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Strategies to Save

How a Joint Bank Account Works — And Why You Might Want One

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

What is a joint bank account?

A joint bank account is an account owned by two or more people allowing each of the owners to make deposits, withdrawals and other decisions. This could help make it easier to manage shared bills, meet a bank’s minimum account balance requirement, qualify for a higher interest rate or help reach a joint savings goal.

You don’t have to be married or even related to have a joint account depending on the type of account you choose. In this story, we’ll explain all the different types of joint bank account options you have, the rules you should know about and how to choose the right account for your needs.

Types of joint bank accounts

In most cases when you open a joint account you will have to select the subtype, which some banks may refer to as “titling.” A subtype dictates how the account will be handled when an owner dies, gets divorced or can’t make decisions on their own.

Many of the joint account types work similarly in that each owner has equal access to the funds. The key differentiator is what happens when one of the account owners dies — most importantly, and whether or not the funds avoid the probate process. Probate is the legal process of winding up a person’s estate after his or her death, said Atlanta-based attorney, Sydnee Mack, Esq.

Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, and one that most people try to avoid. According to the American Bar Association, the probate process could take six to nine months to settle, with larger more complex estates taking longer.

Below are some of the subtypes you may run into, what they mean and the differences between them:

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)

This account can be opened for two or more people and is the most common joint account option. Most banks, credit unions and even investment firms offer this option. Usually the account holders are married but this is not a requirement to open or maintain this type of account. This option is also common for adults taking care of their aging parents. When an account holder dies, the remaining portions pass on to the other account owner(s) and do not go to probate.

Joint Tenants in Common (JTIC)

Similar to JTWROS, the joint tenants in common account option gives multiple users equal to access to the account. The key difference here is what happens when one of the account owners die. Instead of the account automatically being split among the other owners, the deceased account owner’s portion will go to their estate and could be subject to the probate process.

If you’re looking to avoid any estate and probate issues, you could add a payable-on-death option. This will allow the funds to avoid probate and go directly to named beneficiaries.

Tenants by the Entirety (TBE)

Tenancy by the entirety is a Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship account but with additional protection, explained Courtney Richardson, a Philadelphia-based tax attorney and founder of The Ivy Investor. The tenants by the entirety option is only available for married couples.

“It’s meant to protect the marital assets from outside creditors because each spouse completely owns the property,” she said.

Because each spouse individually owns 100 percent of the property, as opposed to a 50/50 split like JTWROS, it is generally exempt from judgments, liens and other collection methods when one spouse is sued. When one spouse dies, the property goes directly to the other spouse without going through probate.Tenants by the entirety, however, may not be available in every state.

Joint bank account rules

The various rules between each account type can vary depending on the state and in some cases your bank. Generally speaking, with every account type, each joint owner has equal right to the entire account balance. Any account owner can withdraw or deposit as much as they like, even without the approval of the other joint owner. It is important to check with your state’s local laws; as mentioned earlier, not every state offers tenants by the entirety option.

Also, if you’re married and live in a community property state,  the rules could be very different. In most cases, if you have a divorce in a community property state with a joint account, the money is divided evenly, regardless of how much each person contributed. One of the only ways to circumvent this in a community property state is to keep the accounts separate and enter a prenuptial agreement. In both cases, you should contact an attorney in your area.

Here are some questions you should get answered before you open a joint account.

Questions for the bank:
What happens if I no longer want to be on the account with the other person(s)?
Are there any additional fees for holding a joint account?

Questions you should ask yourself and the other joint owner(s):
What are our goals for this account?
What are the rules for spending and withdrawing from this account?

Opening a joint bank account

The process for opening a joint bank account is nearly identical to opening an account for yourself. You will need the basic account opening information for all account owners such as Social Security numbers, physical address and email address. Most banks also require that each account owner is present to sign any documents. This process generally applies no matter which account title you choose.

Joint bank account pros and cons

Pros:

  • Joint bank accounts may help simplify your finances. If you and your joint owner are splitting multiple expenses, both of you could deposit the money into one account and pay the bills from that new account.
  • A joint bank account may also help you save on fees. Many banks require a minimum balance or a monthly direct deposit to waive monthly fees. Combining your funds may allow you to stay above the minimum balance easier; if you don’t have direct deposit but the joint owner does, this may qualify you to avoid the fee.
  • Also adding joint owners also increases your FDIC coverage. The FDIC covers up to $250,000 per person, per bank, and per deposit type. If you have a joint account with someone, you are granted $250,000 per co-owner. A joint account with two people would have an FDIC limit of $500,000.

Cons:

  • Having a joint account could also cause some problems. If you feel your co-owner doesn’t put in their fair share, it may cause tension in the relationship. For example: If you put in 80 percent of the money into the account and the other owner puts in only 20 percent, that co-owner can legally spend 100 percent of the money and you may have very little recourse if they spend in a way that you disagree with.
  • Additionally, if you enjoy financial privacy to buy gifts or spend money on personal items, know that the co-owner will have access to see and monitor everything that is going on in the account.

Finding the best joint bank account

Joint bank accounts often have the same benefits as individual accounts at most banks. Very rarely will you see a benefit such as no ATM fees or no monthly maintenance fees simply because the account has an additional owner. The easiest way to find the best account option is to look for the best individual account and open it as a joint account.

As with any account, you’ll want to look for a bank that charges very few fees (if any) with benefits that help you accomplish your goals. For most people, this includes free bill pay, no ATM fees, a large number of ATMs, online account access and a low minimum balance requirement. If you’re looking to open a joint savings account, you might also look for a high interest rate. You can begin looking for the best bank accounts here.

Closing a joint bank account

The process for closing a joint bank account will vary by bank, though it is typically straightforward. However, if you are married and you’re closing the account due to divorce, the process could be different, especially in a community property state.

Most banks will allow one joint owner to close the account while others may require all account owners to be present to dissolve the account. Just like a regular bank account, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any pending automatic bills that are still attached to the account or any outstanding checks. These could trigger the account to stay open, and you could be hit with a fee as well. How the money is split between joint owners should be discussed in advance to avoid any confusion and strain on the relationship.

Joint bank account alternatives

Due to different spending habits and financial responsibilities, joint accounts aren’t for everyone. If a joint account does not work for you, you may want to consider a linked account. Linked accounts are tied together at the same bank but owned individually. This allows funds to be transferred between people more quickly while still maintaining your independence. You will need to check with your bank for their specific rules on which accounts can be linked and how many can be linked at one time.

A convenience account may be a fitting option for those who may be taking care of older family members. Convenience accounts grants someone the ability to write checks, pay bills and perform other banking functions for the account holder, according to the legal, regulatory and business company LexisNexis. These accounts do not offer a survivorship option and the additional person added to the account is not a co-owner. When the account owner dies, the money goes to the estate and not the convenience signer. The option isn’t common and is not available in every state. If it is an option in your state, you may want to speak directly with the bank manager since these accounts are so rare.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kevin Matthews II
Kevin Matthews II |

Kevin Matthews II is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kevin here

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Mortgage, News, Retirement

The Risky Way Retirees Use Reverse Mortgages for Extra Income

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you’re approaching retirement, you’re probably already aware that taking Social Security at age 62 results in getting a much smaller benefit than someone who waits until full retirement age. For most retirees today, full retirement age is 66 or 67, but you can earn an even larger pay out if you can wait till age 70 to start tapping in to your benefits.

Living off your existing savings while you wait the extra eight years to start receiving Social Security benefits can be challenging. For that reason, an increasing number of financial experts are encouraging retirees to use a reverse mortgage as a source of additional income while they wait to start drawing on their Social Security benefits.

Using a reverse mortgage for extra income in retirement can be risky — so risky, in fact, that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently spoke out against it.

“A reverse mortgage loan can help some older homeowners meet financial needs, but can also jeopardize their retirement if not used carefully,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “For consumers whose main asset is their home, taking out a reverse mortgage to delay Social Security claiming may risk their financial security because the cost of the loan will likely be more than the benefit they gain.”

Still, retirees with significant equity built up in their homes might be tempted to tap into that equity to bridge the gap between when they retire and when they can maximize their Social Security benefit.

A quick recap of what a reverse mortgage is and how it works:

A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that allows homeowners age 62 and over to withdraw a portion of the equity they have in the home. Instead of paying interest and fees each month that amount is added to your overall loan balance. When you no longer live in the home, the total loan must be paid back and you will pay no more than the value of the house. With a reverse mortgage you are no longer responsible for the regular monthly payments on your mortgage loan but you are required to keep the home in good condition, as well as paying the property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

Most reverse mortgages are federally insured by the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, which requires a strict set of rules and regulations that must be met in order to qualify. Some of those requirements include: occupying the property as your principal residence, continuing to live in the home and not being delinquent on any federal debt. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a full list of requirements here.

The pros of using a reverse mortgage

Using a reverse mortgage can provide some additional, predictable income during retirement. Whereas relying solely on your investments could result in unstable returns depending on your portfolio. But a reverse mortgage loan isn’t a bottomless source of cash.

The amount of money you can receive from a reverse mortgage first depends on your principal limit. That’s the amount a lender will be willing to loan you based on a several factors, like your age, the value of the home and the interest rate on your loan. This is where older borrowers have an advantage. According to the CFPB, “loans with older borrowers, higher-priced homes, and lower interest rates will have higher principal limits than loans with younger borrowers, lower-priced homes, and higher interest rates.”

Another big advantage of reverse mortgages are that the proceeds are generally tax free and will not affect Medicare payments.

The risks of a reverse mortgage

It reduces the amount of equity you have in the home, which can complicate a future sale. The equity in your home is generally defined as the amount of ownership you have in a property less any remaining debt. With a regular mortgage you borrow money from the bank and pay down the balance over time. With each payment the loan balance goes down and your equity increases.

You’ll lose home equity. Since a reverse mortgage allows you to borrow from the equity you have in the home, your debt on the home increases and the equity is lowered. A reverse mortgage may limit the options for someone looking to sell their home in retirement, because the loan must be paid upon the sale and there may not be enough equity left to purchase a new home.

It increases your overall debt. As seen in the images above, a reverse mortgage reduces the amount that you own in your home and adds that amount back into your loan balance. This increases your overall debt.

The cost of a reverse mortgage can outweigh the benefits of increasing your Social Security payments. Though you are borrowing from the money you’ve paid into your home, a reverse mortgage isn’t free. Just like your regular initial mortgage you will have to pay interest and fees. Reverse mortgages are very similar and usually include costs such as: mortgage insurance premiums (MIP), interest, upfront origination fees, closing costs and monthly servicing fees.

In the figure above, the CFPB estimates a reverse mortgage will cost $21,600 for someone who uses the option from age 62 to age 67; but the lifetime gain in Social Security from 62 to 67 is $29,640.

Monetarily, in this scenario a reverse mortgage makes sense. However most borrowers use a reverse mortgage for seven years not five as in the previous example. This would bring the cost to $31,900, approximately $3,900 which is more than the lifetime benefit of waiting until 67 for Social Security.

You’re putting your home at risk. You could also lose your home if you no longer meet the loan requirements. This includes not living in the home for the majority of the year for non-medical reasons or living outside of the home for 12 consecutive months for healthcare reasons.

You’re putting your heirs at risk.  When you pass away your heirs will have to pay back the loan, usually by selling home. If there is money left over after the sale, they can keep the difference. However, if the loan balance is more than the value of the home and they want to keep the home they will need to pay the full loan balance or 95% of the appraised value, whichever is less according to the CFPB.

When does it make sense to use a reverse mortgage for income in retirement?

In general, Chartered Financial Analyst Joseph Hough says reverse mortgages are best for retirees who are in good health and expect to live long after retirement. Also, it can be one of the few options retirees have when their retirement income is simply not high enough to cover their basic needs.

Speak with a financial advisor who can help you weigh the particular pros and cons with your specific situation. Every person is different, and there is no one size fits all answer.

When does it not make sense?

A reverse mortgage may not be a good fit for those in bad health due to the risk of losing the home. If you’re planning on selling your home, having a reverse mortgage can complicate the issue because it reduces the amount of equity you have. You could be left in a scenario where the proceeds of the sale do not cover a purchase of a new home because of the cost and fees associated with reverse mortgages.

What are some other ways I can maximize my SS benefit?

Working beyond 62 may be the best option to maximize your Social Security benefit. Doing so allows more time to save for retirement and pay off any debt. You could potentially increase your overall Social Security benefits if your latest year of earnings is one of your highest. Also, if you’re married, consider coordinating your Social Security decisions with your spouse. Other alternatives to a reverse mortgage include selling your home and downsizing to a less expensive place or selling your home to your adult children on the condition you get to live rent-free, says Houge.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kevin Matthews II
Kevin Matthews II |

Kevin Matthews II is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kevin here

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Here’s How to Withdraw Your Savings When You Finally Retire

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

There isn’t a shortage of material on how to build up your retirement nest egg. But once you get it, and you’re ready to retire, how do you actually spend it? Withdrawing from your retirement account (also referred to as “taking a distribution”) isn’t as simple as withdrawing from an ATM. In fact, there is an entire strategy as to which account you should take from first, when you should file for Social Security, and how much to withdraw each year.

The main objective of retirement is to have your money outlive you; and making your money last throughout retirement is harder now than it used to be. This can be attributed to three big factors: people are living longer, the number of pension plans are declining, and the costs of living and health care are rising. If your retirement savings isn’t large enough, you could be forced to go back to work, assuming you’re physically capable to do so, or rely on family.

Also, taking from the wrong account could result in losing some of your money to taxes; withdrawing too much can shorten your money’s overall lifespan. Here are some key points you’ll want to know.

Key Rules to Follow

Age matters

Generally speaking, you cannot start withdrawing from pre-tax retirement accounts like a 401(k), 403(b), or traditional IRA until age 59½ without a penalty. This does not apply to Roth accounts, however. You are allowed to withdraw any principal funds from your Roth accounts without penalty because you paid taxes up front on those funds — you just can’t withdraw any of the gains you’ve earned over the years. To keep everything simple, we’ll assume that you’re already over 59½ and all of your retirement savings are in tax advantaged accounts like a 401(k).

Don’t cash out everything at once

Let’s go back to our original assumption that you’re over 59½ and ready to retire. One of the biggest mistakes would be to liquidate all of your account into a lump sum. This causes two problems.

First of all, taxes. Taking large lump-sum distributions could leave you with a very large tax bill because whatever you withdraw will be treated as additional income. The second problem is that once you liquidate your investments, that means they are no longer growing. It may be a mistake to become too conservative with your investments in retirement, because many of us will live well into our 80s. With potentially 20 years ahead of you, you’ll want your money to keep growing, keep beating inflation, and give you the best shot at not outliving your funds.

The solution: periodic distributions

It’s recommended that retirees take periodic distributions, usually on a monthly basis. This allows you to take a portion of your money out to spend while letting the remainder stay in the market to grow. Figuring out how much you’ll need can be tricky. Many retirees stick to the 4% rule, which seeks to provide steady income while preserving the principal. If you had $1 million saved, you could withdraw $40,000 each year. A person with a $1.25 million retirement savings withdrawing 4% could receive $50,000 per year.

It is considered a best practice to withdraw your investments proportionately, also known as pro rata. To understand what that means, say you have a retirement account with four investments: Stock A, Stock B, Stock C, and Stock D, and each of them makes up 25% of your portfolio, or $250,000 each, for a total of $1 million.

If you follow the 4% rule, you need to withdraw $40,000. It could be a mistake to take the full $40,000 from one single stock as this would throw off the allocation. Pro rata means that you would take $10,000 from each stock, which keeps your portfolio balanced.

Depending on how many investments you hold, calculating a pro rata distribution can become difficult. Your best bet is to consult a financial planner in your area or call your investment firm’s customer service line.

Don’t forget to factor in taxes

Remember, if you’re withdrawing from a pre-tax account, the amount you take out and the amount you actually receive will be different. These funds will be taxed as regular income in your top tax bracket. For example: If you need $2,000 per month to meet your needs, you may need to take out an amount closer to $2,500 to leave room to pay taxes.

Tap into non-retirement savings first

It’s common to have more than one retirement account. To avoid taking a tax hit, many financial experts recommend tapping into non-retirement savings first. “Very generally, and depending on your tax bracket, you should typically take money out of your non-retirement accounts first to keep your taxable income lower,” says Neal Frankle, CFP and blogger at Wealth Pilgrim.

This way, you can give your retirement funds an even longer time to grow before you’re ready (or forced by the required minimum distribution) to start making withdrawals.

Of course, this is an oversimplified strategy and won’t fit every case. Again, it’s wise to seek professional help, at least in the last few years before you retire, to map out a game plan. “This takes a little time and may cost a bit, but it is by far the best investment a pre-retiree can make in my experience,” says Frankle.

Delay Social Security withdrawals as long as possible

We’ve saved the best (worst?) for last. If trying to decide whether to dip into your savings account or 401(k) first was complicated, it doesn’t get much trickier than figuring out the right time to start tapping your Social Security.

In an ideal world, you would ignore your Social Security until at least age 70. That’s when you can capture your maximum benefit. The longer you wait to take Social Security, the more you will receive. Sure, you can start withdrawing funds at age 62, but you’ll only get 75% of your potential earnings.

To get 100% of your potential benefit (for those born between 1943 and 1954), you’ll have to wait till age 66.

But the deal gets even sweeter if you can hold off till 70, when you’ll get your full benefit plus another 32%.

Of course, that’s an ideal world.

In reality, most people start tapping their Social Security funds at age 62.

To visualize the benefit of delaying Social Security for as long as possible, check out this chart from Merrill Edge:

Planning Your Social Security Strategy

There are a lot of complexities attached to Social Security and when to start taking benefits; some of which include your tax bracket, life expectancy, marital status, and how much you’ve saved. The easiest way to help sort this out is to decide the amount of money you could live on each year. For some, this amount is 75%-80% of their pre-retirement income. Someone living on $60,000 might be comfortable with having about $48,000 per year in retirement. It is up to you and your financial planner to decide what combination of options can get you to that number.

But here are some things to consider:

If you’re married

The bulk of the complexities around Social Security are with married couples. When you tally up the options, married couples have dozens of strategies to choose from compared to a handful for singles.

The two main concepts you’ll want to be familiar with are the spousal benefit and the survivorship benefit.

The spousal benefit can allow a spouse to collect up to 50% of their spouse’s benefit based on the spouse’s full retirement age. This could allow for the higher earning spouse to wait to file later to receive the maximum benefit. You can look up your full retirement age here.

For example, Jack and Jill are married, and both are 66 years old. Jill earns significantly more than Jack, and her full retirement age for Social Security is 66. Jack could file Social Security on his own age and earnings history or for the spousal benefit. Since 50% of Jill’s benefit is higher than what he would have gotten on his own, he can file for the spousal benefit now, and Jill can file at age 70. This could help them maximize their total benefit as a couple.

The survivorship benefit is much more straightforward; it allows the surviving spouse to collect a portion of a deceased spouse’s benefits. You can learn more here.

If you’re single

Figuring out Social Security if you’re single can be a lot simpler. You could begin taking Social Security at 62 for a reduced benefit or wait until age 70 to get the highest possible payout. Those who are single due to death or divorce may have a few more options.

In the case of divorce, if you were married for at least 10 years and you have not remarried, you may be eligible to claim a spousal benefit. This is also the case for an ex-spouse who is deceased.

How much do you have saved?

This is perhaps the biggest component: the longer you wait to file for Social Security, the more you could earn. If your nest egg can cover the majority of your retirement lifestyle and your health is good, you may be better off waiting until later to start Social Security.

What’s a Required Minimum Distribution?

There’s also the pesky required minimum distribution (RMD) to consider. When it comes to any retirement funds that were set aside, tax deferred during your working years, the RMD rule makes sure that workers eventually withdraw those funds. Why? Because the IRS isn’t going to leave billions of tax dollars on the table forever.

In a nutshell, the RMD is the amount of money you have to begin withdrawing from your tax-deferred retirement accounts by age 70½. There’s a whole complex way to figure out what your RMD is exactly, but the truth is that you probably won’t have to worry about it.

In fact, most retirees who are living off of their retirement funds meet the RMD by default. Someone with $100,000 in a traditional IRA on December 31 of last year would have to withdraw about $3,780 if they turn 71 this year. If you’re close to 70½ and want to estimate your RMD, you can use this link.

Not taking your RMD, or less than what is required, from a traditional IRA or 401(k) will cost you. The IRS will levy a 50% penalty on the difference between the amount you withdrew and the amount you should have withdrawn.

What if you’ve got more than one retirement account?

If you have multiple traditional IRAs, your RMD will be calculated using the combined value of each account. This allows you to choose which IRA to withdraw from, or to divide the RMD between the accounts.

What if you’re still working in your 70s?

If you are still working beyond 70½, you do not have to take an RMD from your 401(k) until the year you retire. You would still have to take it from your traditional IRA whether you’re working or not. If you are not working and you still have old 401(k)s at different employers, you would be forced to calculate and withdraw the RMD amount from each account separately.

What about Roth retirement accounts?

The RMD rule does not apply to Roth accounts. “Your money grows tax-free in the account and will pass to heirs without any tax obligations,” says Joseph Hogue, a Chartered Financial Analyst. Roth accounts can be a great tool when you’re withdrawing because you have much more control of what you pay in income taxes while in retirement.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kevin Matthews II
Kevin Matthews II |

Kevin Matthews II is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kevin here

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