Make your money last in retirement

Many people worry about running out of money in retirement. That’s understandable, since we don’t know how long we’ll live, what your future costs might be and what kind of returns we can expect on our savings.

There are several ways, however, to boost the odds that your money will last as long as you need it. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to make your money last in your retirement.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Chase brings back limits on Cardholders’ right to sue. Also in the news: 5 getaways within reach using Southwest’s latest sign-up bonus, how to save for retirement and pay your student loans at the same time, and 8 pieces of financial advice from college commencement speakers.

Chase Brings Back Limits on Cardholders’ Right to Sue
Binding arbitration has returned.

5 Getaways Within Reach Using Southwest’s Latest Sign-Up Bonus
Quick tickets for new customers.

How to save for retirement and pay your student loans at the same time
A budget that pays for the past and saves for the future.

8 Pieces of Financial Advice From College Commencement Speakers
Money lessons and career tips.

How to extend your (working) life

Many people plan to work past normal retirement age, by choice or necessity. But most aren’t taking the steps that could increase the odds they’ll be able to do so.

When asked what they’re doing to ensure they can continue working past 65, fewer than half of employees polled in the 2019 Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers say they’re trying to stay healthy. Similar numbers cited performing well in their current positions (43%) or keeping their job skills up to date (40%). More than 1 in 4 say they aren’t doing anything to ensure they remain employed longer. In my latest for the Associated Press, why the workers of the world need to wake up.

Q&A: How to make retirement saving a priority

Dear Liz: One thing I like about saving for retirement with an IRA is that I can wait until April 15 of the following year and then just contribute a lump sum for whatever I can afford to put in that year. Is there anything similar with 401(k)? Or do I have to have the contributions come out piecemeal with payroll deductions? I keep revising the percentages, but then there is a lag time between when I revise and when that money is taken out. It is a hassle. It would be much easier to just make a lump sum contribution at the end of the year to my 401(k).

Answer: Many people have unpredictable incomes and variable expenses that make planning tough. If you have a steady paycheck, though, you’d be smart to pay yourself first by making your retirement contributions a priority.

It’s generally smart to contribute at least enough to get the full company match, even if that means cutting back elsewhere. Matches are free money that you shouldn’t pass up. If you can contribute more, even better. For many people, retirement plan contributions are one of the few available ways they can still reduce their taxable income.

If you discover after the end of the year that you could have put in more, you can still make a lump sum contribution to an IRA. Since you have a plan at work, your contribution would be fully deductible if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $64,000 for singles or $103,000 for married couples filing jointly. The ability to deduct the contribution phases out so that there’s no deduction once income is above $74,000 for singles and $123,000 for couples.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The lowdown on new tools to jump-start your credit. Also in the news: The new credit card that pays cash-back rewards for on-time payments, tuition discounts grow at private colleges and universities, and what to do in your 20s and 30s to be set in your 60s and 70s.

The Lowdown on New Tools to Jump-Start Your Credit
Learn how they work and if you should use them.

No credit history? This new credit card pays cash-back rewards for on-time bill payments
Introducing Petal.

Tuition discounting grows at private colleges and universities
Tuition costs are dropping.

What to do in your 20s and 30s to be set in your 60s and 70s
It’s never too early to prepare.

Q&A: Here’s a case where taking retirement funds early might make sense

Dear Liz: My wife and I are both retired and receiving annuity payments. In addition, we have about $1.3 million in traditional IRAs and $350,000 in another annuity that will pay us each about $1,000 per month. We are moving from Texas to Arkansas sometime in the next year. Texas has no state income tax and pretty high property taxes, while Arkansas has lower property taxes but about 6% income tax. We plan to put down about $200,000 on a new home and obtain a mortgage for about $350,000 at about 4% interest.

Does it make sense to withdraw money from the IRA to pay down the amount we need to borrow for the mortgage? I can withdraw about $90,000 without putting us into the next higher federal tax bracket, if that makes any difference, and end up saving $5,400 in Arkansas income tax at the same time.

By my calculations, the return on the $90,000 would be almost $8,000 every year in reduced mortgage payments if we took out a 15-year mortgage. If we did the 30-year loan, that savings would be over $5,000. I don’t think we’ll achieve the same returns on $90,000 leaving those funds invested as they are in bonds or cash.

Answer: It usually doesn’t make sense to tap retirement funds to pay down a mortgage, but your case may be one of the exceptions. You have enough saved that the withdrawal won’t claim a big chunk of your available funds and leave you cash-poor.

We’ll assume you’re over 59½ and won’t face penalties for early withdrawal. If that’s the case, then you’ll also be facing required minimum distributions within a few years. These mandatory withdrawals, which must start after you turn 70½, would subject at least some of this money to taxation. The question is whether you want to pay those taxes now or later, and you’re making a pretty good case for now.

Before you withdraw any money from a retirement fund, however, you should consult with a tax pro or a fee-only financial planner, or both. Mistakes made in early retirement often have irreversible consequences, so you want an objective second opinion before you proceed.

The life-changing magic of working a bit longer

Retirement experts frequently recommend working longer if you haven’t saved enough. But you may not realize just how powerful a little extra work can be.

Researchers who compared the relative returns of working longer versus saving more last year reached some startling findings. In my latest for the Associated Press, how working just a few months longer can bolster your retirement.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 8 ways to keep your travel credit card working for you. Also in the news: How being neighborly can save you money, why new federal student loans are getting cheaper, and to save more for retirement, add this to your budget.

8 Ways to Keep Your Travel Credit Card Working for You
Making sure your card is pulling its weight.

How Being Neighborly Can Save You Money
Borrowing tools and beyond.

New Federal Student Loans Are Getting Cheaper
Interest rates are dropping.

To Save More for Retirement, Add This to Your Budget
Making savings a line item.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is better credit worth exposing your banking data? Also in the news: The average 401(k) balance by age, 8 common and costly homebuying myths, and why debt collectors may soon be able to text you.

Is Better Credit Worth Exposing Your Bank Data?
Other ways to build credit.

The average 401(k) balance by age
Balances typically increase as you age.

8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths
Don’t get trapped.

Why Debt Collectors May Soon Be Able to Text You
And email you.

Income can peak before you’re ready

Most retirement calculators are optimistic to a fault. They assume our incomes will rise throughout our working lives, or at least stay roughly the same.

In reality, our incomes are likely to peak years — and sometimes decades — before we retire. In my latest for the Associated Press, why saving early for retirement is crucial.