Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA In College?

Posted by Don on October 23, 2013

The Roth IRA is a great tool for saving for retirement. You can open a Roth IRA as a teenager, as long as you have earned income. You can even use a Roth IRA as an emergency fund since the money you contribute to a Roth IRA can be taken out the account at any time, penalty free.

With all of these great benefits surrounding a Roth IRA, it comes as no surprise that there is also confusion surrounding Roth IRA’s. Many times, people confuse a Roth IRA for a Traditional IRA and vice versa. One question I get all of the time is can I contribute to a Roth IRA while in college or as a student?

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Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA in College?

The simple answer is yes, as long as you have earned income for the year. Whenever making a contribution to a Roth IRA, you simply need to have earned income. As long as you have this, you can contribute to a Roth IRA for that year.

Of course, if you make too much money you might not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA. But since you are a student, I will assume you aren’t making more than $105,000 this year as a single tax filer.

How Much Can I Contribute?

The Roth IRA contribution limit is the same regardless if you are working full time or part time. The most you can save in a Roth IRA for 2013 is $5,500. Of course, since we are talking tax law, there is an exception to this. Technically speaking you can contribute up to 100% of earned income or $5,500, whichever is less.

For example, let’s say you work full time and go to college part time. You earned $30,000 in 2013. The most you can contribute to your Roth IRA is $5,500.

Let’s say your friend works part time during the summer and attends college full time throughout the year. She earns $3,000 for 2013. In this case, she can contribute $3,000 to her Roth IRA.

Finally, let’s say your other friend goes to school full time and only works a few hours per week at a work study job on campus. Since this income is considered to be earned income, he too can contribute to a Roth IRA. If he makes $500 in 2013 in his work study job, then he can contribute $500 to his Roth IRA.

Final Thoughts

As a college student, saving in a Roth IRA is a great way to get a head start on saving for your retirement and allows for time (who is your best friend when it comes to investing) to work its magic. As long as you have earned income for the year, you can contribute to a Roth IRA.

The only warning I would give is to make sure you have enough money to live on while in college. I know for me personally, my summer job is what I relied on as my “income” throughout my year away at college. I couldn’t afford to use any of it to contribute to a Roth IRA.

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