What the experts say
Tuition with home equity loans
“For parents facing the prospect of six-figure college bills, every bit of savings and every last tax break helps,” said Ron Lieber in The New York Times. Many are now lamenting “the end of deductions for interest people pay on home equity loans.” Plenty of families without adequate savings have borrowed against their home’s equity to fund college fees. “Many colleges know this and seem to count on it” in the financial aid application process, factoring home equity into what they ask you to pay. Despite the deduction elimination, colleges will likely continue that approach. Even without the deduction, home equity loans remain “a good deal” compared with the 7 percent interest rate offered by some college-recommended loans. But proceed cautiously, because interest rates are rising and home equity can “serve as a gateway debt that threatens retirement.”
Moving your 401(k)
“There are some pitfalls to avoid” when you switch jobs and have to decide if you should take your retirement account with you, said Danielle Wiener-Bronner in CNN.com. If you can avoid it, don’t cash out. “The hefty balance may look tempting, but the amount of cash you’ll end up with will look nothing like it.” If you’re under the age of 59½, you’ll pay a 10 percent penalty in addition to income tax on the amount withdrawn. It’s wiser to keep the money where it is. Your decision should predominantly rest on one factor: fees. Compare fees on the old 401(k) with those on your new employer’s plan, as well as the two funds’ investment strategies. If neither plan appeals to you, open a rollover IRA, “which gives you more control over your investments.”
Hacks to boost retirement savings
There are some unconventional ways to build your nest egg, said Anne Tergesen in The Wall Street Journal. You can contribute to a nonworking spouse’s retirement savings with a spousal IRA, which accepts up to $5,500 a year ($6,500 for over 50s). And although individuals earning more than $135,000 (for couples, more than $199,000) cannot contribute to a Roth IRA, “there is a way around this.” Place money you already paid taxes on in a traditional IRA and convert that to a Roth IRA, and “you will owe tax only on the appreciation your investments have earned when you do the Roth conversion.” Working a side freelance gig? Save “more than double” what you can set aside in a 401(k) plan by opening an SEP IRA or Solo 401(k) account.