Change in Withholding Policy Irritates Wife

Posted: Apr 12, 2017 2:19 AM

DEAR BRUCE: My husband has a 401(k) and 403(b) with Fidelity Investments. When he started drawing at 70 1/2 he requested 15 percent to be withheld toward his taxes. Fidelity did this until 2016, when they said they would no longer honor his written request. He would have to call every year and request the 15 percent by withheld.

Is this legal? I called Fidelity to ask them about this, but they wouldn't answer my questions. -- V.M.

DEAR V.M.: I think what Fidelity is suggesting is to avoid any possibilities of error. Rather than having an ongoing request for the 15 percent to be withheld, they want to re-establish the request every year. I don't see any problem with that. Why Fidelity didn't answer your questions is another program. It seems like a legitimate request to me.

DEAR BRUCE: My son recently shared with me a column from his Ivy League school's newspaper. Students describe themselves as attending school to change a socially unjust America. Did your parents advise you to be a "freedom fighter" at school? Did you advise your kids to be freedom fighters at school? What do you think about students having a freedom fighter mindset? -- Reader

DEAR READER: Students who describe themselves as "freedom fighters" don't belong in my school, and certainly are not anyone I would be spending time with. The idea of trying to change things at school has merit, but the idea that they need to be a fighter (usually violently) to change things does not set well with me. When I was attending school, there was no such animal, and I have to believe that the world was a better place.

With that being said, I think I would tell my kids that their first responsibility is to their own conscience. If they feel that strongly about an issue, then they have a reason to get involved, but they should think about all the consequences.

(Send questions to Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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