Happy Birthday, IRA

On Labor Day, September 2, 1974, President Gerald Ford signed the Employment Retirement Income Security Act. This historic piece of legislation gave the federal government regulatory authority over private-sector employee benefit plans, including health plans, retirement plans and other benefit arrangements. It also created the individual retirement account, which has become one of the most popular retirement savings vehicles in recent history.

About $2.6 trillion in assets are kept in IRAs. According to research by the Investment Company Institute, the trade association for the mutual fund industry, an estimated 45.2 million Americans -- 41.4% of households -- owned an IRA in 2003. Of those, nearly 81% owned traditional IRAs. By comparison, about 35% owned Roth IRAs. The investment of choice: More than two-thirds of households held mutual funds in their IRAs.

Join the IRA party. If you have some 401(k) money collecting dust in an old employer's account, regain control of your assets with a rollover IRA. If you're already maxing out your employer's plan and want to save more, look into a Roth. For guidance, help yourself to our party favors:

  • Open Your First IRA

    Learn about the different investment vehicles for IRAs, where to set up an account, and what it'll cost.
  • Good Reasons to Fund a Roth IRA

    These accounts are good for more than just retirement. You can also use them as an estate planning device, a first-home fund or a college savings account. Find out how.
  • Roth IRA Rules for Kids

    There is no minimum age requirement for contributing to a Roth; you just need to have earned income from a job -- even babysitting or lawn-mowing money will do. Learn more about the rules, then find a place to open an account for your child.
  • Special IRA Rules for Spouses

    There is an exception to the rule that you must have earned income to contribute to an IRA. Learn what you need to know about funding one for your non-employed spouse.
  • Should I transfer my IRA into a Roth IRA?

    Find out if switching accounts would play to your benefit.
  • The Rules of IRA Withdrawals

    The IRS requires you to begin taking distributions from your traditional IRA at age 70½. Learn more about the requirements, and then calculate your minimum required IRA distribution.

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