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10 Tips: Working past age 65

In tough economic times like these, many people are working past age 65 because they must. Others choose to keep working because they enjoy the stimulation they get from what they do. In either scenario, workers in this age bracket have special considerations to bear in mind. The following tips can help.

1Reflect on Social Security. If you've reached "full retirement age" in the eyes of the federal government — typically 66 or 67 — then you can draw your full Social Security benefit no matter how much money you earn from your job. But if you have not quite reached full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed $14,160 in 2010. If you know you'll earn more than that, you can postpone drawing Social Security.

2Figure out when to sign up for Medicare. Even if you don't begin drawing Social Security at age 65, it's still a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration in the three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. If you wait until after you've turned 65, your Medicare Part B coverage will be delayed. For details, go to www.medicare.gov/ Publications/Pubs/pdf/11038.pdf.

3Recognize the beauty of Medicare. This coverage can give you tremendous freedom in employment options. "People who don't need health insurance have a lot more flexibility about where they can work or whether they work part time," said Helen Huntley, a former personal finance editor for the St. Petersburg Times who is now an adviser with Holifield Huntley Financial Advisers. "It doesn't matter if they don't have health insurance at your job — you can still work there."

4Wait to tap your retirement savings. If you have a tax-deferred retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA), you can give your money more time to grow tax-free by delaying withdrawals. Make a point of doing this if you can live off your salary and Social Security, Huntley said.

5If you need your retirement savings, know the rules. "Whether you can take any distributions from your employer's retirement plans while you are still working depends on plan rules," Huntley noted. But generally speaking, as long as you're at least 59 ½, you can withdraw money from an IRA without being hit with the 10 percent penalty. Detailed rules are at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p590.pdf.

6Roll over or stay put? If you start a new job, you'll have to decide whether to leave your 401(k) money in your former employer's plan. Huntley said you may want to keep it there if: a) it's a good plan with low expenses and you feel at ease making your own investment decisions; or b) you left the company at age 55 or older but you're still younger than 59 ½. If you're worried about your former employer's future, or the plan has high fees, roll it over into your own IRA.

7Transfer retirement funds with care. "If you move money from (your former employer's) plan, be sure to do a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer," Huntley said. "If the plan sends you a check made out to you, it will be required to withhold 20 percent, which creates problems since the entire pretax amount has to be rolled over to avoid being considered to have taken a taxable distribution."

8Know what to expect at 70 ½. At that point, you must start withdrawing money from traditional IRAs to avoid hefty tax penalties. In most cases your retirement plan provided through your employer can keep growing tax-free as long as you work there. You won't be able to keep contributing to a traditional IRA after age 70 ½, though; if you want to keep saving, consider contributing to a Roth IRA, which has no age limits for contributions.

9Review your benefit choices. By the time you reach 65, some of the benefits you put on autopilot long ago may no longer match your needs. For instance, you may want to stop paying for life insurance if your children are grown and you've saved enough for retirement.

10Looking for a job? The Employ Florida Marketplace Silver Edition Web site — silver.employflorida.com — is for Florida residents over 50 who are seeking employment or volunteer opportunities. You can create a resume and apply for the position online.

Laura T. Coffey can be reached at laura@ tentips.org.

Sources: Helen Huntley of Holifield Huntley Financial Advisers in St. Petersburg (www.holifieldhuntley.com); Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (www.floridajobs.org); Social Security Administration (www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html)

10 Tips: Working past age 65 03/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 12:44pm]

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