I talk to people about money and taxes all day long, and I have yet to talk to someone who wants to pay more in taxes. We all want to pay our fair share of taxes, but not many of us also want to leave a tip.
That is why it is so crucial to have a great tax strategy in retirement to make sure you can minimize your taxes as much as you legally can.
But if you did want to leave the government a tip, then feel free to donate toward the national debt.
Different tax buckets
There are three main tax buckets that you can have. There are pay-as-you-go buckets, pay-later buckets and pay-never buckets.
The pay-as-you-go buckets include non-retirement investments such as a brokerage account. In these accounts, you pay taxes as you receive dividends, or sell investments for a profit.
The one advantage of this bucket is that it can be subject to long-term capital gains tax rates, which are always lower than your normal tax rates. The downside is that you have to pay taxes as you go and not just when you take money out of the account.
The pay-later bucket can be a traditional IRA, traditional TSP (Thrift Savings Plan), or traditional 401k. Basically, you get a tax deduction for putting money into this bucket, it grows tax-deferred, and you don’t have to pay taxes until you take it out of the account.
But out of the three types of tax buckets, the pay-never bucket is certainly my favorite. This bucket includes Roth IRAs, the Roth TSP and Roth 401ks. Basically, you put after-tax money into this bucket, and it can grow tax-free. Then when you take the money out, both what you originally contributed and the growth can all come out without paying a dime in taxes.
But if getting tax-free growth wasn’t enough to convince you to start a Roth IRA (or other Roth account), here are five more benefits of this type of tax bucket.
For those that don’t know, RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) start at age 72 and require you to start taking money out of certain types of retirement accounts. For example, if you have a traditional TSP or traditional IRA, RMDs will require that you distribute a certain percentage of these accounts every year so that you have to pay taxes on the money.
However, the one type of retirement account that is not subject to RMDs is a Roth IRA. This means that you can keep your money in a Roth IRA for as long as you’d like to let your money continue to grow tax-free.
Hedge higher taxes
It is hard to know what changes will be made to the tax law in the future, but most people are in agreement that tax rates are most likely not going to go down any time soon. And so if taxes will be higher in the future, then paying taxes now (by using a Roth account), can be a great way to pay when tax rates are relatively low.
Medicare part B premiums
Medicare is a big part of retirement for the vast majority of Americans, and Medicare part B is not free. You can find the current premiums at medic are.gov.
But as you can see (assuming you looked at the premiums at the link above), the price of Medicare part B increases as your income does. That means that if you have income over certain thresholds, the cost Medicare part B will increase for you.
Money that you take out of pre-tax accounts (traditional IRA, traditional TSP and traditional 401k, etc.) does count as taxable income, so taking too much out in one year could mean higher premiums for you in the future.
But money taken out of Roth IRAs does not count as taxable income so having Roth money can help you save thousands of dollars in Medicare premiums.
Save your kids taxes
Having Roth money is not only good for you; it is also good for anyone you leave money to.
For example, if you pass away and leave a traditional IRA to your kids, they will have to pay taxes whenever they take money out of the account. But if you pass them a Roth IRA, they will be able to access it tax and penalty-free.
The last reason to have some after-tax money in retirement is to have more options in retirement. After all, we don’t know what tax laws are going to look like in the future, but having money in a variety of tax buckets will give you some amount of control over your taxable income throughout retirement.