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Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts Explained

Traditional IRAs are ideal for individuals who want financial comfort without many contribution limitations or penalties after retirement. However, not everyone knows the crucial aspects of the investment type and how it can prepare them for long-term monetary wealth.

What is a Traditional IRA?

A traditional independent retirement account (IRA) is an investment vehicle account holders can use to contribute pre-tax funds that grow year after year. Single tax filers can fund their accounts using earned compensation up to the maximum limit. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, mainly depending on an account holder’s income threshold and filing status.

Benefits of a Traditional IRA

Traditional IRAs are an efficient investment method to save for retirement. It remains a popular account type among workers due to its flexibility with few restrictions. With a traditional IRA, account holders can expect future compensation based on years of sizable contributions.

No Income Limits

Investors can grow their accounts even if they earn an average yearly salary. They can also continue their contributions whether or not they report various expenses and itemize tax return report deductions.

Tax Deductible Contributions

Traditional IRA contributions are 100% tax deductible but subject to taxation upon a premature withdrawal. Additionally, all amounts up to the limit are deductible unless an account holder has a workplace retirement plan with restrictions.

Traditional IRAs Compound Interest

Compound interest is earned through various investment vehicles, including CDs, treasury bonds, and stocks, whether an account is opened through a bank or a broker. Also, they can provide additional income when combined with IRA funds.

Drawbacks of a Traditional IRA

Although a traditional IRA can help individuals accumulate the funds to earn a steady income post-retirement, three common downsides can affect their accounts and finances. Some investors may find the restrictions problematic due to their impacts while saving. Therefore, when considering a traditional IRA, consider the following:

Contribution Limits

Traditional IRA investors under 50 years old can contribute up to $6,500, while others who are over 59 and a half years old have a $7,500 limit. Also, using earned income to fund an account by making annual contributions is required but could bedeductible while filing taxes. While investors can cover the total amount, they may face a contribution elimination if they have a workplace retirement plan or a 401K that conflicts with a traditional IRA.

Penalties for Early Withdrawal

Early withdrawals will likely result in penalties, reducing funds by 10% before maturity, which can set contribution growth back. For example, a $6,000 IRA withdrawal is taxable as ordinary income and incurs a $600 penalty. Although the amount is small compared to higher penalties, account holders must compensate for the loss.

A traditional IRA may allow penalty-free distributions, while employee-sponsored plans are more restrictive. Some employers make exceptions for individuals experiencing hardships who need to make emergency withdrawals. However, only urgent situations such as medical bill payments, healthcare insurance premiums, funeral expenses, and IRA inheritances qualify.

Tax Risk

While traditional IRA investors receive a tax break up-front after a contribution, they will likely owe the IRS if they withdraw funds pre-retirement or before 59 and a half years old. Therefore, according to penalty terms, the entire distribution amount will receive a 10% reduction.

Eligibility Requirements for a Traditional IRA

Investors must know specific requirements to determine eligibility for a traditional IRA. Since different rules apply according to an account holder’s filing status, following particular guidelines is crucial to benefit monetarily in retirement.

  • Account holders ages 72 or 73 must withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD).
  • Account holders must make their first RMD before the tax filing deadline (April 15th).
  • An additional (or secondary) distribution must occur by the last day of a calendar year (December 31st).

Employees can contribute to a traditional IRA annually if they meet earned income eligibility requirements. They can also save a substantial amount of funds as long as they remain within the annual contribution limit to avoid IRS penalties.

How Does a Traditional IRA Differ From Other IRAs?

The equity increases without incurring withdrawal penalties after depositing funds into a Roth IRA. On the other hand, traditional IRAs allow investments before or after taxes while money matures, and RMDs can be taxed, primarily for account holders up to age 59 and a half.

While traditional IRAs are available to individuals seeking efficient retirement investment options, a SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA suits startup founders with 50-100 employees. One significant requirement for a traditional IRA is to consistently earn income during the year, while SIMPLE IRAs may have other restrictions implemented by a small business owner.

One critical difference between a simplified employee pension plan (or SEP) and a traditional IRA is the annual contribution limit, which applies to self-employed individuals or startup entrepreneurs (with no employees) earning income independently throughout the year. As of 2023, the SEP IRA contribution limit is 25% of self-employment net income.

How to Open a Traditional IRA

Exploring all aspects of a traditional IRA before contributing earned income to an account is necessary. After an applicant decides the investment vehicle is ideal for their financial needs or situation, they must know how and where to open an account and who to rely on to get through the process without issues.

Choose Where to Open an IRA

One of the best places to open a traditional IRA is at a trusted financial institution. Personal investment advice can be expensive, especially if an applicant prefers a DIY approach. However, an experienced, knowledgeable advisor can determine the most appropriate assistance.

Open an Account and Contribute

Investors can request advice about contributing to their IRAs and a reasonable approach they must consider to start a lucrative retirement fund. Standard payment methods are checks, Automated Clearing House transactions – better known as ACH -, and cash. On the other hand, existing bank information is necessary to verify an account holder’s identity and contribution source.


A traditional IRA can be an effective, lucrative option for retirement because it allows account holders to build passive income annually. It can also be an efficient investment tool for receiving substantial payouts. The advantages can outweigh the cons if account holders focus on the monetary benefit that can help them live comfortably as retirees.

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Amerant Editorial Team
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