New! Eligible SoFi members can invest in upcoming IPOs before they’re traded on the public market—only in the SoFi app.* Learn more

Should You Have a Joint Retirement Account?

December 23, 2020 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Should You Have a Joint Retirement Account?

No matter what stage of life you’re in—tackling student loan debt or buying a house—it’s likely that planning for retirement may be looming in the back of your mind. And that’s a good thing: According to the Center for Retirement Research, 50% of households are at risk for not having enough to maintain their living standards in retirement.

One way to start your retirement savings plan is to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your partner. You have probably heard of joint checking accounts, but what about joint retirement accounts? While some retirement plans do not allow for multiple owners, there are ways couples can plan their retirement savings together.

How Couples Can Plan Together for Retirement

Joint retirement accounts may not be straightforward, but there is a way to work on retirement plans as a couple. Prepare your golden years with a few tips to combine retirement forces.

Review Your Retirement Goals as a Couple

Talking openly and honestly about your finances is one of the keys to building a healthy financial plan. A good first step is to have a productive conversation about your goals for retirement with your significant other. Do you plan on staying in the same home during your retirement years? Perhaps you want to travel internationally once per year or buy a camper and travel across the country.

Determine the amount of money you want in retirement, too. While of course each couple’s retirement number is dependent upon their standard of living, SoFi’s Retirement Calculator should help give you an estimate: Start with current income, subtract estimated Social Security benefits, and divide by 0.04 to get your target number in today’s dollars.

Once you’ve put the numbers together, you can figure out what you can safely withdraw from to make your retirement last as long as you do.

Determine When Both of You Will Retire

Do you know when you and your partner will retire? Remember, retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs cannot be withdrawn penalty-free until you reach age 59½.

If you or your partner do plan to retire earlier than 59½, it might make sense to put some of your retirement funds into a taxable brokerage account that you can access at any time.

Name Your Spouse as a Beneficiary

While there are many ways to start saving for retirement, unfortunately, there aren’t any options that operate as a joint retirement account by default. A work-around to this is to name your spouse as a beneficiary in your retirement account, or as your power of attorney. If something were to happen to one of you, the other person would still have access to your accounts and the money in it.

Joint Retirement Account Options

Not sure which retirement plan is right for you? Avoid over-complicating your retirement plans and retirement plan types. Having several accounts that aren’t maxed out might not work in your favor.

Focus on one type of retirement account first and work on maxing it out before moving on to a different retirement vehicle. In this way, you get the maximum benefit of the account for retirement.

There are a number of ways you can make the most of individual accounts and view them as joint retirement accounts. Here are specific advantages and strategies for each plan—from a 401(k) retirement account to a Roth IRA.

401(k) plans

401(k) plans are retirement plans sponsored by your employer, so only you, the employee, can enroll in one. To include your spouse, you can designate them as a beneficiary, but they won’t be able to contribute to the plan.
You can defer taxes as a couple by maxing out your respective 401(k) plans. Because 401(k) contributions are made before tax, you won’t be taxed on that money until you retire and start withdrawing from the account.

Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs

There are benefits on both sides of the traditional IRA vs Roth IRA debate, but one thing is universally true: Traditional or Roth IRAs are individual retirement accounts—there can only be one owner. But while you can’t have a joint IRA account, you can designate your partner as a beneficiary, so that in case anything were to happen to you, your partner would receive the funds.

Can married couples combine IRAs? No. But for couples who want to maximize the use of IRAs, each one of you can open an IRA and contribute up to $6,000 per year individually, for a combined $12,000 annually.

Some couples may not qualify for a full tax deduction for their traditional IRA, depending on their income and if they are covered by a retirement plan at work. If both are covered and file jointly, the deduction is reduced if their modified adjusted gross income is more than $104,000; the deduction phases out at a modified AGI of $124,000.

If only one is covered by a retirement plan, the deduction is reduced if their modified AGI is more than $196,000; the deduction phases out at a modified AGI of $206,000.

Spousal IRAs

If you have a partner who is not working or makes a low income, your spouse could qualify for a spousal independent retirement arrangement (IRA). This isn’t a special type of IRA, rather it’s a traditional or Roth IRA that allows a non-working spouse to use as a retirement vehicle.

Spousal IRAs are not technically a joint retirement account, but you do need to be married and filing a joint tax return in order to apply for one. The maximum annual contribution for a spousal IRA is $6,000 per year, and you can name your spouse as a beneficiary to the account.

Brokerage Accounts

Brokerage accounts aren’t technically retirement-only vehicles, but you can certainly use one (or several) as joint retirement accounts.

Brokerage accounts can be made up of the same funds that you would use in a 401(k) or IRA. While these accounts don’t offer tax advantages—your investment earnings are taxed in the current year, not upon withdrawal in retirement—you can access or withdraw the money at any time without any additional penalty.

When you have a joint brokerage account, both you and your partner can be equal owners of the account. With some accounts, that means that any money that is moved or funds that are bought or sold must also be approved by the other owner. Other accounts are set up so that one account holder can make a decision without “approval” by the other.

Common Joint Retirement Account Questions

Can both spouses contribute to 401k?

No—only one spouse can contribute to a 401(k) account. 401k’s are tied to employment at a company that offers the plan to employees.

However, a spouse can be a beneficiary of the plan. This means that if the original planholder dies, the spouse gets the inherited 401(k) and can then roll it into their own 401k or into an IRA.

How much can a married couple contribute to a 401k?

401(k) plans are individual, with only one person contributing to each account (along with their employer, in some cases). The maximum 401k contribution allowed in 2020 is $19,500, with so-called “catch-up” contributions of $6,500 allowed for those over 50. With those figures in mind, if each partner has their own 401(k) plan, a married couple can each contribute $19,500 for a combined $38,000 a year.

How many IRAs can a married couple have?

If a couple is married and files their taxes jointly, each partner in the marriage can contribute to their own IRAs. There is a limit — the total contributions to both IRAs “may not exceed your joint taxable income or the annual contribution limit on IRAs times two, whichever is less,” according to the IRS. The annual contribution limit is $6,000, so the total limit is $12,000. Those over age 50 can contribute an additional “catch-up” amount of $1000.

Can my non-working spouse have a Roth IRA?

Spousal IRAs can be traditional or Roth IRAs. In a Roth IRA, the money put into it is not tax free. Instead the money comes from taxable income but can grow tax free, so that an individual doesn’t have to pay taxes on the money that’s taken out of the account when you retire. While the contribution limits vary according to your tax filing and income status, typically the limit of contributions is the same as with traditional IRAs.

The Takeaway

While no specific retirement savings plans—such as 401(k)s or IRAs—offer true joint retirement accounts, there is a way for couples to plan and save for retirement together. One easy way to make sure you’re both taken care of in retirement is to make each other the beneficiaries on your individual accounts.

If you’re ready to tackle retirement, put SoFi Invest® to work with automated investing.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you reach your retirement goals.


Choose how you want to invest.

Ready to
do-it-yourself?

Learn more →

Want to take a
hands-off role?

Learn more →



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.

SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.

SOIN19019

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender