A house with no mortgage left on it is a classic retirement asset and a good way to save for one’s older years (“Remaking Retirement,” Cover Story, Nov. 19). A big issue not mentioned in your otherwise informative articles on 401(k) and other retirement savings accounts is how to utilize these accounts, now completely focused on stocks and bonds, to address the hardest financial problem of many young families. This is how to finance the down payment on their first house, which is also an excellent retirement asset.
In my view, Congress should amend the governing acts for retirement accounts to provide for a simple and penalty-free withdrawal from 401(k) and individual retirement accounts for the down payment on a first house, with the tax deferred on the income withdrawn (perhaps starting amortization at age 70½). We should give investing in a house of your own the same retirement-account tax treatment as investing in stocks and bonds.
Congress did have bills introduced in this direction in the 1990s—it would be a good bipartisan project to actually do it now.