No matter how much money you earn, your goal is probably to pay as little tax on your income as possible. And a good way to lower your tax burden is to max out your IRA.
If you contribute to a traditional IRA, that money goes in on a pre-tax basis. A $1,000 contribution, for example, shields $1,000 of your earnings from taxes. If you're in the 24% tax bracket, that's an instant $240 in savings.
Now in the coming months, you will, at some point, sit down to file your 2019 taxes. And you may not like what you see when you do, particularly if it turns out you owe the IRS money. But here's some good news: It's actually not too late to contribute to last year's IRA, so if you failed to max out in 2019, you still have a chance to sneak some more money into that account and lower your tax burden in the process.
Funding your 2019 IRA: There's still time
If you're saving for retirement in a 401(k), you only get until the end of the calendar year to make contributions for that year. This means you can no longer put money into your 2019 401(k) if you didn't max it out.
IRAs work differently. You have until the tax-filing deadline to make contributions to the previous year's account, which means you get until April 15, 2020,,] to put money into your 2019 IRA.
It pays to save in an IRA
The more money you put into your IRA, the more you'll save on taxes if you contribute to a traditional account (as opposed to a Roth IRA). But that's not all -- putting more money aside for retirement increases your chances of getting to live comfortably during your golden years. And that alone should serve as motivation to do the best job you can.
You're allowed to contribute up to $6,000 annually to an IRA if you're under 50, or up to $7,000 if you're 50 or older. These limits apply to your 2019 IRA and the IRA you fund for 2020, since the IRS didn't adjust the maximum allowable contribution for the new year.
If you max out a traditional IRA at $6,000 for 2019 and you fall into the 24% tax bracket, you reap $1,440 in tax savings. Max out at $7,000, and you're talking about saving $1,680 (assuming that same bracket).
Another thing to keep in mind is that while Roth IRAs don't offer an immediate tax break on contributions, they do offer a number of key benefits: tax-free growth on your investments in that account, tax-free withdrawals during retirement, and the ability to avoid required minimum distributions. As such, they're worth considering, too.
Although you still have another few months to finish funding your 2019 IRA, it pays to start cutting back on expenses now to free up money to max it out, or get as close as possible. Another tactic for scrounging up that cash? Get a side job on top of your main one. Your proceeds from that work won't be earmarked for existing bills, so you'll have the option to save all of that money for the future.
No matter how you manage to come up with that cash, be sure to fund your 2019 IRA by April 15. Miss that deadline, and you'll lose the chance to capitalize on a very important tax break.