No RMDs for 2020!

But, you may want to take IRA withdrawals anyway. The reason is simple: Taxes are On Sale!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been eliminated for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; but, you just might want to consider taking a distribution anyway.   Why?

Taxes are on sale!  

The dirty little secret is that all that money in your IRA isn’t yours, unless you have so many deductions or credits that you can zero out all your income – not likely.   We have a tendency to look at our statement’s IRA balance and think all that money is ours.  It isn’t .  At some point, Uncle Sam will take a chunk of it.  It will happen when you begin withdrawing it.  So, the only question is at what rate?

Few people are aware that the current tax laws is set to expire – it ‘sunsets’ – on December 31,2025, about 5 years from now (that allows for tax increases without anyone in Congress having to vote for it, though many would happily do it earlier anyway).

So, you can take your IRA money now at ‘sale prices’ or take it later at higher prices.  Why would you want to do that (besides the obvious)?

The SECURE Act has eliminated the stretch IRA.  This means your heirs could have a big problem when you and your spouse pass away.  Odds are it will happen when your kids are in their peak earning years; want to guess what taxes might look like then?  When they inherit your IRA(s), they will be required fully liquidate those IRAs by the end of the 10th year – ouch!  Big tax bite.

What can you do?  Begin withdrawing your IRA money while taxes are on sale over the next five years and do a Roth conversion on the money each year.   You’ll pay taxes now at ‘sale prices’ and the money will grow inside the Roth IRAs tax-free.   Now, there’s no RMDs.   And, when the time comes, your kids will have to liquidate by the end of the 10th year – but the money will be tax free!

There’s a hidden benefit for you, too:  Taxable income is used to determine what percentage of your Social Security is deemed taxable; it’s also used to determine Medicare premiums.   The less money you have in your traditional IRAs, the less the RMDs – and the less taxable income you have.   Hmmm.

If you have a comprehensive financial plan, a Roth conversion analysis should be a normal part of your planning process.   The savings over the life of your plan, and to your kids, could be substantial.   There are a number of issues to be considered, age, possible penalties, etc., so be sure to talk with your financial advisor.  Don’t have one?  See below!

 

Is there a subject you would like to learn more about?  Let me know in just 1 minute!  You can do it here.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Three Tips for Building Family Wealth

There is more you can do, of course; but, these will get you on your way: 

Getty Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Most people work long hours for 30+ years trying to build wealth for themselves and their families  –  okay, it’s really for the vacation home and a nicer car, but the first part sounds better.

The truth is building family – inter-generational wealth – really isn’t that hard to do.  If you REALLY want to do that, these simple steps will get you started.

  1. Choose your beneficiaries wisely when allocating inheritance money.   Leave tax-deferred accounts (IRAs and non-qualified annuities, for example) to younger family members.  They’re likely in a lower tax bracket and have longer life expectancies for taking the required minimum distributions, which means the distributions will be smaller, as well.    Highly appreciated assets are best left to beneficiaries in higher tax brackets as long as the cost-basis can be stepped up to the current price levels.  This means wealthier recipients can sell the asset with little or no tax consequences.  The high-income beneficiaries would most benefit from the tax-free benefits from life insurance policies.   Life insurance is the most overlooked, yet one of the most valuable tools in the toolbox.   Where else could you create an estate with the stroke of a pen?

  2. Don’t be too eager to drop older life insurance policies.  Some may wonder why keep the policy if they no longer need it.  Those older policies may be paying an attractive interest rate, which is accumulating tax-deferred.  Secondly, those small premiums may well be worth the much larger tax-free payoff down the road.   How to tell?  Start by dividing the premium into the death benefit.  Got the answer?  If you think you’ll pass away before that number (in years), you probably should keep paying.   Remember, death benefits generally pass tax-free!

  3. Convert Grandpa’s IRA to a Roth IRA.    When grandpa passes away, his IRA assets will likely be passed down to children and grandchildren, which means they’ll have to begin taking taxable required minimum distributions (RMDs) – which means they’ll probably be taxed at a higher rate than grandpa would have paid on his own withdrawals (when grandpa passes away, the grandkids are probably in their peak earning years, paying higher taxes anyway.  Why force them into a higher bracket still?).  If grandpa converted some or all of his traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs while alive, this problem wouldn’t happen.  Smart kids might want to encourage this and even offer to pay the tax bill on the conversion now!

Review your financial plan with your advisor?  Don’t have an advisor or a plan?   Hmmmm.  See below.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

The SECURE Act Is A Financial Planning “Game Changer”.

And, there are implications many have missed.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Why did congress pass The SECURE Act?

Simple.  This major change will bring in $15.7 billion in tax revenue by 2029, according to the joint committee on taxation in their report on the bill, H.R. 1994.   And, guess whose money they want?   Yes, yours.

The administration, of course, is looking for ways to address the debt by raising revenue without actually talking much about the debt.  They’re even kicking the can down the road on taxes, talking about making the current tax-cuts “permanent” – as if Washington had ever passed a permanent tax bill; it’s “Washington-speak”.  The current tax law is set to “sunset”, i.e., expire in 2026, taking us all back to the pre-2017 tax rates.   Permanency would be achieved by removing the sunset date.  So far, so good; but, if you’re one of those planning for the next two decades, you should be thinking about what the next ten congressional elections might bring. 

The Stretch IRA is all but eliminated.  Under the old law, an heir could inherit an IRA and stretch the RMDs over his/her life expectancy.   Okay, considering the inheritance will probably take place during their peak earning years.   So, a $17,000 RMD on a $500,000 IRA (purely hypothetical) won’t make much difference.   However, under The SECURE Act the inheritor must liquidate the IRA by the 10th year.   There’s NO RMD REQUIREMENT, so, the heir could let the IRA grow until the last year—but, then would be required to withdraw ALL funds in one year—talk about playing roulette with what the tax laws will be when the entire balance is added to that year’s income for calculating the tax bill.   Alternatively, the heir could take a 10% yearly distribution, for example.   But, in our example, that would add $50,000 each year to taxable income during what would likely be the heir’s peak earning years!

For the owner of a traditional IRA, remember that RMDs are considered in two other areas:  (1) how much of Social Security income will be subject to taxation, and (2) as income for determining your Medicare Part B premiums.  Oh, yes, high income in retirement means higher Part B premiums.

It’s a good time, especially for those with substantial incomes, to do some planning.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Planning to Roll Your 401(k) to Your Own IRA?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Getting ready to retire?  Planning to roll your 401(k) into your own IRA?  It will pay to do your homework first.

To help you get started, you might find our 401(k) Rollover Review helpful.  It contains information on changing jobs, retiring, methods, rollover taxation issues, and more.

i303a_ira-rollover-review_overview-report_vsa_001Click Here for your 401(k) Rollover Review!

 

What if Retirement Plan Statements Stated the Facts?

iStock_UncleSamLiftingWallet_MediumThe next time you open your 401(k) or IRA statement and see your current balance, it might be worth remembering it isn’t true.  The balance, you see, isn’t all yours!

Remember how many times you’ve heard the phrase tax deferred?     You’ll avoid taxes only as long as you leave the money untouched; of course, by age 70-1/2 or thereabouts you’re going to have to take some money out, whether you like it or not, because Uncle Sam wants his cut.

Then, the truth hits:  You’ve been growing money for Uncle Sam, too!

If you’re in a combined state and federal income tax bracket of 33%, it means only 66% of the balance you see on your statement is really yours – or ever will be.

For example, if your tax-deferred retirement plan statement indicates you have $500,000, remember it’s illusory.  Your tax bracket will 6a017c332c5ecb970b01a73dd6e411970d-320widetermine how much Uncle Sam will get – and Uncle Sam is not only the one who ‘writes the rules’, he also determines when he wants to do it.

If your combined state and federal tax bracket is 30%, for example, Uncle Sam’s balance in your account is $150,000.  Your balance is $350,000 – unless Uncle Sam changes his mind about your bracket.

So, the next time you look at your tax-deferred balance, you might want to whack-off Uncle Sam’s cut and enter the remaining balance on your own balance sheet – it will probably be a closer representation of what you really own when all the dust settles.

There are some steps you can take to reduce or potentially eliminate income tax in retirement, if you’re prepared to do what it takes today.

You have to ask yourself:

  • With an aging population demanding services, do I feel confident Uncle Sam won’t raise taxes in the future on those who’ve worked and saved?
  • With the “official” national debt over $19 trillion – and the real debt more like $89 trillion – do I feel confident Uncle Sam will simply manage better and keep taxes where they are on those who’ve worked and saved?

If you feel good about trusting their management of your money over the next thirty years, you may even be content with your tax status moving forward.  If not, you may want to begin exploring your options.

IFGi_4 Steps to a Tax Free Retirement_001Here’s a short report you might find interesting as a first step in your process.

You can access it here.  I hope you find it helpful.

 

Jim

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RESOURCES:

 

Subscribe to IFG’s Ezine:  IFG Insights at https://tinyurl.com/IFGInsights

 

Visit the IFG Website!

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

The 401K Failure

Fotilla Images

Fotilla Images

Are we in the midst of a 401(k) failure?  Some time ago, PBS aired an excellent program on retirement and how the various generation, including baby boomers, are being affected by their planning – or failure to plan.

It’s an hour-long program entitled, When I’m 65.  The program addresses savings rates, withdrawal rates, investment pitfalls, issues to address, pitfalls to avoid, and even the difference between advisors, including the fiduciary standard – what it means and why it’s different from the ‘suitability’ standard adopted by product sellers.  It also discusses the recent legislation affecting the advisory industry and consumers and even addresses annuities –  insurance-based products widely misunderstood by much of the general public who tend to see things through an ‘either-or’ lens (for additional information on income annuities, you can access a ‘primer’ here).

This PBS program is well worth watching. You may even want to forward it to someone who you think can benefit. You can see it here – scroll down to the video.

There have been questions about the failure of the 401(k) system that have been discussed in the media from time to time since the 2008-9 market meltdown.   This topic was addressed in a Frontline program some time ago and also well worth watching:

I addressed this issue myself in a webinar I recorded last year.  It’s also about an hour long; so, for those of you who aren’t faint of heart, you can access it here.  I think you might find it interesting, as well.

Hope you find all of this worthwhile and helpful.

Jim