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Before we start, you should read the TMF articles on IRAs. You can jump to the head article from this link:
http://www.fool.com/money/allaboutiras/allaboutiras.htm?ref=RTRiras

You also should get a copy of IRS Pub 590, Individual Retirement Agreements. You can get a copy at most libraries and many post offices, or you can download a copy from the IRS web site:
http://www.irs.gov/forms_pubs/pubs.html

1. in an i.r.a., are the contributions i make taken from my pretax or after tax income?

For a Traditional IRA, the contributions generate tax deductions, but the deductions are subject to income limits. Also, withdrawals from a Traditional IRA are taxable as income. For a Roth IRA, the contributions are made with after tax money, and the contributions are subject to income limits. Withdrawals from a Roth IRA are free of federal income taxes (for now).

2. can i set up my i.r.a. to automatically deduct a certain amount out of my paycheck just like contributions to a 401k?

Yes. Check with your IRA custodian for their rules.

3. can an i.r.a. account be in the name of 2 people say, a husband and wife?

No. Individual Retirement Agreements are INDIVIDUAL Retirement Agreements. You may each open IRA accounts in your own names. Also, you can name each other as beneficiaries. Check with your IRA custodian for their rules.

David Jacobs
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