There’s one piece of the retirement puzzle that no one likes: Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). The withdrawals from tax-deferred plans are taxed as regular income, which means RMDs could push you into a higher tax bracket. And the increase in your adjusted gross income could trigger other unpleasant consequences, such as higher taxes on your Social Security benefits, a surtax on your taxable investments, and a Medicare high-income surcharge.
Are you managing your withdrawals?
• Once you turn 59½, you can withdraw money from your tax-deferred accounts without paying a 10% early-withdrawal penalty. Over time, these withdrawals will shrink the size of your tax-deferred accounts, resulting in lower RMDs when you reach 70½ and beyond.
• If using IRA withdrawals to pay living expenses lets you postpone claiming Social Security benefits, you could significantly increase your payout amount. For every year past your full retirement age that you delay, your benefit increases by about 8% until age 70.
Have you converted savings to a Roth IRA?
• You can withdraw the contributions to a Roth tax-free, and once you’re 59½ and have owned the Roth for five years, earnings are tax-free.
• Roths aren’t subject to RMDs, so you can withdraw as much or as little as you need after age 70½ without worrying about the tax bill.
• You must pay taxes at your regular income tax rate on any funds you convert, so be careful. A large conversion could push you into a higher tax bracket and trigger the chain reaction of unpleasant consequences.
Is it worth it to change your investment strategy?
• Consider a QLAC. You can use a Qualified Longevity Annuity to reduce your RMDs. You’re allowed to invest up to 25% of your IRA or 401(k) plan (or $125,000, whichever is less) in a QLAC without having to take required minimum distributions on that money when you turn 70½. You’ll still have to pay taxes when you start receiving payments from the annuity, but you can delay payouts until age 85.
• If you can afford smaller gains on your investments, consider using your tax-deferred accounts for bonds. One advantage to this strategy is that bonds and bond funds are taxed at your ordinary-income rate, while stocks and stock funds in a taxable account benefit from the capital-gains rate, which is 15% for most taxpayers. Because RMDs are based on the previous year-end value of your IRA, an IRA that grows more slowly will produce smaller RMDs.
This is meant for educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation to take a particular course of action. Consult with a financial professional regarding your personal situation before making any financial decisions.