Making the Most of Your Retirement Income

Over the past few days, I've heard from dozens of people writing in about their retirement situation and asking what to do with their IRAs.

Several people asked what I do with my own money.

For most of the 20-plus years I've invested, I've split my contributions between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. I wanted to hedge my retirement so I'd be covered whether tax rates rose or fell or if I was in a higher tax bracket in retirement.

My goal is to lessen the tax impact on my retirement income as much as possible. I want to make the most of my retirement... and help you make the most of yours.

I can't respond to everyone individually, but I am reading all of your e-mails.

My team and I are sorting through all of your IRA and retirement account questions. So expect to see more on this topic in the future.

And if you have a question you haven't asked yet, send it to [email protected].

Q: I've read that something like 90% of the U.S. soy crop is genetically modified, and that there are potential health risks associated with ingesting GMO based grains. Care to comment? – M.M.

A: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have had their genetic material changed using genetic engineering techniques. The most common example are crops like corn and soybeans that are "Roundup Ready." That means their genes have been altered to make them resistant to the weed killer glyphosate (the main chemical in Roundup herbicide). Other GMO foods include tomatoes and even salmon.

In addition to herbicide protection, some GMO crops are protected from insects, diseases, and pesticides. That leads to improved crop yields and more consistent crop quality. But GMOs attract a lot of controversy. Some people claim they have less nutritional value and led to an increase in the use of herbicides and pesticides. There are also theoretical dangers to humans.

The controversy regarding GMOs hit a high point in 2012, when a study was released showing pictures of rats with bodies filled with tumors... supposedly the result of GMOs. But the study was retracted a year later.

I'm not saying GMO foods are good or bad... The science and research on both sides of the GMO debate are equivocal at best. Until conclusive evidence shows that GMOs cause harm to humans, I won't go out of my way to avoid them.

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Q: I'm always hearing that you can cause liver or kidney damage by taking too much Advil or Aleve. What is considered too much? – J.W.

A: Painkillers can lead to liver or kidney damage, as we've written before. Advil and Aleve are considered nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs come with risks of liver and kidney damage, heart damage, and stomach problems.

Many people have the dangerous belief that taking a couple extra pills of over-the-counter painkillers is OK. But that's just not true.

The key here is duration... You might not take huge doses of painkillers every day, but if you're taking them for years, you're constantly increasing your risk of organ damage.

Now, your doctor might tell you to take a larger-than-normal dose under special circumstances (like if you've had a car accident). But this isn't usually for a long period of time.

Don't ignore the dosing recommendations on the label. Those are the amounts considered safe.

Q: Another good share of information regarding probiotics. I've heard conflicting information on consuming probiotics, and in particular that those eaten have a hard time surviving the stomach's acids and a fair share don't make it to the intestines to help? Any thoughts on this and if true, are there numbers on what percent may survive? I take a probiotic supplement to help ensure the little guys get to where they need to be.

Also, all yogurts are not created equal, with some having lots of sugar added. A note that reading the label and avoiding the high sugar variety would be an extra step in the right direction. – J.D.

A: Evidence shows that stomach acid destroys probiotics. One 2001 study found that about 20%-40% of probiotics survived, depending on the strain. One of the biggest hurdles, according to researchers, is stomach acid.

That's why we recommend including multiple strains of probiotics in your diet. Having a variety ensures that some will be better-suited for your gut's existing bacteria than others. And new strains keep improving. In fact, one of the most beneficial probiotic bacteria – Lactobacillus – resists stomach acid. It's found in most yogurts, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods.

Getting your probiotics through food can help increase the chances of survival. A 2005 study out of Ireland found that natural sugars like glucose help probiotics survive stomach acid. That means the natural sugar in yogurt gives the bacteria a better chance in your stomach.

Of course, as you mentioned, watch out for added sugar. A lot of popular brands of yogurt load their product with lots of sugar... "Fruit on the bottom" or "blended" yogurts are some of the worst offenders. The added sugars can undermine the health benefits of the probiotics. Do what I do... Buy plain yogurt and mix in fresh fruit.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Baltimore, Maryland
April 28, 2017