It’s tax time. Many retirees assume that their tax exposure will go down once they leave the working world. After all, they’ll no longer have income from a job. Even without a job, though, many retirees still face tax exposure. Many common sources of retirement income, such as Social Security, pensions and qualified account distributions, are taxable.
If you are recently retired or approaching retirement and haven’t budgeted for taxes, you could be in for a surprise. Your tax exposure could reduce your discretionary income and limit your ability to live the retirement of your dreams.
The good news is there are steps you can take today to minimize your tax exposure in retirement. Below are three such steps. You also may want to consult with a financial professional to develop action steps that are aligned with your specific needs and goals.
Maximize your contributions to a health savings account (HSA).
Health care is often a substantial cost item for retirees. In a recent analysis, Fidelity found that the average retired couple is likely to pay $275,000 for health care expenses in retirement.1 That includes costs such as premiums, deductibles, copays and more. If you take income from your IRA or 401(k) to pay for those costs, you could inflate your taxable income.
Instead, consider using a health savings account (HSA) to pay for those costs. With an HSA, you can make tax-deductible contributions, grow your funds tax-deferred and then take tax-free distributions to pay for qualified health care expenses. That could reduce the amount of taxable withdrawals you have to take from other accounts.
In 2018 you can contribute up to $3,450 to an HSA as an individual or $6,900 as a family. If you’re age 55 or older, you can make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.2 Consider maximizing your HSA contributions so you can take advantage of tax-free distributions in retirement.
Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth.
Qualified accounts like IRAs and 401(k) plans are popular because of their favorable tax treatment. They’re usually funded with pretax dollars. With a traditional IRA you can take a tax deduction for your contributions, assuming you meet income limitations. Your 401(k) contributions are deducted from your check on a pretax basis, thus reducing your taxable income.
These accounts also offer tax-deferred growth. You don’t pay taxes on growth as long as the funds stay inside the account. By the time you reach retirement, it’s possible your entire IRA or 401(k) could be funded with dollars that have never been taxed.
You can’t delay taxes on these funds forever. The IRS treats distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans as taxable income. That could be problematic in retirement if you’ve used a traditional IRA or 401(k) to accumulate most of your retirement assets.
You could consider a Roth conversion to minimize the tax burden. As the name suggests, you convert a portion of your traditional IRA funds into a Roth account. You pay taxes on the converted amount, but you won’t pay taxes on future growth or distributions, assuming you wait until age 59½ and until the Roth has been open at least five years before you take a withdrawal. A conversion may create a tax liability today, but it could also eliminate tax exposure in the future.
Donate your RMDs to charity.
Traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans are popular in part because they allow you to defer your taxes on investment growth. However, you can’t defer those taxes forever. The IRS requires you to take minimum distributions at age 70½. These required minimum distributions (RMDs) are treated as taxable income.
If you’d already planned on giving money to charity, however, you could take advantage of a unique exception to reduce your taxable income. The IRS allows you to donate your RMDs to charity and avoid paying taxes on the distribution. To do so, you’ll have to set up the distribution to transfer directly to the charity without passing through your account first.
Ready to develop your retirement tax strategy? Let’s talk about it. Contact us at Peak Financial Corp. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.
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