Dear Retirement Adviser,
I'm 58 years old and have a 403(b) plan. At the same time, I opened a Roth individual retirement account about three years ago. As it stands, I'm contributing a total of $6,000 a year to each account. Is that OK or am I allowed only $6,000 for all retirement accounts including the one at work?
-- Ruth Retirement
Contribution limits are separate for individual retirement accounts and 403(b) plans. Since you're more than 50 years old, the limits are increased to include the ability to make so-called catch-up contributions.
For now, you are well below the contribution limits for 403(b) plans. The limits on elective contributions, not including catch-up provisions, are $17,500 in tax years 2013 and 2014. Limits for 2012 were $17,000 and $16,500 for 2009-2011.
Contribution limits for IRAs in 2013 and 2014 are the same: $5,500 plus an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions for a total contribution limit of $6,500. That's provided you have at least that much in taxable compensation for the year. The combined limit was $6,000 for the 2010-2012 tax years.
There are income limits on contributions to a Roth IRA. Since 2010, you've had the ability to make non-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and then convert to a Roth IRA. Participating in a qualified retirement plan at work can limit the tax deductibility of contributions into a traditional IRA. It doesn't limit the ability to make non-deductible contributions up to the contribution limits. That's provided you have enough sufficient taxable compensation to contribute this much.
If your employer offers matching contributions, you should contribute up to the limit of the employer match before switching over to contribute to the Roth IRA. Think of the employer match as free money. You don't want to avoid getting what you are entitled.
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