Can I Add My Wife to My Traditional IRA Account?

by Mark Kennan ; Updated July 27, 2017
You can name your spouse as beneficiary of an IRA.

Individual retirement accounts are one thing you can't share when you're married. The Internal Revenue Code allows each IRA to have only one owner, so you can't add your wife as a joint owner to your account. However, there are other ways you can get your spouse involved in retirement savings.

Name as Beneficiary

You are allowed to name your wife as the beneficiary of your traditional IRA. That way, when you die, any money left over goes straight to her. When your wife inherits the account, she can take distributions as a beneficiary or treat the account as if it's her own IRA, meaning she can combine it with her own IRAs and not have to take required minimum distributions until she turns 70 1/2 years old.

Spousal IRA Contributions

You may also be able to use your income to contribute to a traditional IRA in your wife's name. Typically, each person must have compensation -- income from working or taxable alimony -- to contribute to an IRA. However, if you're married and file your taxes jointly, you can contribute to a retirement account for your spouse as long as your compensation is more than your IRA contributions.

Let's say you have $70,000 of compensation and you contribute $5,000 to your IRA. As long as your filing jointly, that leaves $65,000 of compensation to justify your wife's traditional IRA contribution for the year -- more than enough for her to make a maximum contribution.

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Spousal IRA Advantages

By using as spousal traditional IRA, you're essentially doubling the amount of money you and your wife can stash away each year for retirement. Just as IRAs are separate for each person, the contribution limits are also separate. That means no matter how much you put into your IRA, your spouse can still make a maximum contribution. As of 2013, the maximum contribution is $5,500 a year, or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older.

Contribution Deductibility

One thing that does carry over between spouses is coverage by an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b). If you or your spouse is covered by such a plan, one or both of you might be prevented from deducting your traditional IRA contribution. For example, as of 2013, if you're married filing jointly and are covered by a workplace plan, you can't deduct any of your contributions if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $112,000. If you're the only one covered, your wife can't deduct any of her contributions if your MAGI exceeds $188,000.

About the Author

Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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