Life happens pretty fast. Most of us are busy working away, adding to our retirement accounts in a company plan or an IRA. Before we know it, we’re nearing retirement. And there is something I’ve noticed about this.
It isn’t hard to build up our retirement if it’s taken out of our paychecks or checking accounts automatically. We don’t ever really miss it. But we may not find it so easy to do this with our after-tax money. Setting aside money for emergencies, other long-term savings, ready cash for vacations and big ticket items is important also.
We’ve grown accustom to instant gratification, impulsively buying things we don’t need, and we whittle away the money we could be saving in a savings or investment account apart from long-term retirement ones.
In approaching retirement, many people find they have a nice amount in their IRAs or retirement plans, yet not much elsewhere. Once in retirement, or unluckily, laid off, they find they need to not only depend on an income from the retirement accounts, but it also is the place they need to go for big expenses such as repairing big items, needing a new a/c unit, or other big costs. And if they turn 70 ½, now they have to take a significant amount out for their RMD, (Required Mandatory Distribution), because the IRS wants to tax that account you’ve had great tax advantages on for so long.
One scenario: George has $1,000,000 in his IRA. He turned 70 ½ this year and must withdraw $50,000 and pay taxes on that. He may not need it, but he has to take the distribution anyway. He could have directed some of those savings to non-retirement accounts.
Another scenario: Harry, 55, has saved $300,000 in his IRA but has only about $7,000 in savings. He needs a new roof that will cost him $15,000. He needs to take it out of his IRA, paying income tax and a 10% penalty because he is not yet 59 ½ .
The advice here is, in addition to saving for retirement, it is important to set aside other monies that is readily available without penalties or tax consequences. There are several ways to set this up automatically, much like your retirement plan at work.
- Ask your employer if they have an after-tax savings plan you can contribute to that is reasonably accessible to you.
- Set up a savings, money market, or mutual fund and direct your bank to send to this account a set amount at regular periods. Could be around your paycheck deposits.
- When you sit down to pay your bills make a point to pay yourself first. Transfer money from your bank account to your savings online.
- For extra windfalls such as a bonus, monetary gifts, inheritance, etc. save a portion.
There are more ideas, see if you can think of some. Just be aware so all your assets aren’t in a retirement account. Retirement accounts are for retirement income down the road.
Get with a financial planner and figure out a plan that will give you the income you’ll need in retirement and savings for needs while you’re working.