Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Managing your 401(k) in uncertain times. Also in the news: How the Alternative Minimum Tax works, how owning or selling a home affects your taxes, and the 10 biggest tax havens on earth.

How To Manage Your 401(k) in Uncertain Times
Protecting your retirement.

How Does the Alternative Minimum Tax Work?
What you need to know about the extra tax bite.

How Owning or Selling a Home Affects Your Taxes
Both could save you money.

These are the 10 biggest tax havens on the planet
In case this year’s taxes have you thinking of relocating.

Q&A: How to track down an old retirement account

Dear Liz: I worked for a company during the late 1990s. When I left, I had a 401(k) worth approximately $10,000. I recently found an old 401(k) statement and called the plan administrator. I was told my company’s accounts had been transferred to another plan administrator in 2008. I called the new administrator and was told they also could not find my 401(k) using my Social Security number. How do I proceed? What are my options?

Answer: Get ready to make a lot more phone calls.

There’s no central repository for missing 401(k) funds — at least not yet. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which safeguards traditional pensions, has proposed rules that would allow it to hold orphaned 401(k) money from plans that have closed. That wouldn’t start until 2018. Another proposal, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), would direct the IRS to set up an online database so workers could find pension and 401(k) benefits from open or closed plans, but Congress has yet to take action on that.

If your balance was less than $5,000 — which is possible, given the big market drop in 2008-2009 — your employer could have approved a forced IRA transfer and the money could be sitting with a financial services firm that accepts small accounts. If the plan was closed and your employer couldn’t find you, the money could have been transferred to an IRA, a bank account or a state escheat office. You can check state escheat offices at Unclaimed.org, but searching for an IRA or bank account may require help.

If your employer still exists, call to find out if anyone knows what happened to your money. If the company is out of business, you may be able to get free help tracking down your money from the U.S. Department of Labor (at askebsa.dol.gov or (866) 444-3272) or from the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit pension counseling center (pensionrights.org/find-help). Another place to check is the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, a subsidiary of a private company, called PenChecks, that processes retirement checks, at www.unclaimedretirementbenefits.com.

One more wrinkle: Your employer or a plan administrator could insist you cashed in your account at some point. You may be able to prove otherwise if you’ve kept old tax returns, since those typically would show any distributions.

Your experience shows why it’s important not to lose track of old retirement accounts. Your current employer may allow you to transfer old accounts into its plan, or you can roll the money into an IRA. Either way, it’s much better to keep on top of your retirement money than to try to find it years later.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What happens when you can’t repay a payday loan. Also in the news: How to upgrade your old car with new-car tech, why women may face retirement shortfalls despite the closing pay gap, and the biggest complaints about 401(k)s.

When You Can’t Repay a Payday Loan
Preparing for the consequences.

5 Ways to Upgrade Your Old Car With New-Car Tech
You don’t need a new car in order to have the bells and whistles.

Pay Gap Closing but Women May Face Retirement Shortfall
Good news and bad news.

The Biggest Complaints About 401(k)s
Know what you’re dealing with.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for December. Also in the news: How to tell if a Roth 401(k) is for you, why postdating checks is a waste of time, and how many credit cards you should have.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for December 2016
Just in time for holiday spending.

How to Tell If a Roth 401(k) Is for You
Choosing the right retirement savings.

Postdating Checks Is a Waste of Time — Here’s Why
Not worth the risk.

How many credit cards should you have?
What’s the magic number?

Q&A: What to consider when investing in target date retirement funds

Dear Liz: I have 100% of my 401(k) in a fund called “Target Retirement 2030.” This fund is made of several other funds, so does that qualify as “diversified”?

Answer: It does. Target date funds have become increasingly popular in 401(k) plans because they do the heavy lifting for investors. The funds select asset allocations and grow more conservative in their mix as the retirement date approaches.

Target date funds aren’t perfect, of course. Some are too expensive. The typical target date fund charges about 1%, but Vanguard and Fidelity charge as little as 0.15%.

Another issue is the “glide path” — how quickly the funds get more conservative. There’s no consensus about what the right glide path should be, and investment companies offer a lot of different mixes. Any given glide path may be too steep for some people and too shallow for others, depending on their circumstances. As an investor, you can compensate for that by choosing funds dated later or earlier than your targeted retirement date. If the 2030 fund gets too conservative too fast for your taste, for example, you could choose the 2040 fund instead.

Despite the downsides, you’re likely to be much better off in a target date fund than you are in some of the other options. Too often novice investors take too much or too little risk without realizing it. They may have all of their money in “safe” low-return options, which means they’re losing ground to inflation. Or they may have all their money in stocks, including their own company’s stock, and would be unprepared for a downturn wiping out a good chunk of their portfolio’s value.

Even those who know they should diversify often do it wrong by randomly distributing their contributions across their investment options. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or you simply prefer investing professionals to take charge, target date funds are a good way to go.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

wall_street_zombie_moneyToday’s top story: Frightening types of 401(k) fees. Also in the news: It’s time for open enrollment, how to avoid bringing zombie debt back from the grave, and the staggering amount of money behind all things pumpkin.

3 Frightening Types of 401(k) Fees
The dark side of retirement funds.

Nov. 1 Means It’s Time for Health Insurance Open Enrollment
Time to purchase health insurance.

1 wrong move can bring ‘zombie’ debt back from the grave

If you thought the pumpkin spice craze was a bit much, look at this number
Pumpkins are a smashing success.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

common-retirement-mistakesToday’s top story: How to tell if your 401(k) is a dud. Also in the news: How to find unclaimed property, great tax deductions for retirees, and how to sneak more savings into your budget.

How To Tell If Your 401(k) Is a Dud
Reviving your retirement fund.

Are You Owed Money From a Forgotten Bank Account?
You could have unclaimed property.

5 Great Tax Deductions and Credits for Retirees
Maximizing your deductions.

How to Sneak More Savings Into Your Budget
You won’t even notice it’s gone.

How the Wrong Choice Could Ruin Your Spouse’s Retirement

1403399192000-retire-workThree key decisions about retirement benefits can help couples make their money last — or dramatically increase the chances the survivor will end up old and broke.

Widowed women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to live in poverty during retirement, according to a March study by the National Institute on Retirement Security. But anyone who outlives a mate can be vulnerable to a big drop in income and lifestyle because of shortsighted decisions about claiming benefits.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to make the right choices for your retirement.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

401k-planToday’s top story: Why long-term care insurance is worth the expense. Also in the news: The differences between a 401(k) and a Roth 401(k), how to make yourself a better retirement saver, and keeping an eye out for electricity surge pricing.

Long-Term Care Insurance Is Worth the Expense
Paying now can save a lot later.

You Know About the 401(k) — But What About the Roth 401(k)?
Know the differences.

5 Ways to Make Yourself a Better Retirement Saver
Taking the long view.

Beware of Surge Pricing on Your Electric Bill
Running your air conditioner just got a bit pricier.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Financial-PlanningToday’s top story: How to find the best mortgage rate online. Also in the news: How to set up your first 401(k), what happens if you work after signing up for Social Security, and why we value purchases more when we pay with cash.

How to Find the Best Mortgage Rates and Lenders Online
Comparison shopping.

Class of 2016, Here’s How to Set Up Your First 401(k)
Happy Graduation! Time to focus on retirement.

What Happens if You Work After Signing Up for Social Security?
What you can and cannot collect.

Why We Value Purchases More When We Pay With Cash
The psychology of spending.