Protect Your Retirement Savings from Creditors

Physician's Money Digest, January 2007, Volume 14, Issue 1

Sometimes just choosing the right savingstrategy isn't enough to guarantee acomfortable retirement. Protection shouldalso be part of the planning process.Federal and state rules can help guardyour unprotected assets from creditors,including people who win a judgmentagainst you in a lawsuit. Due to unbridledmalpractice suits, it is especially importantfor physicians and others in the medicalcommunity to be aware of theiroptions to protect their hard-earned nesteggs. A recent article in Investor'sBusiness Daily details the three levels ofprotection available. The first level, theEmployee Retirement Income Security Act(ERISA), is a law that protects money inemployer-sponsored retirement plans,such as 401(k) accounts, profit sharingplans, etc. Money in these accounts cannotbe touched if creditors were to seizeyour assets. So if it is possible, leave yourmoney in a former employer's plan afteryou retire or change jobs so that it willretain its ERISA protection. Another recentlaw enacted in 2005 is the BankruptcyAbuse Prevention and Consumer ProtectionAct. This law protects an IRA thathas been rolled over from an employer-sponsoredplan up to $1 million. But,unfortunately, you must file for bankruptcy,and many people do not want to pursuethat route. For those who do not wantto file for bankruptcy and have accountsnot shielded by ERISA, Investor's BusinessDaily suggests the third option: movingyour IRA to Alaska. Alaska recentlypassed a law that will allow nonresidentsto form an Alaska IRA—and Alaska lawprotects IRAs from creditors; however itsability to shield nonresidents has yet to betested in court.