Can you (should you?) contribute to your IRA for 2016?

January 9, 2017

When asking myself this question, I think about my life today. I just returned from an amazing trip to Jackson, Wyoming and Teton Valley, Idaho. As I was high in the mountains skinning 2,000 vertical feet in half a day, I took in the scenic, snowy landscape and thought about how lucky I am to be here right now. Being in this area, doing this activity, is important to me, and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life.

The balance of living for today and living life in the future can be tough. I remember a time when I was juggling money and not making great decisions. I have learned a lot since then, and balancing my budget and saving to do things now, and in the future, has become a part of my life. My financial roadmap helps me plan for the adventures that are important to me. You can do this too!

Now, back to the question of contributing to your IRA. Most people know the answer: Yes, contribute to your IRA. But what type of IRA? Or how much? Again, we need to balance life today with life in the future. Your personal financial roadmap will help with these questions. To get you started, consider these few things:

  1. Take inventory of all of your retirement accounts. Let’s a take a step back for a moment. What type of retirement accounts do you currently have? List your 401(k) accounts, IRAs, and other retirement plans. You might have a 401(k) through your employer. For those of you who have been working longer, you may have one or two from a previous employer or one or two rollover IRAs. Are you making contributions with each paycheck? What contributions have you made this year so far?

  2. Know your tax bracket. Do you know what your tax return (Form 1040) is saying? For years I had no clue what all of those lines and numbers meant. The day I took the time to understand it, my life changed (I decided to be a financial planner!). Today’s tax rates range from 10% to 39.60%. This is important to know because it will determine if you put your money in a Roth (post-tax money) or a Traditional IRA. It will also conclude whether or not you can deduct the contribution to a Traditional IRA.

  3. How much can you afford? For 2016 and 2017, your total IRA contributions cannot exceed $5,500. For those 50 or older, it’s $6,500. (In other words, if you have a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA, you can cannot contribute $11,000. The max is $5,500 across all of your IRAs.) If you can contribute the max, great! If that is a stretch for you, make a budget and see about making monthly contributions. There’s no shame in starting small – $10 a month is still saving! If you receive a bonus or show a budget surplus, you can contribute up until you file your taxes for the year.

Most of all, remember that life is an adventure. “Live for today” is a serious motto for a lot of us, but, what if we live until 100? I want you to live life for today and for the future. Make saving and budgeting a part of your routine for less stress and more exploration…and trying the backcountry! Shout out to Teton Backcountry Guides for an awesome experience.