Money Talk: For retirement funds, consider your own needs
January 24, 2010
Dear Liz: My husband is quite a bit older than I (about 18 years). When we married, we agreed that we should put all our savings into joint funds and into his retirement accounts. Our thought was that since I’m younger, we’d have much earlier access to retirement money by funneling it into his retirement accounts (as opposed to mine), and that it was unfair for me to sock away money that he may never have access to.
Emotionally, I feel anxious about not having my own accounts. What would you advise for a couple like us with an age difference?
Answer: You are likely to outlive your husband by at least two decades. Rather than focusing on early access to retirement funds, you should be making sure that money lasts for a lifetime: your lifetime, not just his. By the way, considering your own needs is not unfair — it’s sensible. A loving husband wouldn’t want to leave you old, alone and impoverished.
You should definitely have a meeting with a fee-only financial planner who can review your situation and make sure the needs of both of you are considered.
Dear Liz: I applied for a 10-month, interest-free loan at an appliance store to purchase a washing machine and was refused. We own our house, have no outstanding debt and pay our credit cards in full each month. I’m worried that if something happens to my husband and I want to buy a car or whatever I need, I won’t be able to get credit.
Answer: If you were turned down for credit, you should have been given free access to the credit report the lender used to make its decision. In any case, everyone in the United States can get a free look at their credit reports from the three bureaus once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
You should peruse the reports to see whether there are any obvious errors, such as accounts that aren’t yours or late payments when you paid on time.
Liz Pulliam Weston is the author of the book “Your Credit Score: Your Money and What’s at Stake.” Questions for possible inclusion in her column may be sent to 3940 Laurel Canyon Blvd., No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or via the “Contact Liz” form at www.asklizweston.com.