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Individual retirement account

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An individual retirement account or IRA is a form of "individual retirement plan".[1] It is simply a savings account with large tax advantages.[1] An IRA is not itself an investment. It is where an investor keeps assets such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds.[2] A 401(k) is set up by an employer,[2] but an IRA may be started by an individual. Other IRAs may be opened by small business owners and those who are self-employed.[2]

Types of IRAs

There are different types of IRAs: Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP-IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs.[3] They vary as to tax filing status. Also they have different rules and conditions.

  • Traditional IRA - Contributions to a traditional IRA are, depending on income, tax status and whether the taxpayer has a retirement plan sponsored by his or her employer.[3] In both 2015 and 2016, a taxpayer can contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA up to $ 5,500.[4] If over age 50, the contribution can be up to $ 6,500.[4] Either amount can be reduced if the taxable compensation (wages for example) are less than limit set for the IRA contribution.[4]
  • Roth IRA - contributions to Roth IRAs are not tax deductible.[3] The amount that can be contributed is usually the same as a Traditional IRA.
  • SEP-IRA - Businesses of any size who want to set up an IRA for employees can use the SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Plan) IRA .[5]
  • SIMPLE IRA - A SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) IRA is for employees and employers to set up an IRA. This is for small businesses that do not have a retirement plan.[6]

Participant-directed accounts

A participant-directed account (also called a self-directed IRA) is an IRA which is provided by some financial institutions in the United States.[7] It allows alternative investments for retirement savings. Some examples of such alternative investments are: real estate, private mortgages, private company stock, oil and gas limited partnerships, precious metals, horses, and intellectual property. There is a risk of fraud when investing in Self-Directed retirement accounts.[7]


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