Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Just before or after retirement, many people are faced with the prospect of changed finances that may cause them to make wrong decisions. For example, pre-retirees and new retirees may be tempted to abruptly change their investment portfolio from stocks to bonds, bank accounts, money market funds, etc. They want to reduce risk and increase current income.

However, at age 60 or 65, your investment portfolio might have to last you for several decades. For married couples, chances are that one spouse will live for 30 or 40 years, or even longer.

Over such extended time periods, stocks have outperformed bonds and that probably will be true in the future. Abandoning the stock market might sharply limit the amount you’ll have to spend as you grow older.

Instead, younger retirees should have a portfolio that includes at least 40 percent in equities; 60 percent may be more appropriate. As you grow older, you can gradually shift towards income-yielding instruments to reduce the risk of incurring steep stock-market losses that you won’t be able to make up.

Meanwhile, some people begin to withdraw funds from their IRAs as soon as they retire. However, such withdrawals reduce the tax-deferred growth an IRA can generate. In addition, withdrawals before age 59-1/2 normally are subject to a 10 percent penalty tax.

Instead, if you have sufficient assets, leave your IRA intact for most of the year while you rely upon your taxable accounts for spending money. Towards year-end, calculate your taxable income for the year and take low-taxed withdrawals from your IRA, if possible.

Suppose, for example, you meet with your tax pro in December. You’re told that you can withdraw $12,000 from your IRA by year-end and remain in the 15 percent federal tax bracket. You should take the money out, at a 15 percent rate, because future withdrawals may be taxed at higher rates.

Such a strategy can be repeated each year, once you reach age 59-1/2 and the 10 percent penalty no longer applies. After age 70-1/2, though, you will have to take minimum withdrawals from your IRA.