Are you basing your retirement plans on myths that make you afraid to save too much – and lead you to believe you won’t need that much money anyway? If so, you could be missing opportunities to start putting aside money early when you get the biggest benefit from compound interest and tax-free growth.
While tax-deferred savings plans do place barriers to withdrawing retirement funds, you can get to most of your money in an emergency. What’s more, you have more options for tax-deferred savings than you may think – and you will probably need more money than you realize. Take time to separate fact from fiction; it’s worth it to understand the truth behind these five myths.
1. Your retirement-plan contributions are locked in until you retire.
This simply isn’t the case, though you may have to pay taxes and/or penalties for withdrawals from your IRA. Employer retirement plan contributions are more difficult to access; you can, however, borrow against your 401(k) or defined-benefit plan, although you will be expected to pay them back before you leave the company. In some cases, you may even qualify for a hardship loan, but be prepared to pay taxes and penalties if you do so.
“You should view the 10% early access penalty as a positive reminder to you not to touch this money. Remember, it is likely that when you reach your sixtieth birthday, you will still have at least a quarter century to live,” says Lex Zaharoff, CFA, senior wealth advisor, HTG Investment Advisors Inc., New Canaan, Conn.
2. If you contribute to a retirement plan at work, you can’t also contribute to a traditional IRA.
This myth is really a misunderstanding of the income limit rules governing tax deductions for traditional IRA contributions. According to the IRS, if you have a 401(k) at work, your tax deductions for traditional IRA contributions may be limited (not prohibited) depending on your income. In 2017, for example, if you are married and filing your taxes jointly and your modified adjusted gross income (AGI ) is $99,000 or less, you may ask for a full deduction (up to your contribution limit) of your IRA contributions.
3. You have to roll over your retirement funds into an IRA when you leave a company.
Contrary to popular belief, all retirement plans do not have to be rolled over into an IRA. In some situations, you can withdraw the funds or transfer them to another account. For example, if you’re 55 or over and leave a company to retire, you can withdraw money penalty-free from the employer’s 401(k) retirement plan. If, however, you have an IRA, penalty-free withdrawals aren’t available until you are 59½….