How to make your retirement savings last

Woman stretching $100 bill

Once you retire, the order in which you draw down your savings is important.

You want to maximize your income by using your least-taxed savings first.

Begin by tapping any tax-free savings you have in a Roth IRA. Since you paid taxes on the contributions, you don't owe the government a dime on any withdrawals once you reach age 59 1/2.

Then move on to taxable accounts not held in other types of retirement plans. Profits from stocks, bonds or mutual funds you've owned for more than a year are taxed at 15%.

After that, draw down tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as traditional Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k) plans. You'll owe taxes on withdrawals at your current income tax rate.

For the 2011 tax year, that's 15% for couples with taxable income between $17,001 and $69,000, and 25% for those with taxable income between $69,001 and $139,350.

One exception to the rule: When you reach 70 1/2 years old you must begin making minimum withdrawals from traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans or pay onerous penalties. So you've got to do that even if you haven't exhausted other, less taxable assets.

Our 12 new rules of retirement savings can help you make all the right decisions about building your nest egg.

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