revenue Service. “Topic No. 557 Additional Tax on Early Distributions from Traditional and Roth IRAs.”

  2. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — IRA Contribution Limits.”

  3. Internal Revenue Service. “Topic No. 451 Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).”

  4. Internal Revenue Service. “2022 Limitations Adjusted as Provided in Section 415(d), etc.,” Page 4.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2022.”

  6. Internal Revenue Service. “Form 5498: IRA Contribution Information.”

  7. Internal Revenue Service. “Are Child Support Payments or Alimony Payments Considered Taxable Income?

  8. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 590-A: Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs),” Page 6.

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