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The tax code offers help through tax-favored retirement savings options
For the last few months, the standing joke in our house has been that the first words the hubby and I say to each other every morning is, "Can we retire today?"
OK. Maybe we don't ask that question first thing in the morning, but that's mainly because the hubby is not a morning person.
But we have been paying closer attention to our retirement stash, as well as checking on what we can one day expect from Social Security.
Calculating retirement income: There are a gazillion calculators out there to run some numbers for prospective retirees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has added another one to the mix.
With the CFPB online tool, you enter your birth date and your highest annual earnings amount. The calculator then will tell you at what age you can collect full Social Security benefits -- remember, back in 1983 the law changed so that the full retirement age of 65 is bumped up incrementally depending on your birth year until it hits 67 for folks born in 1960 or later -- and estimate of your monthly benefits amount.
There's also a bar graph you can use to check on payments for subsequent years until you hit full retirement at 70. Or if you're super anxious to quit working, you can see how much, or really how little, you'll get by claiming Social Security at 62, the earliest possible age anyone can collect benefits.
For me, the CFPB numbers show I'd get around $500 less each month if I quit at 62. And if I put off claiming Social Security until age 70, I'll get $600 more in benefits each month.
Check out your Social Security account: The CFPB online estimator was developed in conjunction with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you want more official estimates, the SSA has several other benefits calculators.
Also at the SSA website, you can create a personalized account to track your earnings and get a more precise estimate of your future benefits.
I recommend doing that. While the CFPB calculator was close, its estimates were a little low compared to my actual SSA account numbers.
Until Social Security arrives: If the hubby and I quit now, we'll have to use our own savings to live on until we're old enough to collect Social Security.
We're in pretty good shape, but making the leap is scary. And there are so many issues to consider and questions with no clear answers.
Do we really have enough? Enough to put off Social Security until full retirement or later? Or go for it at 62? It depends on how long we think we'll stick around. As Rush (the Canadian rock band, not the radio talking head) says, we're only immortal for a limited time.
What if the stock market crashes and takes out our equity holdings? Should we start shifting them to ostensibly safer assets now? Soon?
As for those safer assets, for the almost seven years that the Federal Reserve has kept its benchmark interest rate close to zero, our fixed savings have earned basically nothing. Do we want more money just treading water?
And what about the investments that are interest rate sensitive when the Fed finally does start inching up rates?
Plus, we'll owe capital gains taxes on the holdings that we do decide to start taking or reallocate.
Supplemental savings crucial: At least the hubby and I have a variety of private retirement savings accounts to factor into our post-work plans.
A CFPB study issued along with its online retirement benefits tool says that around 40 percent of people approaching retirement (that, for the study's purpose, are my peeps ranging in age from 51 to 59) have limited or no savings and are projected to face a retirement savings shortfall.
These folks are likely to join the millions of older Americans who depend on Social Security benefits for half or more of their retirement income.
Until the hubby and I do call it quits in the working world, we'll keep contributing to all the retirement saving options we have available -- IRAs, his 401(k) with company match, my self-employment retirement account.
And we'll continue to take advantage as much as we can of the extra amount that people age 50 or older can put into retirement vehicles.
If you're younger that we are -- and nowadays that seems like just about everyone! -- you should be saving for retirement, too. Trust me, the day will come before you realize it.
In general, the 2016 pension plan limitations aren't changing, or not much, because low inflation meant that the cost-of-living index did not meet the thresholds that trigger bumping up the amounts.
Here's what the Internal Revenue Service says is staying at 2015 levels for 2016 as far as retirement accounts:
- The most you can contribute to a 401(k) or similar workplace account is $18,000. The catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) etc. participating employees age 50+ is still $6,000.
- The maximum annual contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA remains unchanged at $5,500. So does the IRA catch-up contribution amount of $1,000.
- The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for those who have modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI; Shameless plug: check out the ol' blog's glossary for this acronym and other tax terms) within a certain range.
-- For singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range remains unchanged at $61,000 to $71,000.
-- For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range remains unchanged at $98,000 to $118,000.
-- For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
However, a few limitations will change because the increase in the index did meet the statutory thresholds. They are:
- For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's adjusted gross income (AGI) is between $184,000 and $194,000. That's a bump up from $183,000 and $193,000 in 2015.
- The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $184,000 to $194,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $183,000 to $193,000 in 2015. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $117,000 to $132,000, an increase over last year's $116,000 to $131,000 range.
- The AGI limit for the retirement saver's credit is $61,500 for married couples filing jointly, up from $61,000; $46,125 for heads of household, up from $45,750; and $30,750 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $30,500.
Yeah, that's a lot of numbers. And a lot to think about when it comes to figuring out how to have a long and financially worry-free retirement. But it's worthwhile numbers crunching.
You'll be better able to achieve the retirement you want if you start your planning, and saving, now.
And the hubby and I will save you a rocking chair on our porch.
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