On this week’s Crash Proof Retirement Show ®, Phil Cannella and Joann Small discussed some of the biggest mistakes a person can commit when handling their retirement accounts.
IRAs are different from other accounts or investments because the most common mistakes aren’t the result of reckless investing or a lack of money management. Rather, IRA mistakes typically occur due to a lack of understanding about an intricate, often complicated set of tax rules and laws that govern the accounts.
As Phil and Joann discussed, consulting a Retirement Phase Expert is the surest way to navigate any potential pitfalls. But in the meantime, here are nine common IRA misconceptions as compiled by Bankrate.com.
1.) “I invest in an IRA”— An IRA is not an investment in itself. It’s simply a classification for a particular account. The actual investments are contained within the IRA.
2.) “I need multiple IRAs”—Many people seem to believe that every time they set aside money for retirement, it requires a brand-new account. This is not true, and in fact is the opposite of what a wise investor should do. The fewer IRAs you have, the easier it will be to track your investments and the aforementioned tax laws within the accounts.
3.) “I can wait to name a beneficiary”— As we discussed today, the beneficiary form is so simple that it often goes overlooked. There are enough complicated aspects of IRAs—take advantage of the simplicity of this detail. Fill out that beneficiary form today!
4.) “I don’t understand this, but my advisor can fill me in”— If you don’t understand all the intricate details of your IRA, what makes you so sure you advisor will? Ignorance is no excuse—if you miss a distribution or fail to complete a rollover in 60 days, that’s your problem, says the IRS.
Luckily, Retirement Phase Experts are specially equipped to educate you on the provisions of your account.
5.) ”I’m not prepared to contribute regularly”— It’s one thing to invest, but regular contributions to an IRA carry numerous tax advantages. Keep your planned retirement date in mind and start saving as soon as possible.
6.) “I don’t need an IRA, I have a 401(k)”— Not all company-sponsored 401(k) plans are the same. Some offer very little liquidity, while others put a limit on your investment options. Whatever the conditions, chances are you have very little say in creating them. You can designate just about any investment you choose as an IRA, and do so with greater flexibility and options .
7.) “I have to withdraw cash every year once I turn 70 ½”— While it’s true that you must begin taking money out of a traditional IRA every year once you reach age 70 ½, that doesn’t mean you have to walk out with a bundle of cash annually. Transfers permit you to move existing investments out of the IRA and into a taxable account.
8.) “I changed jobs—better do a rollover”— Rollovers are not always in your best interest, but good luck finding an advisor who will admit this. IRA expert Ed Slott explains one alternative. “If instead of doing a rollover, you take a lump-sum distribution, the appreciation can come out tax-free as opposed to taxable in an IRA.”
9.) “I can always borrow from my IRA if I need funds”— Loans are not an option, and if you choose to invoke the rollover provision, be careful You have 60 days to re-deposit the money into another IRA. If you take even 61 days, you no longer have an IRA. But you will have one heck of a tax bill.
Ed Slott compares money in an IRA to a hot potato. “You can move it—but you have to be careful.”