Since its inception more than three decades ago, the individual retirement account, or IRA, has solidified its role as the investment tool of choice for long-term savers seeking tax-favored growth.

Some 46 million U.S. households, or 39 percent, own an IRA, according to the Investment Company Institute, most with the intent of using those dollars to supplement their income after they stop collecting a paycheck.

But the ubiquitous IRA can flex far more muscle than that.

From estate-planning vehicle to emergency reserve to college savings plan, assets held within an IRA can be deployed for a multitude of reasons, often without penalty.

Continue reading 6 ways to use your IRA.