Lately my cozy, warm puppy condo with its fleece carpeting has been pretty comforting, and it’s been hard forcing myself to take my 3 daily strolls outside, much less spend time grooming my coif, putting on my booties, and donning my winter coat. I don’t think I’m ready for retirement just yet, even if you count my age in human years. But the impulse to burrow back underneath the covers every morning has set me to thinking: Is it the cold outside? Or am I ready to stop chasing my tail and settle down comfortably?
The answer is – both!
I can’t really control the weather, like stopping the snow, even if I am imbued with meta-human powers. But I can bone up on the issues of my retirement plan. You know . . . get ready for that grand day when I can run into my Boss’s office, spit out my chewed-up resignation letter, and head down South to bask in the warm rays of a sunnier climate.
First off, of course, I had to find out about my retirement package. The Boss wasn’t too happy with my questions, mainly, I think, because she suspected I was ready to spin in circles the 3 requisite times to show my ecstasy for surrendering my slave collar.
But never mind the Boss’s reaction. Over the next few postings, I’m going to teach you a few tricks I learned about retirement planning. We’ll sniff around issues such as the facts about retirement plans, savings tips, and tax implications.
If your employer offers a retirement package, you’re entitled to receive disclosure documents about the plan. If you’ve lost yours, head for your nearest Human Resources office. Here’s an overview of what you should find in the documents:
- The documents should outline the conditions necessary for participation in the retirement plan. Within limits, depending on the type of plan, your employer can set participation requirements, such as the length of employment prior to joining.
- The documents should elaborate on contributions to your plan, including information such as annual limits and what types are allowable and what aren’t. The plan may even cover the types of contributions you make, such as pre-tax salary deferrals or Roth contributions.
- The documents should outline your vesting schedule. “Vesting” refers to the ownership of the plan. You own 100% of contributions you make on your own, even after you leave your employer. But the contributions made by your employer on your behalf may not be “vested” or obtainable by you for up to 7 years.
- The documents should lay out the policy regarding distributions of your plan. Whether you can receive distributions at any time depends on the type of plan. Generally you can receive distributions only when you leave the employer or retire. Certain IRA-based plans allow distributions before retirement, but tax implications may come into play. Also, exceptions exist for special circumstances.
Next time we meet, in exchange for multiple tummy scritches and tasty treats, I’ll bark back some answers to common questions about retirement plans, including IRAs.
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