What is an IRA? Everything you need to know

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. The TIAA IRA can offer a 1.50% guaranteed rate within TIAA Traditional* for steady growth now and income for life later.
*TIAA Traditional is a fixed annuity issued by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), New York, NY.
Types of IRAs
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).

Rollover IRA

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

Traditional IRA

Allows you to deduct your contributions starting this year.5

Open an IRA

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Roth IRA

Contribute after taxes, but withdrawals are tax free in retirement.4

Open a Roth IRA

Learn more first

Already have a TIAA IRA?

Make a contribution, rebalance assets, or pick new investments to fit your needs.

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More IRA options from TIAA

SEP & Simple

Small business IRA for you or your employee.


An IRA left to a beneficiary post-death.

Help choosing

Traditional or Roth? Find the IRA that might be right for you.

The TIAA IRA Selector Tool can help you find out which type of IRA would be best for your financial situation. Both types of IRAs are used to save for retirement, the difference is how and when you get potential tax benefits. Just answer a few simple questions.

Important information
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.

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

  Roth IRA Traditional IRA 401(k)/403(b)
Contributions After-tax  Pre-tax Pre-tax
Withdrawals Tax-free Taxable Taxable
Limits $6,000 for 2020 and 2021 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $1,000) $6,000 for 2020 and 2021 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $1,000) $19,500 for 2020 and 2021 (If you're 50+, you can contribute an additional $6,500)
Age you can start distributions Any7 59 ½ 59 ½
Required minimum distribution age None 72* 72*
Account is controlled by You You Your employer
IRA Rules & Contributions

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
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This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances

There is no account fee to own a TIAA IRA; however, brokerage transaction fees may apply. In addition, investors are subject to the underlying funds’ portfolio management fees and expenses.
1 2015-2021. 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
7Withdrawals 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.
*If you turned 70½ by December 31, 2019, the old rules will still apply. That means you will still need to take RMDs for this year and each year moving forward. If you did NOT turn 70½ by December 31, 2019, you do not have to start taking RMDs until the year you turn 72. If you were required to take an RMD in 2019, you are required to take one in 2020 as well, even if you will be turning 71.
Annuity contracts may contain terms for keeping them in force. We can provide you with costs and complete details.
TIAA Traditional is a fixed annuity product issued through these contracts by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), 730 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10017: Form series including but not limited to: 1000.24; G-1000.4; IGRS-01-84-ACC; IGRSP-01-84-ACC; 6008.8. Not all contracts are available in all states or currently issued.