According to About.com, IRAs are basically savings plans with lots of restrictions.
The main advantage of an IRA is that you defer paying taxes on the earnings and growth of your savings until you actually withdraw the money.
The main disadvantage is the tax law imposes stiff penalties if you withdraw the funds before you turn age 59.5 years old.
There are different types of IRAs, each with their own tax implications and eligibility requirements. And here is a little fun fact, IRA's stem from the early 1970s when NBC broadcasted a television special called “The Broken Promise,” which showed Americans the consequences of poorly funded pension plans.
In this short video, USAA Certified Financial Planner Scott Halliwell explains IRAs in further detail.