Liz Weston: Wipe out student loan debt or maximize retirement contributions? Yes

Liz Weston: Wipe out student loan debt or maximize retirement contributions? Yes

Q: I graduated from school in May and commenced a full-time job in October making $36,000. I additionally do freelance work and obtain anyplace from $500 to $1,000 a month from that. I stay at dwelling, so I don’t must pay for lease or groceries, which actually helps. Currently, I’ve simply over $18,800 in student loans at a mean rate of interest of four.45 %. I’ve additionally opened a Roth IRA.

My plan at present is to contribute $500 a month to my IRA as a way to max it out, and pay $700 a month to my student loans as a way to get them out of the way in which shortly. Or is it higher to skip the Roth and put that further $500 towards my student loans? That method, I’d be debt free after I transfer out of my dad and mom’ home subsequent yr. The inventory market has achieved nothing however fall since I opened my account, and I’m studying that it might do the identical this yr as effectively. But I’ve additionally learn that it is good to only maintain persistently contributing to an IRA when your debt is not high-interest to reap the rewards of compounded returns.

A: It’s typically a good suggestion to start out the behavior of saving for retirement early and never cease. What the market is doing now doesn’t actually matter. It’s what the market does over the subsequent 4 or 5 a long time that you need to care about, and historical past reveals that shares outperform each different funding class over time.

The $6,000 you contribute this yr might develop to about $100,000 by the point you’re in your 60s, in the event you handle a mean annual return of round 7 %. (The inventory market’s long-term common is nearer to eight %.) And Roth IRAs are a reasonably nice technique to make investments, as a result of withdrawals are tax-free in retirement.

That mentioned, your different choice isn’t a foul thought both. You aren’t proposing to place off retirement financial savings for years when you repay comparatively low-rate debt, which clearly could be a foul thought. Instead, what you’re dropping is the chance to fund a Roth for one yr. That’s a possibility you possibly can’t get again — however you could possibly totally fund the Roth subsequent yr, and maybe use a few of your freelance cash to fund a SEP IRA or solo 401(ok) as effectively.

Either method, you have to be superb.

Q: I’m 63 years outdated, born in November 1955. My husband and I divorced 5 years in the past after 37 years of marriage. I work full time and plan to proceed till age 70 no less than. Am I eligible for the choice of making use of for restricted advantages below my ex-husband’s Social Security after I flip 66 after which switching to my most profit at age 70? He was at all times a a lot increased wage earner than I used to be, and I’m confused about whether or not I qualify for any of his Social Security advantages.

A: You’re not eligible to file a restricted software for spousal advantages, which might mean you can declare a profit primarily based on a husband’s or ex-husband’s profit whereas permitting your personal profit to develop. Congress eradicated the restricted software choice for individuals born on or after Jan. 2, 1954. Instead, once you apply for advantages, you’ll be “deemed” to be making use of for each your personal retirement profit and any spousal or divorced spousal profit to which you could be entitled, and can basically get the bigger of the 2. You can’t change later.

Something you need to have in mind: Although your personal profit can develop eight% every year you delay, between ages 66 and 70, spousal advantages don’t earn such delayed-retirement credit. There’s no incentive, in different phrases, so that you can wait past age 66 to assert Social Security if the spousal profit goes to be the bigger of the 2 advantages you could possibly obtain.

Social Security claiming guidelines might be sophisticated. If you don’t have a trusted monetary advisor who’s effectively versed in claiming methods, contemplate spending $40 or so for a service similar to, which may analyze your explicit scenario and counsel the neatest choice.

Liz Weston is a licensed monetary planner and private finance columnist for NerdWallet. Question? Use the “Contact” kind at

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