WASHINGTON – Individual retirement accounts are poised to become even more of a viable investment choice when new contributions limits are put in place on Jan 1, 2002. Up until now, IRA contributions were limited to $2,000 a year per person, but the 2002 changes mean that an individual over 50 years old can now contribute up to $3,500 or $7,000 for a couple each year. Contribution limits also are set to rise annually through 2008 when a married couple over 50 can add as much as $12,000 a year to their tax-deferred retirement balances. The new rules, coupled with other “recent positive changes in the once lackluster IRA market,” indicate that credit unions campaigning quickly to attract these investments can benefit considerably, said Chip Filson, president of Callahan & Associates, Inc. “These are the type of accounts that are most likely to stay at the credit union making them a rich source of growth within our industry not just next year, but over time,” Filson said. Filson said few credit unions are doing any special IRA campaigning to date, but conditions are ripe for program increases considering that: credit union IRA, CD, and money market options are viewed in a much more favorable light since the stock market’s reversal; the over 50 group can contribute at the highest of the new limits and is generally the most loyal group of current members and already prefers less risky investments, according to the Investment Company Institute; IRAs are becoming the single largest pool of self-managed retirement savings today with a total of $2.7 trillion in assets or over $1 trillion larger than all 401 (k) and other defined contribution plans; and credit unions have about twice the market share of IRAs in insured deposits than they hold for all insured savings because of their tendency to pay higher rates than banks, Callahan reports. The average IRA balance for credit unions over $50 million in assets is $9,700, or about 50% greater than the average savings per member.

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