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On “Forced” Required Minimum Distributions

Mandatory RMDs

By Rick Kahler CFP®

Planning is important for all things financial, including retirement, which is inevitable no matter how far into the future it may seem. The financial decisions you make in your 20s through your 60s will greatly impact the quality of your lifestyle during retirement. Social Security and family won’t be enough to get you through 30 years of retirement. If you haven’t worked for a branch of government, you will rely heavily on income you’ve stashed in 401(k)s and IRAs.

Traditional IRAs

One of the big advantages of a traditional IRA or 401(k) is being able to save pre-tax dollars and let them grow tax deferred until you need them. Hopefully, when you take the distributions in retirement, you will be in a lower tax bracket than when you made the contribution. The downside is that traditional IRA funds become 100% taxable when you withdraw them.

Deferrals

Deferring distributions from your IRA only works until age 70½, when you’ll be forced to take money out whether you want to or not. This is called a Required Minimum Distribution, or RMD. If, at age 70½, you don’t need to withdraw funds to live on but are faced with an annual RMD, there are several things you can do to minimize your tax hit.

The easiest is don’t stop earning an income if you have a substantial 401(k). Employees are not required to take RMDs when they are still working, even part-time. This only applies to your employer’s 401(k). You will need to take RMDs from personal IRAs or 401(k)s and IRAs from previous employer plans.

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However, if you plan ahead you may be able to bypass this. If you have IRAs that are rollovers from previous 401(k)s, your employer may allow you to roll them into your current plan. By consolidating previous qualified employer plans into your current plan, you can defer taking an RMD until you quit working.

If you give to charities, you can give any portion or all of your RMD to a charity and not pay any taxes on the distribution. This can really save you a lot of money if you are currently giving to charities out of taxable accounts. When you turn 70½, simply redirect your charitable giving from taxable accounts to your IRA. You can give up to $100,000 annually without paying taxes on those distributions.

Another strategy we use commonly with clients is converting traditional IRA funds to Roth IRAs. Money in a Roth is not subject to RMDs. Of course, the downside is that you must pay taxes on the funds converted from your traditional IRA to a Roth.

For a conversion to make financial sense, two important factors must apply. You generally want to do a Roth conversion when your current tax bracket is lower than you anticipate it will be in the future. The most obvious scenario here is when you delay Social Security until age 70 and you are currently in a 10% or 15% tax bracket. It’s highly possible that Social Security and RMDs all kicking in at the same time may put you into the 25% tax bracket. Moving as much money at the 15% bracket prior to age 70 can make a lot of sense. It’s also important that the money to pay the taxes needs to come from a taxable account.

Assessment

As with all financial strategies that are crammed into a 600-word article, there are variations and nuances I am not able to go into. If you think one of these strategies may apply to you, don’t try it on your own. First get advice from a competent tax advisor or financial professional.

Conclusion

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***

The Superior Retirement Account – Will that be Traditional or Roth?

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Weighing the Costs

Lon Jeffries[By Lon Jefferies MBA CFP®]

As an informed investor and reader of this ME-P, you’re likely familiar with the difference between a traditional IRA/401(k) and a Roth IRA/401(k).

While the traditional account enables you to postpone taxes on both the income invested and its growth until the funds are withdrawn, a Roth account does not provide an initial tax benefit but investment growth is tax free. So which is better?

Let’s answer the question with some simple math. Suppose an investor in the 25 percent federal tax bracket invests $1,000 of pre-tax income, obtains an 8 percent annual return over the next 10 years, and is still in the 25 percent tax bracket in the future. Would this investor profit more investing in a traditional or a Roth account?

As the chart below illustrates, the investor in this scenario would end up with the exact same amount in either a traditional or a Roth account.

So does the decision to invest in a traditional or Roth retirement account not matter? Not so fast.

Constant Tax Rate
Traditional Roth
Initial Tax Bill (25%) $0 $250
Invested Amount (after-tax) $1,000 $750
Future Investment Value $2,159 $1,619
Future Tax Bill (25%) $540 $0
After-Tax Value in 10 Years $1,619 $1,619

Lower Tax Bracket in Future

Let’s assume our investor will have a reduced income when she retires in 10 years, causing her to be in the 15 percent tax bracket in the future. Perhaps the worker is in her prime earning years and will have less income during retirement. In this scenario, due to the up-front 25 percent tax bill, investing the funds in a Roth would lead to the same after-tax value of $1,619. But investing the funds in a traditional account would allow the full $1,000 to experience growth for 10 years, with a reduced future tax bill of 15 percent, leaving $1,835 of after-tax value in the account. This investor would benefit from delaying taxes into the future when she would be in a lower tax bracket.

Lower Tax Rate in the Future
Traditional Roth
Initial Tax Bill (25%) $0 $250
Invested Amount (after-tax) $1,000 $750
Future Investment Value $2,159 $1,619
Future Tax Bill (15%) $324 $0
After-Tax Value in 10 Years

$1,835

$1,619

Higher Tax Bracket in Future

On the other hand, if the investor was in the 15 percent tax bracket this year but expected to be in the 25 percent bracket during retirement (potentially a young employee expecting his earnings to rise), paying taxes now at 15 percent would allow $850 to be invested, which after 10 years of 8 percent growth would be worth $1,835 tax free.

Higher Tax Rate in the Future
Traditional Roth
Initial Tax Bill (15%) $0 $150
Invested Amount (after-tax) $1,000 $850
Future Investment Value $2,159 $1,835
Future Tax Bill (25%) $540 $0
After-Tax Value in 10 Years $1,619 $1,835

Roth Advantages

What if you expect to pay a comparable tax rate both now and in the future? A Roth account offers several advantages in this scenario.

First, as taxes have already been paid on a Roth account, the government doesn’t require investors to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from these accounts, whereas RMDs are required from traditional retirement accounts beginning at age 70½. Without RMDs, Roth accounts can grow tax free for the investor’s entire lifespan.

Additionally, upon death, Roth accounts pass to an investor’s heirs without any tax liability, while those who inherit a traditional retirement account must pay taxes on the assets.

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IRA

***

Second, money withdrawn from a traditional retirement account before the investor is 59½ may be subject to a 10 percent penalty. Yet contributed funds to a Roth account (but not the growth on the contributed funds) can be withdrawn at any time without penalty. While withdrawing funds before retirement isn’t advisable, the added liquidity of the Roth account can prove useful in emergencies.

Finally, even if your income is expected to remain constant, investing in a Roth account allows you to lock in your taxes at today’s rate as opposed to taking the risk that national tax rates might be raised in the future.

If you’re unsure how your future tax bracket will compare to your current rate, diversify. Nothing prevents you from having both a traditional and a Roth retirement account. This not only allows you to hedge your bets, but puts you in a position during retirement to take distributions from your tax-deferred account in low-income years and from the tax-free account in years when you are in a high tax bracket.

Assessment

http://www.utahbusiness.com/articles/view/weighing_the_costs/?pg=1

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