What are the biggest expenses you’ll face in retirement? Healthcare? Housing? Travel? All of those costs could be significant, but one of the biggest could be taxes. That’s right. Just because you’re done working, doesn’t mean you’re done paying taxes.
Many sources of retirement income, like Social Security, pensions, and retirement account distributions, are taxable. That doesn’t even include the wide range of other taxes you could face, like property taxes, sales tax, and more.
Taxes may be a part of life, but they can also be a drain on your retirement. Every dollar you pay in taxes is a dollar that can’t be used to support your lifestyle and fund your goals.
Fortunately, you can take action to reduce your tax burden and maximize your retirement income. Below are five steps to consider as you approach retirement:
1) Use a Roth IRA. A traditional IRA is an effective savings vehicle for retirement. You get tax-deferred growth, and potentially tax deductions for your contributions.
However, a traditional IRA can also create tax issues in retirement. Most distributions from a traditional IRA are taxed as income. If you use an IRA to accumulate a sizable nest egg, you could face taxes on much of your income in retirement.
The alternative is a Roth IRA. In a Roth IRA, you don’t get tax deductions when you make a contribution. However, your distributions in retirement are tax-free, assuming you are at least age 59 ½ and you have held the Roth for at least five years.
As a married couple, you cannot contribute to a Roth if your income is greater than $196,000 in 2020. For a single person, that limit is $124,000.1 Otherwise, you can contribute up to $6,000 this year, or up to $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.2
You can also convert your traditional IRA to a Roth. This means paying taxes on the traditional IRA amount. However, after the conversion, you can grow the remaining assets in the Roth on a tax-free basis and take tax-free distributions in retirement.
2) Be strategic about Social Security distributions. Social Security will likely play a role in your retirement income puzzle. However, taxes will impact the net amount you receive from Social Security.
The extent that your Social Security benefit is taxed depends on a number called your “combined income.” Combined income is your adjusted gross income plus nontaxable interest plus half of your Social Security benefit.3
If you are single and your combined income is between $25,000 and $34,000, up to 50% of your benefits could be taxable. If you earn more than $34,000, up to 85% of your benefits could be taxable.3
For married couples, if your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% of your benefits could be taxed. If you earn more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits could be taxed.
The key to reducing your combined income is to reduce your adjusted gross income. Non-taxable income is not included in that number. So, for example, you could maximize your Roth IRA to minimize your adjusted gross income. You could also delay Social Security until age 70 to increase your benefit, and draw down your taxable accounts, like a traditional IRA, before Social Security starts.
3) Consider downsizing. Simply moving to a new home could reduce your taxes. Property taxes may be a major tax burden depending on your home. If you no longer need a large home, consider moving to something smaller that has a lower value and thus lower property taxes. You also may look at a neighboring community that has a lower property tax rate.
4) Relocate to a more tax-friendly state. Another option is to move to another state completely. Some states are more tax-friendly for retirees than others. For example, Alabama doesn’t tax Social Security benefits and has a relatively low sales tax rate.4 Florida is another option as it doesn’t have a state income tax.5 Do your research and you may find a new home that is appealing and saves you money.
5) Use an HSA to pay for medical costs. Fidelity estimates that the average 65-year-old couple will pay $285,000 out-of-pocket for health care expenses in retirement.6 If you’re using taxable distributions from an IRA or 401(k) to pay those costs, the impact on your savings could be even greater.
One strategy to minimize the tax burden is to use a health savings account (HSA) to pay for healthcare costs. In 2020, individuals can contribute up to $3,550 to an HSA. Families can contribute up to $7,100.7
You can invest and allocate those funds to match your goals and risk tolerance. The assets grow on a tax-deferred basis as long as they stay in the account. When you’re ready to use the funds, you can take tax-free distributions to pay for qualified healthcare expenses like premiums, deductibles, copays, and more.
By using a tax-free source to pay for healthcare costs, you reduce the amount you need to take from taxable accounts, like an IRA or 401(k). That, in turn, reduces your overall tax burden. A financial professional can help you determine if an HSA is right for you.
Ready to develop your retirement tax strategy? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at MasterPlan Retirement Consultants. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a plan.
The information contained herein is based on our understanding of current tax law. The tax and legislative information may be subject to change and different interpretations. We recommend that you seek professional legal advice for applicability to your personal situation.
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Advisory services offered through MasterPlan Retirement Consultants, Inc. Insurance services offered through Fricks and Associates, Inc. Tax services offered through MasterPlan Tax Services, Inc. The aforementioned are affiliated companies.