IRAs: who needs 'em?

They just aren't sexy. You can't get rich quickly with them. As a result, they don't make good headline copy. Any story about IRAs here at the Fool is just gonna lack the oomph of other financial topics like "The Soaring Nasdaq," "The Sinking Nasdaq," or even "Alan Greenspan Sneezes!" Let's face it: IRAs are booorrring.

At least, that seems to be the attitude of the general American public. According to recent news reports, only 4% of those eligible for regular IRA or Roth IRA accounts contribute the full $2,000 allowed under law. We can forgive those of you with short attention spans, perhaps, for not fully funding your IRAs due to the dullness factor.

But everyone else ought to understand that IRAs enable you to save money and cut your taxes at the same time. That's something that should perk up everyone. And regardless of how boring they are, IRAs don't take much time to set up. In fact, the process is fairly quick and easy. We've outlined it in four steps below, and once you're done, you can go back to more exciting things, like reading about stocks in The Motley Fool Select.

Step 1: Are you eligible?
While most people can contribute to an IRA, there are a few restrictions. If your taxable income is above certain levels, or, in the case of traditional IRAs, if your employer offers a retirement plan at work, you may not be able to open an IRA. To figure out where you stand, check out the current income limits and other restrictions.

Step 2: Which IRA is best for you?
Everyone's situation is different, but as a general rule, you can't beat Roth IRAs for long-term, tax-free asset accumulation. However, if you want to reduce your current taxable income, than the regular IRA is your best bet.

To help with your decision, check out our overview of IRAs, and our comparison of the Roth and regular IRAs. We also have online calculators that will help you decide.

Step 3: Learn more
Can you buy stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in an IRA? When can you withdraw the money? When can you borrow the money? If you're not sure about these things, take a few minutes to learn more about IRAs in our Personal Finance area.

Step 4: Open a regular IRA or Roth IRA
Head on over to our discount brokerage center (DBC), which is chock full of information on choosing the right broker. For an IRA, you'll want low fees and commissions, since you're limited to contributions of $2,000 per year and don't want that money eaten up by expenses. At the DBC, you can also compare several sponsoring brokers, and take the first step to opening an account.

Other considerations
Interested in rolling over an old 401(k) into an IRA? Thinking about converting your traditional IRA to a Roth? Read more about IRAs in our "All About IRAs" series, and in our Tax Center.