When most of us plan for retirement, we think ahead to how we will generate the income needed to sustain our desired lifestyle. We add up costs, and try to determine if we are saving enough each month for a nest egg that meets our needs.
However, many of us forget that it's important to consider the cost of taxes. Your tax situation can have a big impact on whether or not you ultimately reach your retirement goals.
Here are some of the tax situations that can affect your tax bracket, and affect your overall wealth:
Distributions = Taxable Income
Unless you have a Roth account, your retirement account withdrawals count as taxable income. Depending on how much you withdraw each year, you could see an increase in what you owe. Your distributions could put you in a higher tax bracket.
If you have relatively modest retirement needs, then this usually isn't a huge problem. Modest living can mean that you end up in a lower tax bracket during retirement. However, if you are still meeting debt obligations, and if you are pursuing expensive hobbies or travel, you might need to withdraw more money in order to meet your requirements. This means higher taxes, especially if you continue to work during retirement on top of withdrawing money from your account.
Required Minimum Distributions
Maybe you don't necessarily need to withdraw a lot of money from your retirement account. Once you reach the age of 70 1/2, though, what you require during retirement might not matter so much. You have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from every retirement account except a Roth IRA.
These RMDs are figured based on your life expectancy and the size of your nest egg. If you don't take the required amount each year, you are hit with penalties. However, taking the RMDs can lead to putting you in a higher tax bracket.
Rolling Your Retirement Account To A Roth IRA
Almost all of these tax issues can be solved by rolling your qualified retirement account over to a Roth IRA. You don't pay income tax on your Roth IRA withdrawals, and you aren't forced to take RMDs with a Roth IRA.
However, rolling over your retirement account comes with its own tax consequences. While anyone, at any income level, can roll over a qualified account, there are still tax hits. First of all, if you have your money in a deferred account, you haven't paid taxes on your contributions, so you will have to remedy that situation. The IRS will consider the amount you roll over as income, and you will be taxed at your marginal rate.
You can roll all of the money over at once, and pay the taxes to get it over with, or you can roll over a portion of your retirement account a little at a time to spread out the tax impact. Before making the decision, consult a knowledgeable financial professional about the tax implications. You should work out a plan that helps you minimize your taxes in retirement.