Daily Press (Sunday)

Home sale prices rising

- Motley Fool

Q. What’s the average price of homes sold in the United States? I know home values have been rising, but I’m not sure by how much. — R.Y., Hackensack, New Jersey


You’re certainly right about home prices rising. According to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, the average sale price of a home sold in the U.S. was $513,400 as of the third quarter of 2023.

That’s actually down a bit from a year earlier, 2022, when the average was a whopping $547,800. But overall, home prices have indeed been rising quickly. In the third quarter of 2021, the average was $473,000, and in 2020, $397,800. A decade ago, in the third quarter of 2013, the average was $324,400.

Remember, though, that averages can be skewed by ultrahigh or ultralow figures, so it’s often best to look at median numbers. The median sale price of houses sold in the U.S. (also according to the St. Louis Fed) is $431,000 for the third quarter of 2023. That means that if you lined up all the sold homes in order of value, the middle one would have sold for $431,000. A decade earlier, the median was much lower, at $264,800.

Q. I bought some stock, but my brokerage didn’t send me paper stock certificat­es. Is that normal? — B.K., Eden Prairie, Minnesota


It’s very normal — and a good thing, too. Brokerages these days will routinely register shares that investors buy in “street name” — that is, the name of the brokerage. But they keep track of the shares and know they’re yours. This makes it easy for you to sell whenever you want, without having to find and deliver paper certificat­es you’ve kept in a safe place.

Risky retirement moves

It’s tempting: You suddenly need a bunch of money for something — maybe a new transmissi­on, maybe a kitchen remodel. And you have a bunch of money sitting in a retirement account, such as an IRA or 401(k). Why not withdraw — or maybe just borrow — some?

There are multiple reasons not to. For starters, come retirement, most of us will need a sizable nest egg. Relatively few people have pension income to look forward to, and the average monthly

Social Security retirement benefit was only $1,841 as of September — that’s only about $22,000 for the year.

So any money withdrawn means a smaller nest egg, less able to support you in the future.

Money withdrawn means you’ll be missing out on its growth, too. Imagine, for example, withdrawin­g $25,000 from an account when you’re still 20 years from retirement. If those dollars stayed in the account and grew at an annual average rate of, say, 8%, they’d become more than $116,000. (Money simply borrowed will also miss out on years of growth — and many borrowed dollars are never repaid, either.)

Meanwhile, if you withdraw money from a 401(k) or a traditiona­l IRA before age 59 ½, you’ll likely face a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Ouch. And there are taxes, too. Your withdrawal is likely to count as taxable income for federal taxation — and possibly for state and local taxation, as well. (The rules are more lenient for Roth IRAs.)

With our $25,000 example, you might be hit with a $2,500 penalty and owe $5,500 in federal taxes on it, totaling $8,000 — and leaving you with just $17,000 (before state or local taxes).

Many people simply cash out 401(k) accounts when they move from job to job, often figuring that the sums involved are not that significan­t. But small sums can become very large when left to grow for a long time.

It can be hard to avoid the temptation of tapping your retirement accounts, but it’s much better to leave your money where it is.

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