What is an IRA? A Beginner’s Guide to Individual Retirement Accounts Lesson

Students learn about the ins and outs of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and their crucial role in financial planning for retirement. In our guide, we delve into the key differences between Traditional and Roth IRAs, including their unique tax advantages, eligibility requirements, and how they can be effectively utilized for long-term savings.

Traditional IRAs offer the benefit of tax-deductible contributions but require taxes on withdrawals in retirement, while Roth IRAs feature tax-free withdrawals, providing a valuable option for those anticipating a higher tax rate in the future. Through straightforward explanations, students will understand how to select the most suitable IRA type based on their current financial situation and future income projections. Emphasizing the significance of early contributions to maximize the power of compound interest, the guide also explores the broader context of retirement planning, incorporating IRAs into a comprehensive strategy. Furthermore, it clarifies the rules surrounding IRA contributions and distributions, highlighting exceptions that permit early withdrawals without penalties, thereby offering flexibility in managing retirement savings.


Use this video lesson on the topic of IRAs. Learn basic related concepts of

  • Retirement Planning
  • IRA Basics
  • Tax Advantages
  • Investment Choices
  • Saving
  • Investing
  • Spending
  • Risk Management


9-12th grades. High School. Adult Education.


30-45 Minutes. It may be necessary to adjust the lesson plan and allocate more or less time to certain topics, depending on the needs and interests of the students. More in-depth lesson plan below will be longer.


Hand out the worksheet below (see the GET LESSON button near the bottom of the page).

Show students the video and have and have them complete the worksheet.  Review the questions on the worksheet.  For a more in-depth lesson, complete the lesson plan below.

What is an IRA?

After watching the video, ask students to summarize the main points made in the video.


Lesson Plan: Understanding Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)


Objective: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain what an IRA is, differentiate between Traditional and Roth IRAs, understand the tax benefits and eligibility requirements of IRAs, and make informed decisions about saving for retirement.

Materials Needed:

  • “What is an IRA?” video
  • Quiz based on the video content

Lesson Duration: 1 hour

Instructional Plan:

  1. Introduction to IRAs (10 minutes): Begin the lesson with a brief overview of IRAs and their importance in financial planning. Highlight the significance of starting early and the impact of compound interest over time.

  2. Video Viewing (20 minutes): Watch the “What is an IRA?” video together. Encourage students to take notes on the different types of IRAs, their tax advantages, eligibility requirements, and contribution limits.

  3. Discussion (15 minutes): Facilitate a class discussion on the video content. Use guided questions to prompt critical thinking and personal reflection.

    • What are the main differences between a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA?
    • How do tax benefits for IRAs work, and why are they advantageous?
    • Why might someone choose one type of IRA over the other?
    • How does compound interest affect the growth of IRA contributions over time?
    • Discuss the importance of starting retirement savings early.
  4. Activities (10 minutes): Divide students into small groups and assign each group to create a simple plan indicating how they would start saving for retirement using IRAs. Encourage them to consider factors like their current age, expected retirement age, and whether they would opt for a Traditional or Roth IRA.

  5. Quiz (5 minutes): Conclude the lesson with a short quiz based on the video to assess students’ understanding of IRAs.

Follow-Up Activities:

  • Assign students to use an online IRA contribution calculator to explore how different contribution amounts and frequencies can impact their retirement savings.
  • Encourage students to interview a family member or friend about their retirement planning and whether they use an IRA.

Additional Resources:

  • IRS website for up-to-date information on IRA contribution limits and eligibility
  • Financial planning websites for tools and calculators related to IRAs and retirement planning

Lesson Resources

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Categories Retirement, Saving & Investing, Taxes, Tags , , ,

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