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Sorry, you are giving the limits for a 401(k) contribution, not a Traditional IRA. The Traditional IRA limits for 2018 are $5,500 plus a $1,000 catch up contribution if 50 or older. If there was enough joint earned income, this could have been contributed as a spousal IRA, and the wife's income could have been contributed to another type of retirement plan, as described in the Fidelity link.

Good catch, and thanks for that correction, but this makes the OP's situation worse from my perspective because the Traditional IRA limits are so much lower than the 401k to start with.
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