The Diversified Blog

A wealth management blog dedicated to creating a long lasting sustainable retirement.

Tax Strategies for Retirees

Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. —Benjamin Franklin

That saying still rings true roughly 300 years after the former statesman coined it. Yet, by formulating a tax-efficient investment and distribution strategy, retirees may keep more of their hard-earned assets for themselves and their heirs. Here are a few suggestions for effective money management during your later years.

Less Taxing Investments

Municipal bonds, or "munis" have long been appreciated by retirees seeking a haven from taxes and stock market volatility. In general, the interest paid on municipal bonds is exempt from federal taxes and sometimes state and local taxes as well (see table).1 The higher your tax bracket, the more you may benefit from investing in munis.

Also, consider investing in tax-managed mutual funds. Managers of these funds pursue tax efficiency by employing a number of strategies. For instance, they might limit the number of times they trade investments within a fund or sell securities at a loss to offset portfolio gains. Equity index funds may also be more tax-efficient than actively managed stock funds due to a potentially lower investment turnover rate.

It's also important to review which types of securities are held in taxable versus tax-deferred accounts. Why? Because the maximum federal tax rate on some dividend-producing investments and long-term capital gains is 20%.* In light of this, many financial experts recommend keeping real estate investment trusts (REITs), high-yield bonds, and high-turnover stock mutual funds in tax-deferred accounts. Low-turnover stock funds, municipal bonds, and growth or value stocks may be more appropriate for taxable accounts.

The Tax-Exempt Advantage: When Less May Yield More



Which Securities to Tap First?

Another major decision facing retirees is when to liquidate various types of assets. The advantage of holding on to tax-deferred investments is that they compound on a before-tax basis and therefore have greater earning potential than their taxable counterparts.

On the other hand, you'll need to consider that qualified withdrawals from tax-deferred investments are taxed at ordinary federal income tax rates of up to 39.6%, while distributions—in the form of capital gains or dividends—from investments in taxable accounts are taxed at a maximum 20%.* (Capital gains on investments held for less than a year are taxed at regular income tax rates.)

For this reason, it's beneficial to hold securities in taxable accounts long enough to qualify for the favorable long-term rate. And, when choosing between tapping capital gains versus dividends, long-term capital gains are more attractive from an estate planning perspective because you get a step-up in basis on appreciated assets at death.

It also makes sense to take a long view with regard to tapping tax-deferred accounts. Keep in mind, however, the deadline for taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs).

The Ins and Outs of RMDs

The IRS mandates that you begin taking an annual RMD from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans after you reach age 70½. The premise behind the RMD rule is simple—the longer you are expected to live, the less the IRS requires you to withdraw (and pay taxes on) each year.

RMDs are now based on a uniform table, which takes into consideration the participant's and beneficiary's lifetimes, based on the participant's age. Failure to take the RMD can result in a tax penalty equal to 50% of the required amount. TIP: If you'll be pushed into a higher tax bracket at age 70½ due to the RMD rule, it may pay to begin taking withdrawals during your sixties.

Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not require you to begin taking distributions by age 70½.2 In fact, you're never required to take distributions from your Roth IRA, and qualified withdrawals are tax free.2 For this reason, you may wish to liquidate investments in a Roth IRA after you've exhausted other sources of income. Be aware, however, that your beneficiaries will be required to take RMDs after your death.

Estate Planning and Gifting

There are various ways to make the tax payments on your assets easier for heirs to handle. Careful selection of beneficiaries of your money accounts is one example. If you do not name a beneficiary, your assets could end up in probate, and your beneficiaries could be taking distributions faster than they expected. In most cases, spousal beneficiaries are ideal, because they have several options that aren't available to other beneficiaries, including the marital deduction for the federal estate tax.

Also, consider transferring assets into an irrevocable trust if you're close to the threshold for owing estate taxes. In 2016, the federal estate tax applies to all estate assets over $5.45 million. Assets in an irrevocable trust are passed on free of estate taxes, saving heirs thousands of dollars. TIP: If you plan on moving assets from tax-deferred accounts, do so before you reach age 70½, when RMDs must begin.

Finally, if you have a taxable estate, you can give up to $14,000 per individual ($28,000 per married couple) each year to anyone tax free. Also, consider making gifts to children over age 14, as dividends may be taxed—or gains tapped—at much lower tax rates than those that apply to adults. TIP: Some people choose to transfer appreciated securities to custodial accounts (UTMAs and UGMAs) to help save for a grandchild's higher education expenses.

Strategies for making the most of your money and reducing taxes are complex. Your best recourse? Plan ahead and consider meeting with a competent tax advisor, an estate attorney, and a financial professional to help you sort through your options.


Source(s):

1.  Capital gains from municipal bonds are taxable and interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax.

2.  Withdrawals prior to age 59½ are generally subject to a 10% additional tax.
*Income from investment assets may be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare tax, applicable to single-filer taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of over $200,000, and $250,000 for joint filers.


Required Attribution

Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems, Inc. or its sources, neither DST Systems, Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall DST Systems, Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2017 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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When Protection Matters: Consider a QTIP Trust

Several years ago, Jack's father died. Jack grieved not only for his father's passing, but also for his widowed mother who had been married to Jack's father for 35 years. In due course, Jack's mother remarried. However, when she eventually passed away, Jack suffered a double loss: Jack not only lost his mother, but also most of his inheritance. Just the year before, she had given her second husband a substantial sum to start a new business.

Jack's father could have preserved Jack's inheritance, while at the same time providing for Jack's mother, with a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust.

How It Works

With a QTIP trust, rather than simply leaving your assets to your spouse outright in your will, you specify that all or a portion of your assets should be transferred to the trust upon your death. The trustee you choose is legally responsible for holding and investing the assets as you provide. The QTIP trust pays your spouse a life income. After your spouse dies, your children (or anyone else you choose) will receive the trust principal. With a QTIP trust, your spouse cannot prevent the trustee from transferring the assets to your intended beneficiaries.

Current federal estate-tax law allows an unlimited marital deduction for assets that pass from one spouse to the other. To secure the deduction, assets generally must pass to the surviving spouse directly or through a qualifying trust. Thus, it's important to structure your QTIP trust so that the trust assets qualify for the marital deduction. This will allow your estate to avoid paying taxes on the trust property. The trust assets will be included in your spouse's gross estate for estate-tax purposes. However, your spouse's estate will be entitled to a unified credit that could eliminate some -- or perhaps all -- of the estate tax.

Problem Solver

Many estate planning decisions that are simple for traditional families can prove very complicated in today's age of multiple marriages and "blended families." There are many scenarios in which a QTIP trust can be used to prevent future problems. Consider a remarriage involving children from a former marriage. In this case, a QTIP trust can help control the ultimate disposition of assets. The trust also can be used when professional management of assets is desirable for the surviving spouse. After all, placing assets directly in the hands of a spouse who may lack investment or financial experience can be a costly mistake.

Inheritance Insurance

By setting up a QTIP trust, you make sure that your trust assets will eventually go to the individuals you choose to receive them. The result will be the same even if your spouse remarries, drafts a new will, or experiences investment losses. You'll be able to provide for your spouse and preserve assets for your children or other beneficiaries, regardless of how your family's circumstances may change.

Experience Is Essential

A problem-free QTIP trust requires an experienced professional trustee who can manage the trust for your surviving spouse and children in accordance with your wishes. Your financial advisor can help you secure the services of a qualified professional with experience administering QTIP trusts. Together, they can help to ensure that your assets are well cared for throughout the term of the trust.

This communication is not intended to be legal/estate planning advice and should not be treated as such. Each individual's situation is different. You should contact a qualified legal/estate planning professional to discuss your personal situation.


Required Attribution


Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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Beneficiary of a Trust? What You Need to Know

If you have been named as a beneficiary of a trust, you probably have many questions about what comes next. Trusts can take many forms and may be governed by unique provisions established by the creator of the trust or "grantor." As a trust beneficiary, you have certain rights. But to ensure that your financial and other interests are fully protected, you need some basic information about different trust structures and their management.

 

Trust Basics

 

At their most basic, trusts can be grouped into two broad categories -- living trusts and testamentary trusts. A living trust is created by an individual during his or her lifetime. The grantor transfers property to a trust that is managed for the trust beneficiaries by a trustee. The grantor may act as trustee, or he or she may appoint another family member or family advisor, such as an attorney or accountant to be the trustee. A testamentary trust is established by will upon the death of the person whose assets it represents. Testamentary trusts can be used for many purposes; chief among them to provide for current and future beneficiaries.

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Shielding Retirement Assets From Taxes

As hard as it is to believe, today's tax-advantaged plans -- including individual retirement accounts IRAs, 401(k)s, and rollover IRAs -- have the potential to make many employees millionaires. A 401(k) contribution of $433 per month, at 8% compounded monthly, would be worth more than $1 million after 35 years.1

 

These plans are also highly vulnerable to tax losses, if they are not bequeathed properly. For instance, a $1 million IRA inheritance could be whittled to almost nothing under worst-possible circumstances, such as a combination of estate taxes, top income tax brackets, and missed withdrawal deadlines.

Saving your heirs thousands of tax dollars on your retirement money often hinges on the decisions you make before you retire. Therefore, it's important to take a look now at how to save heirs tax headaches later on.

 

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Intergenerational Wealth Planning: A Win-Win for the Whole Family

Discussing the transfer of wealth from parents to children can be uncomfortable for both parties. Yet by introducing children to the wealth management process from a young age, affluent families may be able to reduce family tensions later in life and help ensure that the planning tradition passes intact to future generations.

 

Closing the Communication Gap

 

Opening the dialogue about wealth transfer is a complicated, personal decision that is influenced largely by how wealth holders themselves have been brought up to view money and the responsibilities that come with it. For instance, some individuals may fear that discussing wealth with their children will lead to feelings of expectation and entitlement. Others may simply prefer to control all money issues themselves. Still others with young children may be uncertain about their future wealth and reluctant to discuss it until their children are older and have proven how well -- or poorly -- they handle money.

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It's 2015: Do You Know Who Your Beneficiaries Are?

Many investors have taken advantage of pretax contributions to their company's employer-sponsored retirement plan and/or make annual contributions to an IRA. If you participate in a qualified plan program you may be overlooking an important housekeeping issue: beneficiary designations.

 

An improper designation could make life difficult for your family in the event of your untimely death by putting assets out of reach of those you had hoped to provide for and possibly increasing their tax burdens. Further, if you have switched jobs, become a new parent, been divorced, or survived a spouse or even a child, your current beneficiary designations may need to be updated.

 

Consider the "What Ifs"

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Art and Collectibles: Planning for the Transfer of Your Treasured Property

For many individuals collecting artwork, jewelry, antiques, and other vintage treasures is a lifelong passion. Deciding what is to become of your valuable personal assets when you are no longer around to care for them is not something to take lightly, particularly when it comes to planning for the distribution of your estate.

 

Let's say over the years you have accumulated several valuable oil paintings. Ask yourself: Do I want to pass my collection on to family members? Do they have the expertise to manage valuable or fragile assets? Would a museum be a better home? Is it economically feasible to keep my collection intact, or will I need to sell some pieces to cover various expenses?

 

If you don't address these questions while you are here and able to do so, it is likely that your estate executor or attorney -- who may not have your passion for art -- will do so for you when you're gone. Deciding what to do with a treasured collection generally involves three tasks: assessing value, naming beneficiaries, and communicating your intentions.

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What Is a Stretch IRA?

A stretch IRA is a traditional IRA that passes from the account owner to a younger beneficiary at the time of the account owner's death. Since the younger beneficiary has a longer life expectancy than the original IRA owner, he or she will be able to "stretch" the life of the IRA by receiving smaller required minimum distributions (RMDs) each year over his or her life span. More money can then remain in the IRA with the potential for continued tax-deferred growth.

 

Creating a stretch IRA has no effect on the account owner's RMD requirements, which continue to be based on his or her life expectancy. Once the account owner dies, however, beneficiaries begin taking RMDs based on their own life expectancies. Whereas the owner of a stretch IRA must begin receiving RMDs after reaching age 70 1/2, beneficiaries of a stretch IRA begin receiving RMDs after the account owner's death. In either scenario, distributions are taxable to the payee at then-current income tax rates.

 

It's worth noting that beneficiaries also have the right to receive the full value of their inherited IRA assets by the end of the fifth year following the year of the account owner's death. However, by opting to take only the required minimum amount instead, a beneficiary can theoretically stretch the IRA and tax-deferred growth throughout his or her lifetime.

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Bequest or Beneficiary: In Estate Planning, the Difference Is Crucial

The scenario plays out over and over again in attorneys' offices: A family brings a parent's will to be probated. The will is complete, well-thought-out, and takes into consideration current tax law. But under closer examination, the attorney discovers that the deceased's estate plan doesn't work. Why? Because a substantial portion of the parent's assets pass by beneficiary designation and are not controlled by a will.

 

Increasingly, investors have the opportunity to name beneficiaries directly on a wide range of financial accounts, including employer-sponsored retirement savings plans, IRAs, brokerage and bank accounts, insurance policies, U.S. savings bonds, mutual funds, and individual stocks and bonds.

 

The upside of these arrangements is that when the account holder dies, the monies go directly to the beneficiary named on the account, bypassing the sometimes lengthy and costly probate process. The "fatal flaw" of beneficiary-designated assets is that because they are not considered probate assets, they pass "under the radar screen" and trump the directions spelled out in a will. This all too often leads to unintended consequences -- individuals who you no longer wish to inherit property do, some individuals receive more than you intended, some receive less, and ultimately, there may not be enough money available to fund the bequests you laid out in your will.

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I Received an Inheritance. How Is This Money Taxed?

How your inheritance is taxed will depend on your relationship to the deceased and other factors.

 

The amount of federal estate tax typically is determined by the amount of assets within the estate and your relationship to the deceased.

 

Spouses typically may inherit an unlimited amount of assets free of federal estate taxes. Estates bequeathed to non-spouses, in contrast, may be subject to federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes depending on the level of assets within the estate.

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Gifting: A Win-Win Proposition

You can make annual gifts of up to $14,000 ($28,000 per married couple) to as many people as you wish without incurring federal gift taxes. For tax year 2013, the annual exclusion for gifts was increased to $14,000, up from $13,000 for 2012.

A wealth-transfer technique you can use to reduce your taxable estate and keep more of your assets for your heirs is with gifting. You can make annual gifts of up to $14,000 ($28,000 per married couple) to as many people as you wish without incurring federal gift taxes.

An example: A married couple with three children could reduce their estate by $84,000 each year if $28,000 were given to each of their children.

Gifting can be used in a number of unique ways. You can use annual gifts to help build a college fund for a child, grandchild, relative, or even a friend -- by contributing to a 529 plan account, a Coverdell Education Savings Account, or a UGMA/UGTA account. In fact, 529 plans have special rules that allow you to make five years' worth of contributions in one year without incurring any gift taxes -- that's $70,000 for individuals and $140,000 for married couples!

Gifts can also be used to build wealth for future generations as well as help a child, relative, or friend fund a down payment on a home, buy a car, or start a business. Your financial advisor can help you determine how annual gifts might fit into your overall financial plan.

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