Tips to Boost Your Tax-Free Income in Retirement

There is a bright side to the income taxes that will follow you into retirement. Create a pool of tax-free income, advises CNBC, by following the advice in the article “3 tips to help boost your tax-free income in retirement.”

Introduce yourself to the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k). Unlike a traditional IRA, with a Roth IRA you pay taxes when you make your contribution to the account. The funds then grow tax-free over time and, as long as you meet certain conditions, there are no taxes on withdrawals. With a Roth IRA, there are none of those pesky RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions). However, there are withdrawal distribution requirements for a Roth (401)k.

Most employers offer Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) accounts, so there’s a good chance they are offered by your employer.

Roth IRAs are often offered along with their counterpart, the traditional 401(k). Between the two of them, it’s possible to save as much as $19,000 in 2019. For those workers who are 50 and over, you can add $6,000 as a catch-up contribution.

The power of the Roth 401(k) is the tax-free compounding that takes place over time. Don’t miss out on this, if you want to max out your tax-free savings.

There are two different types of Roth plans: the Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA. Roth IRA plans have income limits. If your modified AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) is more than $137,000 for a single and $203,000 for a couple filing jointly, you aren’t allowed to make a direct contribution to a Roth IRA. However, there are no income caps for Roth (401)k. You can also save more for retirement in a Roth 401(k), compared to a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are also subject to annual contribution limits: $6,000 in 2019, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution, if you are over age 50.

Here are three steps to make your retirement savings more tax free:

Can you do an in-plan conversion? If your employer offers a Roth 401(k), you may be able to convert some of your traditional 401(k) savings to the Roth. This is called an in-plan Roth conversion. Just like a direct contribution to a Roth 401(k), it will be taxable. Therefore, make sure that you run the numbers before moving funds. You’ll be responsible for taxes on pretax principal and earnings. Don’t do it all at once, so that you don’t find yourself moved into a higher tax bracket.

What does your plan allow? If you’ve left your employer and have money in both a traditional 401(k) and a Roth (401)k, you might want to convert those accounts — if your retirement plan allows it.  Remember that you may not write a check from an outside bank account to add after-tax money to a Roth 401(k).

What’s your time-frame? Just as young workers are in the best position to save early and often, they are also in the best position to make the most out of Roth savings accounts of all types. It’s likely that younger workers have not yet reached their full career and earnings stage, so now is the best time to put money into a Roth 401(k). When incomes are higher, so will taxes on Roth retirement account contributions. If you’re close to retirement, there are other timing factors to consider, primarily Medicare. How much you pay for Medicare Part B and D, which covers doctor’s visits and prescription drugs, depends upon your modified gross income from two years ago. Do the conversion to a Roth at age 62, if you intend to file for Medicare at age 65.

Reference: CNBC (Feb. 10, 2019) “3 tips to help boost your tax-free income in retirement”

Are You Ready to Retire? These Professionals Can Help

Are you thinking about retiring in 2019 or 2020? It seems like a simple concept: Just pick a month, run some numbers and turn off your weekly early morning wake-up alarm. However, it’s not that simple. According to an article titled “Professionals can ease a person into retirement” from the Cleveland Jewish News, most people need some help for both financial and non-financial planning.

A good place to start is with the financial side. Take inventory of all your assets to identify where you have assets and where you have liabilities. You’ll need to be brutally honest with yourself and your spouse. Are there gaps? Is your credit card debt bigger than you thought? Use this exercise to get a real sense of whether you can retire this year.

Next, take care of the legal aspects of retirement. You’ll need a will, durable power of attorney, health treatment directive (for end-of-life decisions) and a medical power of attorney. This last POA will give someone the legal authority to make care decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. If you already have a will but have not reviewed it in three or four years, it’s time for a review. Laws change, lives change, and what may have worked well for you and your family when the will was first created, may not work now. You’ll want to work with an estate planning attorney to create a plan, making sure assets are properly aligned with your estate plan and minimizing any tax liability for your heirs.

This is also the time to consider how you’ll pay for long-term care. Do you have a long-term care insurance policy in place? Speak with a reputable insurance agent, or if you don’t know one, ask your trusted advisors to make a recommendation. People don’t like to think about going into a nursing home for an extended period of time, but it happens often enough that it makes sense to have this type of insurance. It’s not cheap—but neither is paying out-of-pocket for care at a nursing facility.

When you’ll retire, and what you’ll do with your retirement years, which could last two or even three decades, is a big question. The answer may be based on your finances—can you realistically stop working full time, or do you need to continue to work for a few more years? Would part-time work fill any savings gaps? These are questions that can’t be answered, without a thorough financial analysis of your retirement income.

If you stop working, what will you do? Some experts advise asking a bigger question: Who are you, now that your work identity is gone? If you’ve planned well, or if you’re lucky, your retirement can be a time of great fulfillment, spending time with family, volunteering in the community and devoting time to taking better care of yourself. For some people, retirement from one career is an opportunity to spring into a new career, one that they’ve always put to the side, in order to earn a paycheck.

How much you can achieve of your dreams, depends on putting down a solid foundation of legal and financial resources. An estate planning attorney and a financial advisor are important members of your retirement success team.

Reference: Cleveland Jewish News (Jan. 9, 2019) “Professionals can ease a person into retirement”

How Do I Include Retirement Accounts in Estate Planning?

You probably made beneficiary designations for your retirement accounts, when you opened them. Remember: who you designated can affect your overall estate planning objectives. Because of this, when including your retirement assets in your estate, ask yourself if anything has changed in your life since then that would affect their status as your beneficiaries, as well as how they’d receive the retirement assets.

Investopedia’s recent article, “Include Your Retirement Accounts in Your Estate,” gives us some things to consider in the New Year.

Beneficiary Designations. Review your beneficiary designations after major life changes. If you fail to make these designations, the funds will most likely go into your estate—a horrible outcome from a tax and planning perspective. If your estate is named a beneficiary, your heirs must wait until probate is finished to access your retirement accounts. It is usually better to name an individual or a trust as your beneficiary.

Protecting Retirement Funds With a Trust. Another option is to include a trust in your estate planning, instead of giving your retirement funds directly to named individuals. This allows you more control over the distribution, while protecting your heirs from additional paperwork and taxes. Trust distributions keep a beneficiary from accessing and spending their inheritance all at once. It’s also a good idea if your beneficiaries include minor children who shouldn’t have direct access to the money until they are adults. Be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney, because there are tax and other complexities associated with designating a trust as beneficiary.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Your retirement plans have rules about when you are required to start taking distributions. For 401(k) accounts, you are required to start taking RMDs at age 70½. However, if you die and leave retirement plans and accounts to your heirs, these rules apply to them instead. A spousal beneficiary can roll over your retirement funds tax-free into their retirement plan and make their own distribution choices. However, other beneficiaries don’t have the same option. Tax treatment and distribution options vary, depending on who is receiving your retirement assets.

Tax Considerations. The biggest worry you need to address when designating retirement accounts as part of your estate plan, is how they’ll be taxed. Consider how to withdraw from these accounts while you’re alive and how to minimize tax consequences after you’ve passed.

Work with an estate planning attorney who has a strong understanding of retirement accounts and the tax and legal requirements of estate planning. That way you can be certain your retirement assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries with the least tax liability.

Reference: Investopedia (August 27, 2018) “Include Your Retirement Accounts in Your Estate”

Who Pays What Taxes on an Inherited IRA?

The executor of a person’s estate must take on the important responsibility of ensuring that the deceased person’s last wishes are carried out, concerning the disposition of their property and possessions. There are times when investments and savings are part of that estate.

An individual may have an IRA that designates the beneficiary or her estate as her heir. Inherited IRAs are not like other assets. Executors must be aware of what to do when withdrawing the IRA into the estate account, particularly about how will these funds will be taxed.

nj.com’s recent article asks “Who pays taxes on this inherited IRA?” It explains that the distributions from an IRA are treated as ordinary income by the federal tax code.

The will must be probated, and it may stipulate that the money from the IRA is to be given to the deceased’s children.

These distributions to the children are taxed at their marginal tax rates. However, it is important to note that when an estate is an IRA beneficiary, the entire account must be withdrawn within five years.

If the executor moves the IRA directly into inherited IRAs for each of the beneficiary children, the beneficiaries would be responsible for paying the taxes.

If the executor withdraws the IRA assets, then the executor would pay the taxes from the estate assets.

You will need to speak with the custodian of the IRA to find out what is and is not permitted in terms of distribution: are they allowed to roll the IRA into a beneficiary IRA, or can they divide the account into separate IRAs for the beneficiaries? The distribution must take place within five years, so keep that in mind when discussing options and goals for the IRA and the heirs. An estate planning attorney will be able to determine your best tax options for the inherited IRA when settling the estate.

Reference: nj.com (January 7, 2019) “Who pays taxes on this inherited IRA?”