In the United States, if a man over 50 retires and has only Social Security income---yet his wife continues to work an earns income in excess of $14,000 can the couple still contribute $14,000 ($7,000 apiece) to either their Traditional or Roth IRAs?

I ask this question because Social Security income is not considered earned income.

I have heard about a "Spousal IRA" but I do not know much about it. Is this a legitimate way for someone to circumvent the typical IRS requirement that one may contribute to an IRA only if there is earned income to offset the contribution---and if so, does one have to open a brand new IRA (i.e., Spousal IRA) to do this or would an existing one suffice?

Any insight that is provided is appreciated.

Thank you.

  • The details of the question are interesting. All references to Social Security can be removed, and what's left, "Can one deposit to their own IRA based on the spouse's income" would be the real question. And the existing answer is correct. Feb 24, 2021 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


Yes, if they file with Married Filing Jointly filing status.

The so-called "spousal IRA" is not a different kind of IRA; rather, it just refers to the rule that when the couple is filing as Married Filing Jointly, it considers the couple's joint earned income instead of separate earned incomes, so that if the couple has at least $14000 in joint earned income, each of them can contribute $7000 (if they are 50 or older) to their IRAs, even if one of them has less than this amount of earned income.

  • Thank you for your answer. Am I correct in assuming that the man in the above scenario would not need to open a new IRA---but could contribute to an existing one that he had contributed to in years past when he had earned income? It sounds (based on JTP's above comment) that that is indeed the case---but I would like you to confirm it. Thank you again.
    – DDS
    Feb 25, 2021 at 2:34
  • @mlchristians: yes
    – user102008
    Feb 25, 2021 at 2:58

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