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Investing

Q: I am a 63-year-old woman living on my own. I retired in 2007 and am receiving a monthly $2,600 retirement pension. I have $100,000 in a 457 plan and CDs. I do not tap into those funds for regular living expenses. Recently I started receiving Social Security of $1,600 a month. Except for $22,000 owed on a vehicle, I only have basic living expenses.

Today the property has a market value of over $300,000. I have decided to downsize and sell it. My plan is to purchase an RV for about $30,000 and live in it for a while to keep my living expenses to a minimum.

How should I invest the funds from the sale of my house to provide for the rest of my life?

A: As a single person with $4,200 a month in guaranteed lifetime income from Social Security and a pension, you will probably be able to add the home proceeds cash to your “active retirement” fund. Since basic living costs are likely to be covered, you can withdraw from this fund in good years and do less in bad years.

You can keep this very simple by investing in a low-cost balanced fund. That could be an index fund like Vanguard Balanced Index (Admiral shares, since you’ll be making a large investment), or a managed balanced fund like Vanguard Wellington (also Admiral shares).

I’ve also learned that many RV’ers want to settle down after a while. If you do that, you can keep costs to a minimum by looking for an ROC, a “resident-owned community,” which lets you have an ownership stake in your RV park or manufactured home park.

That will reduce the monthly land rent considerably, so it will be a good investment.

Second, it will reduce the rate of increase in your monthly land costs. You can find “all-in” costs for used manufactured home units, with land, for $50,000 to $100,000.

Q: I am considering selling an income-producing property that I bought in 1983. The president has proposed increasing the capital-gains tax without adjusting for inflation. Does it make sense to sell my property since a large percentage of the sales price will go to the federal government?

A:Capital gains are currently taxed at a lower rate than labor income or interest income. So it’s hard to get too incensed about paying the tax, even though part of the gain (and much of the tax) is artificial. The tax bill will also be increased by the amount of depreciation you have claimed since 1983, and many investors forget that every dollar of that depreciation produced a lower tax bill in previous years.

What to do? First, you don’t have to sell the property. If it provides a good cash flow, keeping it may be a really good thing.

If you hold the property until you die, all of the capital gain will be eliminated as the property is revalued to its value at the time of your death. Many people have joked that this wrinkle in the tax law is the last incentive we have to die.