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Does earned income mean I've earned $1000 over the span of all the jobs I've had, or just my current job?

What the previous poster was saying is that in order to contribute to an IRA, you must have earned income in that calander year. If you will earn more than $3000 in 2003 you can contribute up to $3000. If you will earn less that $3000 in 2003, then you can only contribute up to the amount of gross income you had.

so if you made $227 in 2003, you could invest up to $227 in your IRA.

If you made $2076 in 2003, you could invest up to $2076.

If you made $3000, you could contribute all of it to your IRA.

If you made $3,115, you could only contribute $3000 of it to your IRA.

Which IRA are you considering, Roth or Traditional? I would suggest Roth, because I can virtually garauntee that your tax rate will increase when you reach retirement.

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