Q&A: Saving after retirement

Dear Liz: I’m retired, age 67. I have a SEP that requires me to pay taxes on any withdrawals. I also have standard savings and checking accounts. The SEP has been earning 13% to 14% annually, and of course the savings account earns very little. Where does it make sense for me to place savings each month — in the bank or the SEP?

Well, not the SEP. A SEP is a simplified employee pension plan that only allowed contributions as long as you were employed by the company that offered it.

Besides, the reason for the difference in returns is what’s in the account, not the account itself. The SEP probably is invested in stocks, while the savings account is just cash earning the current low interest rates. On the other hand, the money in your savings account is FDIC insured so that you won’t lose your principal.

Money in the stock market is at risk because stocks don’t always rise in value. (Over time, a diversified mix of stocks typically will earn better returns than other types of investments, but you can’t count on the money being there if you need it in a hurry.)

If you’re retired and don’t have earned income, you can’t put money into other retirement accounts such as IRAs or Roth IRAs. You can, however, open a brokerage account and invest money through that. You’ll still pay taxes on any withdrawals, but if you hold the investments for at least a year you can benefit from lower capital gains tax rates.