Getting Soaked: Good for Bedspread, Bad for Retirement Account

Dear Mary: I have an heirloom bedspread that is about 60 years old, embroidered with wool yarn by my grandmother. There are some brown spots on it, of unknown origin. Can I hand launder it after spot treating? What would be the best thing to treat the spots? I love your column. I’ve gotten so many good tips from it. Thank you. Marian

photo credit: make-it-do.com

photo credit: make-it-do.com

Dear Marian: Because of this item’s age, it’s difficult to know if it is colorfast. That would be my biggest concern, not the fact that embroidery is done with wool. If the bedspread has bright and or contrasting colors, test an inconspicuous edge or corner of the bedspread in warm or tepid water and mild soap to see if the colors start to bleed or run. If they do, you should take this bedspread to a dry cleaner that specializes in cleaning delicate and vintage textiles.

If not, and provided the bedspread itself is washable (I’m going to assume that it is), treat those stains with Soilove (you can read more about Soilove and where to find it HERE). Spray Soilove on each stain until saturated, then allow the bedspread to sit for awhile— 30 minutes, or so.

051515image2Next, fill a bathtub with warm water. Add 1/2 cup (more or less) of mild soap (baby shampoo is a good option) or about 3 tablespoons of Orvus Quilt Soap, following the instructions on the label. Place the bedspread into the bath for a nice long soak. Make sure is it totally submerged, then leave it for a few hours. You may need to gently massage and scrub the spots with your fingers to coax them out. Just be careful not to agitate it too much. I can’t guarantee that this will remove the spots, but I am confident that if anything will take them out, Soilove will.

Rinse the bedspread in cool water until there is no evidence of soap remaining. Gently squeeze out as much water as possible, then blot it in towels and lay it out flat to air dry.

Dear Mary: My employer changed its 403(b) plan from Lincoln to Fidelity. Since I am no longer contributing to my Lincoln account , I am debating whether I should make a withdrawal to pay off a credit-card debt of $800 and a student loan debt of $800, leaving a balance of $1,000 in the account. I have two other 403(b) accounts, and $30,000 in an IRA. Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth: Oh, please don’t do that. You must understand if you were to do as you suggest, you would be “cashing out” $1,600. That would trigger an immediate 10 percent penalty plus you would be required to pay federal and state income tax on the amount withdrawn. By the time the smoke clears on that little event, it could cost you $500 or more in penalties and taxes alone depending on your tax bracket and the state in which you live.

Once money has been contributed to a tax-advantaged retirement account, it needs to stay there as your best option to be able to retire.

Please do not assume that I am in any way minimizing the need for you to pay off your credit card and student loan debt. You need to scrimp and save and sacrifice to get those debts paid off a soon as possible. Seriously. In fact, if you cannot pay them in full within a few months, I suggest you cease contributions to your retirement accounts—diverting the amount you’ve been contributing there to paying these debts. Once the credit card and student loan debts are at $0, then immediately re-up with contributions to your 403(b) plan.

Rather than leave the old account with Lincoln, contact Fidelity and arrange to have it rolled over into your new 403(b) Fidelity account, without penalty, taxes or fees. Or you may have the option to roll it over into an IRA, which would be a much better idea because fees on an IRA are typically a lot less than those on a 403(b), 401(k) or 457 account.

High retirement plan fees can take a huge bite out of your retirement savings. Often employees and employers may not even be aware they’re getting soaked by hidden fees that are being taking out of their accounts by the plan’s administrator. Use this calculator to help determine just how much your plan’s  fees might be costing you.

I want to encourage you to make an appointment to speak with your plan’s administrator to learn about your options.

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