The Best Time Of Year To Contribute To Your IRA

Having a loving partner is great because it means you get romantic messages throughout the day, like this one, which I received yesterday at noon: “The stock market has gone down again thanks to China’s currency manipulation, so I just contributed to my IRA. Feel free to do the same.”

Ugh, I wrote back. No thank you. We just got back from vacation! I feel broke. Shouldn’t I wait until our accounts recover a bit?

“It doesn’t really matter,” he replied, and when I took the matter to Mike on Hipchat, Mike took Ben’s side because MEN. “It doesn’t matter,” said Mike. “You put money in your IRA and then the market fluctuates for 30 years so it doesn’t matter what the market is doing right now.”

Nor does it matter what your individual saving accounts are doing, so long as they’re in the black. As Ben pointed out, “We are trying to maintain a reasonable budget on an annual basis, not a monthly basis; the money isn’t doing anything in savings; and we have to make the contribution at some point.”

This is a long view, big picture, sensible view of money, and it’s not how my mind operates most of the time. I’ve tended to make IRA contributions in August because my grandmother, for tax and estate-planning reasons, sometimes makes distributions of cash to her heirs in the summer. I’ve never relied on that five-figure check or assumed I would receive it; getting it makes me feel both lucky and rich and, once it lands in my account, I feel more free to do responsible things I should do anyway, like put aside a bulk sum to pay for therapy and invest in my own retirement.

Maybe I don’t need that crutch, though. Maybe I can draw on routine, tell myself sternly that August is when I contribute to my IRA, period. After all, is it ever really a good time to part with over $5,000 at once?

I consulted the Internet, curious if anyone had any helpful guidance on this question, and found only IRA explainers and FAQ as to how not to do IRAs wrong. Those links are worth clicking on, if you’d like or could use any kind of refresher. But they’re not prescriptive for our purposes. No, we simply have to trust common sense on this one, and Mike Dang, of course.

In other words: the best time of year to contribute to an IRA is anytime you can get yourself to do it.

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