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Tips to Boost Your Tax-Free Income in Retirement

Although workers are told to put every spare pre-tax cent into a traditional 401(k) at work, the reality is that once the time comes to tap that account for income in retirement, income taxes will follow.

There is a bright side to the income taxes that will follow you into retirement. Create a pool of tax-free income, advises CNBC, by following the advice in the article “3 tips to help boost your tax-free income in retirement.”

Introduce yourself to the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k). Unlike a traditional IRA, with a Roth IRA you pay taxes when you make your contribution to the account. The funds then grow tax-free over time and, as long as you meet certain conditions, there are no taxes on withdrawals. With a Roth IRA, there are none of those pesky RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions). However, there are withdrawal distribution requirements for a Roth (401)k.

Most employers offer Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) accounts, so there’s a good chance they are offered by your employer.

Roth IRAs are often offered along with their counterpart, the traditional 401(k). Between the two of them, it’s possible to save as much as $19,000 in 2019. For those workers who are 50 and over, you can add $6,000 as a catch-up contribution. 

The power of the Roth 401(k) is the tax-free compounding that takes place over time. Don’t miss out on this, if you want to max out your tax-free savings.

There are two different types of Roth plans: the Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA. Roth IRA plans have income limits. If your modified AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) is more than $137,000 for a single and $203,000 for a couple filing jointly, you aren’t allowed to make a direct contribution to a Roth IRA. However, there are no income caps for Roth (401)k. You can also save more for retirement in a Roth 401(k), compared to a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are also subject to annual contribution limits: $6,000 in 2019, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution, if you are over age 50.

Here are three steps to make your retirement savings more tax free:

Can you do an in-plan conversion? If your employer offers a Roth 401(k), you may be able to convert some of your traditional 401(k) savings to the Roth. This is called an in-plan Roth conversion. Just like a direct contribution to a Roth 401(k), it will be taxable. Therefore, make sure that you run the numbers before moving funds. You’ll be responsible for taxes on pretax principal and earnings. Don’t do it all at once, so that you don’t find yourself moved into a higher tax bracket.

What does your plan allow? If you’ve left your employer and have money in both a traditional 401(k) and a Roth (401)k, you might want to convert those accounts — if your retirement plan allows it.  Remember that you may not write a check from an outside bank account to add after-tax money to a Roth 401(k).

What’s your time-frame? Just as young workers are in the best position to save early and often, they are also in the best position to make the most out of Roth savings accounts of all types. It’s likely that younger workers have not yet reached their full career and earnings stage, so now is the best time to put money into a Roth 401(k). When incomes are higher, so will taxes on Roth retirement account contributions. If you’re close to retirement, there are other timing factors to consider, primarily Medicare. How much you pay for Medicare Part B and D, which covers doctor’s visits and prescription drugs, depends upon your modified gross income from two years ago. Do the conversion to a Roth at age 62, if you intend to file for Medicare at age 65. 

Reference: CNBC (Feb. 10, 2019) “3 tips to help boost your tax-free income in retirement”

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