Can You Open a Roth IRA for Someone Else?

Yes, and here are the rules to make sure that you’re doing it the right way

If you have a Roth individual retirement account (IRA), you probably already know that it’s a great way to save for your later years. But if you want to help a loved one kick-start their retirement fund, can you open a Roth IRA for someone else? You can, and here’s how.

Key Takeaways

  • A Roth individual retirement account (IRA) makes a great gift for children and teenagers because they can take full advantage of many years of tax-free compounding.
  • You can give a minor child a Roth IRA by establishing a custodial account for them and helping to fund it.
  • To contribute to a Roth IRA, the account holder must have earned income for the year, but that can include jobs like babysitting.
  • You can also give someone a Roth IRA by designating them as your account beneficiary upon your death.

Open a Custodial Roth IRA

There are several ways that you can gift a Roth IRA. One is opening a custodial account for a minor. Let’s say you’re a parent or grandparent who wants to help kids secure their financial futures. Instead of just telling them about Roth IRAs (although that’s fine, too), you could start one for them in their name.

Since they’re minors, it has to be a custodial account. An increasing number of brokerages offer these Roth IRAs for kids. Some firms even waive or reduce their usual account minimums to set one up.

A Roth IRA can help a child save not only for retirement but also for college or a first home. Opening a Roth may even encourage the child to get a job or start a little side business so they can add money to the account.

Once the child is no longer a minor, you can still give them money each year to help fund their Roth accounts, as long as they meet the earned income and other requirements.

Note

If you contribute to someone else’s Roth IRA, that money will count against your limit on tax-free gifts that you can give that person annually. For 2022, the limit is $16,000 per person.

Earned Income Requirements for Roth IRAs

One potential hitch in funding a Roth IRA for a minor child is that the account owner (in this case, the child) must have taxable compensation during the year for which the contribution is made.

Taxable compensation, sometimes referred to as earned income, includes wages, salaries, commissions, and income from self-employment. Investment income, like interest and dividends, doesn’t count.

The income can come from part-time jobs like babysitting or working at the grocery store. Odd jobs are fine, too, but the wages have to be reasonable. Are you OK with $25 to weed the garden? Sure. But you probably can’t get away with paying your grandkids $1,000 to mow the lawn or wash the car.

Contribution Limits for Roth IRAs

Here’s another consideration: The contribution is limited by the amount of the account holder’s earned income. If your grandson earned $2,500 working during the year, he (and you) can only contribute that much, even though the overall contribution limit is $6,000 for 2022.

Still, there’s no stipulation in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines that says the $2,500 that he invests in the Roth IRA has to come directly from his earnings. He can earn $2,500 and spend it on a mountain bike and car insurance if he so desires. This means that you can give him a gift of $2,500 to put into the Roth IRA. Just make sure that the amount you give (and he deposits) doesn’t exceed what he earned. In fact, if you match or partly match what he earns, it’s a good way to introduce him to the concept of matching funds.

Name Them as Your Beneficiary

Another way to gift a Roth IRA to someone is to make them the beneficiary of your account upon your death. You do this simply by designating them as such on the Roth IRA forms that you fill out for the financial institution that holds the account. A spouse is the usual choice, but anyone of any age can be a beneficiary or co-beneficiary.

Leaving a Roth IRA to one’s heirs is an increasingly popular tool in estate planning. One reason is that Roth accounts don’t have required minimum distributions (RMDs) during the original owner’s lifetime. This means that if you don’t need the money, you can keep it in the account to continue growing and leave it to your beneficiaries intact.

Another reason why Roths are popular for estate planning is that assets with a designated beneficiary, such as retirement accounts, don’t have to go through probate, as bequests from a will do. The Roth passes directly to the beneficiary, which can save a lot of time and money.

A spouse who is a sole beneficiary can elect a spousal transfer and treat the IRA as if it were their own. Children or other non-spousal beneficiaries who inherit a Roth eventually must withdraw the money, typically by the end of 10 years. But they won’t owe income tax on it, provided that the Roth was at least five years old at the time of the original owner’s death.

Either way, you can set up a loved one with years of tax-free growth and income by leaving them your Roth IRA.

Important

You should review your IRA beneficiary designations periodically and update them as necessary.

Offer Them a Financial Education

You don’t have to actually hand a wad of cash to someone to give the gift of a Roth IRA. Instead, you can share with them everything they could ever want to know about Roth accounts and IRAs in general, such as:

Simply sitting down with them and going over the massive potential benefits of opening and regularly funding a Roth IRA could be a huge gift.

You may not be able to afford to help fund the account for them—or they may not yet meet the qualifications. That’s fine. Igniting the flame of curiosity is a great start.

Are there age limits for contributing to a Roth individual retirement account (IRA)?

No, there are no age limits on contributing to a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA), as long as the person has taxable compensation with which to fund the account.

Does a Roth IRA count as an asset for college financial aid?

No. Qualified retirement accounts, such as Roth IRAs, as not reported as assets on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and won’t count against the student for financial aid purposes.

Can you contribute to an inherited Roth IRA?

Only beneficiaries who inherit a Roth IRA from their spouse can make additional contributions to the account—and only if they elect to treat it as their own IRA. Others can’t make further contributions and eventually must withdraw all the money in the account.

The Bottom Line

A Roth IRA may not be the most exciting gift out there. But it’s one that your loved ones will benefit from for years or decades to come. And that makes a Roth IRA a gift that truly keeps on giving.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Internal Revenue Service. “What’s New — Estate and Gift Tax.”

  2. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 590-A: Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs),” Page 38.

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

  4. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — Beneficiary.”

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “5.5.2 Probate Proceedings.”

  6. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 590-B: Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs),” Page 36.

  7. Saving for College. “Are Investments Factored Into Financial Aid on the FAFSA?

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