How to Get Retirement Benefits for a Non-Working Spouse

Even if one spouse doesn't work, both can contribute to retirement plans.

Even if one spouse doesn't work, both can contribute to retirement plans.

Although individuals typically earn retirement benefits through an employer’s retirement plan, there is a way to save for retirement for those who do not work, such as a stay-at-home parent. Individual retirement arrangements are retirement savings accounts that are outside of the employer's retirement benefit realm. The Internal Revenue Service sets limits on the amount that can be contributed to an IRA each year, as certain contributions are deductible on federal income taxes.

Set up a spousal IRA through a bank or a brokerage firm. Spousal IRAs are savings accounts designated specifically for retirement. When you open a spousal IRA, you will select investment vehicles for the IRA.

Establish the frequency by which you wish to make contributions – whether weekly, monthly or annually. If you are unsure what your adjusted gross income will be for the year, you can make your spousal IRA contribution between January 1 and April 15 of the year following the tax year for which you would claim the deduction.

Determine the amount you're eligible to contribute to a spousal IRA for the year based on your expected or known adjusted gross income and figure out how much you and you spouse wish to contribute to the spousal IRA.

Watch your contributions grow tax-free until you take distributions in retirement or age 59 ½.


  • If the spouse that is employed doesn't participate in any retirement savings plans at work, the contributions for both spouses will be tax deductible and won't be limited by income. If the employed spouse participates in a retirement plan at work, the amount that can be deducted by the couple is limited by the couple’s adjusted gross income, with deductibility being phased out at certain levels that are adjusted annually by the Internal Revenue Service.


  • To claim a tax deduction for contributions to an IRA, the IRA cannot be a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are funded on an after-tax contribution basis.

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About the Author

Kay Lee began freelance writing for Answerbag and eHow in 2010. She is an attorney in Washington, DC, practicing since 2006. Lee specializes in employee benefits and executive compensation. She holds a Juris Doctor from the Columbus School of Law and a Master of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center.

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