Question - I am a 42-year-old single male with $235,000 in my IRA. I've tried to pick well-managed no-load funds.
The money is allocated about 90 percent in equities and 10 percent in bonds and cash due to my age and how long I have until retirement.Here is the approximate allocation: Janus (15 percent); Mutual Qualified (15 percent); Acorn (15 percent); 20th Century Ultra (5 percent); Vanguard Windsor (15 percent); T. Rowe Price International (15 percent); Vanguard S&P 500 Index (10 percent); and Vanguard Intermediate-Term Bond (10 percent).
My question concerns the excess accumulation tax on retirement accounts.
If my returns approach the historical yearly returns of 10 percent, I should easily surpass the trigger point for the extra 15 percent tax. Should I consider quitting contributions to my IRA and also early withdrawal before age 59 1/2? - S.R.
Answer - That's a very nice selection of funds. I don't see any need to second-guess you on it.
The best way to avoid the excess accumulation tax is to make use of the "substantially equal payment" rules that let you make withdrawals from IRAs before age 591/2 without penalty as long as you make regular withdrawals for the greater of five years or until you reach age 591/2.
My suggestion: Continue making contributions but plan to start making early withdrawals. Tax deferral of income and returns on that income is very valuable.
Question - In a recent column, you said: "Yields make Treasuries better than money in the bank."
I was shocked that you do not understand why banks offer certificate of deposit rates under those offered by Treasury securities with comparable maturities.
What happens to the value of a Treasury security if interest rates rise during the term an investor purchases? They would get back considerably less than par. Most bank CDs offer the customer the flexibility of redeeming their CD with as little as a one-month interest penalty.
You are correct that if you buy a CD and a Treasury and hold until maturity, the difference in yield is up to 100 basis points. But if rates rise rapidly, most depositors will redeem their CDs and reinvest at the higher rate.
Can you do that with a Treasury without losing part of your initial investment? I don't think so!
Your slant that banks are taking advantage of the investing public is wrong. They offer a different type of investment that has different risks and rewards than a treasury or other investment product.
And when was the last time the federal government made a donation to the local Little League or Boy Scouts? - V.S., La Grange, Texas
Answer - Let's have a little less sentiment and a lot more history and fact.
In the late '60s it was possible for the "average Joe" to buy a Treasury bill for only $1,000. As interest rates rose, savers started to take their money out of deposit institutions and move their money to Treasuries.
The Treasury responded by raising its minimum investment to $10,000, shutting out the small saver and keeping him in regulated bank deposits that were great for banks.
By the late '70s, the spread between regulated deposit institution rates and Treasuries was so high the institutions themselves asked for deregulation because it was the only way they could retain deposits.
That move, in June 1977, took the lid off interest rates and took us straight into the wild yields of 1981.
Recently, if you invested in a $50,000 portfolio of five average bank CDs and a $50,000 portfolio of five identical maturity U.S. Treasury securities, the annual interest difference would have been $511. This isn't small change.
You argue that the CD consumer can redeem a CD "with as little as a one-month interest penalty." But the penalty can often be substantially higher and reduce the return on the CD. The effect can be very similar to selling a Treasury security before maturity if interest rates have risen.
If interest rates have declined, you can sell a Treasury security at a profit and enjoy a still higher return. You can't do that with a CD.
The real story here is that informed investors have been able to increase their interest income with no risk not for months or years but for decades, simply by learning how to buy the safest securities in the world, U.S. Treasuries.