Get the Basics

What is an IRA?

  • An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a type of tax-advantaged account that you can use to save for retirement, outside of a workplace plan.
  • Investments like annuities, mutual funds, bonds and stocks might be available to you through an IRA.
  • There are two main types of IRAs: Traditional IRAs (contributions are often tax deductible and withdrawals are taxed upon distribution) and Roth IRAs (contributions are not tax deductible and withdrawals are tax free upon distribution).
  • Both types of IRAs are used to save for retirement, the difference is how and when you get potential tax benefits
  • See IRA rules and contributions for more information about the potential tax benefits or Learn more about the investment choices in a TIAA IRA
Types of IRAs

Opening a Roth, Traditional or Rollover IRA?

Find the IRA option that's right for you and take advantage of the potential tax benefits. Not sure which one to pick? Decide which IRA is right for you.
IRA Options

Roth IRA

Contribute after taxes, but withdrawals are tax free in retirement.4
Learn more first
IRA Options

Traditional IRA

Allows you to deduct your contributions starting this year.5
Learn more first
Consolidate Your Retirement Accounts

Rolling other assets into a new IRA?

A rollover into a new or existing TIAA IRA can help you get a clearer view of your financial picture.6
Compare Options

IRA vs. 401(k)/403(b) accounts

If your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b) retirement savings account, make sure you start by contributing the amount they will match, if any. We often recommend maxing out your contribution before considering an IRA.
Don’t let these 5 concerns keep you from investing in an IRA

Compare IRAs and 401(k)/403(b)

Roth IRA
Traditional IRA
$6,000 for 2019 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $1,000)
$6,000 for 2019 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $1,000)
$19,000 for 2019 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $6,000)
Age you can start distributions
59 ½
59 ½
Required minimum distribution age
70 ½
70 ½
Account is controlled by
Your employer
See for more details
Help Choosing

Which IRA is right for you?

Answer a few simple questions to find out which IRA may make sense for you.
First: How old will you be at the end of this year?
Your age helps decide if (and how much) you can contribute to an IRA.
Next: How do you file your taxes?

Why TIAA’s IRAs are different

Take advantage of retirement savings with one of the world’s most ethical companies.1 Backed by 100 years of investing experience, here’s what TIAA offers you:
Quick & Easy
  • You can open your IRA in just a few minutes
  • Access your account on any device
Low or no fees
  • No account opening or maintenance fees
  • No minimums to open and invest
Tailored to you
  • Customizable portfolio options including annuities, mutual funds, and full service brokerage 2,3
Advice & Support
  • A team of experienced consultants that can help you every step of the way
Take action

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1 2015-2019. The World's Most Ethical Company assessment is based upon the Ethisphere Institute’s Ethics Quotient® (EQ) framework which offers a quantitative way to assess a company’s performance in an objective, consistent and standardized way. The information collected provides a comprehensive sampling of definitive criteria of core competencies, rather than all aspects of corporate governance, risk, sustainability, compliance and ethics. Scores are generated in five key categories: ethics and compliance program (35%), corporate citizenship and responsibility (20%), culture of ethics (20%), governance (15%) and leadership, innovation and reputation (10%) and provided to all companies who participate in the process.
2 Certain products and services are only available for eligible individuals.
3 Annuity account options are available through contracts issued by TIAA or CREF. These contracts are designed for retirement or other long-term goals, and offer a variety of income options, including lifetime income. Payments from the variable annuity accounts are not guaranteed and will rise or fall based on investment performance.
4 Withdrawals of earnings prior to age 59, 1/2 are subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty may apply. Earnings can be distributed tax free if distribution is no earlier than five years after contributions were first made and you meet at least one of the following conditions: age 59 1/2 or older or permanently disabled. Beneficiaries may receive a distribution in the event of your death.
Income limitations may apply and withdrawals are taxed upon distribution. 
6 Before rolling over or consolidating assets, consider your other options. You may be able to leave money in your current plan, withdraw cash or roll over the assets to your new employer’s plan if one is available and rollovers are permitted. Compare the differences in investment options, services, fees and expenses, withdrawal options, required minimum distributions, other plan features, and tax treatment. Speak with a TIAA consultant and your tax advisor regarding your situation. Learn more at
*Withdrawals of your original contributions are free of federal taxes and penalties at any age. Withdrawals of your earnings are income tax and penalty free, if you have had the IRA for five years and you are 59 ½ or over, using the funds for a qualified first- time home purchase, or become disabled and die.