Here's What Happens To Retirees Who Treat Their IRA Savings Like The Lottery

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Imagine grabbing a treat from the family cookie jar then receiving a shockingly large tax bill a year later. That’s what's happening to retirees today who are tapping into their pool of retirement money to pay for family vacations and new cars.

“Some retirees look at their lifetime savings as a lottery winning,” said Dave Richmond, founding partner with Richmond Brothers, a wealth management firm in Jackson, Mich. “But in reality, this money is there to provide them the annual income they need for the rest of their lives. Without care and consideration, you will be left with only Social Security to survive on.”

Such withdrawal goes against the very merit of stashing cash in the first place.

“The whole point of an IRA is to get an initial tax savings and tax deferred growth,” said Bijan Golkar, certified financial planner with FPC Investment Advisory in Petaluma, Calif.

Retirees past the age of 59 years old are increasingly undergoing psychological changes that cause them to dip into their IRA accounts.

“They don’t think of the tax impact and unknowingly find themselves with a problem that does not show up until the next year,” Golkar told MainStreet.

Some 43 million taxpayers have an IRA in the U.S. with total reported value of more than $5 trillion.

“It is a psychological trend among retirees that causes them to feel like they have earned the right to withdraw money out of their IRA, but doing so can inadvertently put them into a higher tax bracket right at the time they need to be lowering their tax burden,” said Golkar.

The recommended maximum draw rate for those already living in retirement is 4%.

“If you are a retiree over the age of 59.5 you can withdraw funds up to 4%, but drawing at a higher rate puts at risk the principal and the ability to grow assets to keep up with inflation,” Richmond told MainStreet.


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In some cases, retirees are draining their IRA out of necessity for emergencies or unanticipated medical expenses.

“Baby boomers are being generationally squeezed from both sides,” Richmond said. “Their Millennial kids are having a hard time getting jobs out of college, and at the same time, their parents are aging and need help with long term care expenses. This has created a demand for money not seen in previous generations.”

Roughly 40 million Baby Boomers born after World War II are starting to turn 65 years old, and many will outlive their retirement savings.

“Retiring sooner and living longer creates a stress on capital needed and can lead to tapping into IRAs for this increase in expenses,” said Richmond.

The life expectancy for a 65-year-old American man in retirement is 17.7 years, and for a woman it’s 20.3 years, according to University of California research.

“Many Baby Boomers will be retired as long or almost as long as the number of years they worked, and it takes a lot of money to replace your income and create enough money again to have it grow with inflation,” Richmond said.

-Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley

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