When planning for retirement, it’s essential to consider multiple sources of income. Social Security may not be as beneficial as expected, particularly after taxes. Outside of pouring money into savings, pre-retirees should look into options for non-taxable income well before the time comes to call it quits.
Here are four ways to start building towards a tax-free future in retirement.
One of the best options for retirees looking for tax-free income is the Roth IRA. Unlike most other retirement plans, a Roth IRA grants a tax break on withdrawals rather than contributions. Direct contributions can be withdrawn at any time, without worry of tax or penalty. Earnings can be withdrawn tax-free as well, after a five-year period, and for individuals 59 and a half years of age or older.
The Roth IRA has advantages over alternative tax-free options such as municipal bonds. Though munis have no income limit, the interest they pay is generally less than taxable bonds, and they may be subject to state income taxes. Also, municipal bonds may be counted as a source of income for early recipients of Social Security, potentially hurting their pay if they make $15,000 or more.
Unfortunately, the Roth IRA has income limits that disqualify some people from making contributions. Many people hold off until after retirement when they enter a lower income bracket, though financial experts advise making contributions as early as possible for greater benefits down the line.
Roth 401(k), 403 (b):
Plans such as the 401(k) can accumulate huge savings as the employer will match whatever the employee contributes. The IRS also allows for Roth contributions to 401(k) and 403(b) accounts. While the Roth IRA has an annual contribution limit of $5,000 or $6,000 (depending on age), the limits on Roth 401(k) contributions are much higher and are not restricted by income eligibility.
Regardless, pre-retirees should look to max out their contributions to company-sponsored plans each year. It will pay off in the future.
Health savings account:
Some employers offer an HSA-qualified health plan, allowing employees to contribute tax-deductible funds that roll over and accumulate each year. These funds can be withdrawn at a later date to pay for various medical procedures, some of which may not be covered by health insurance.
A health savings account can eventually become a useful source of tax-free retirement income as the funds can be used as reimbursements for past medical expenses, or to pay for current Medicare premiums and health costs. Withdrawals are not subject to income taxation if made for qualified medical expenses.
Though most people look at life insurance as something that will only be of benefit after they pass on, it can also become a potential source of retirement income.
A life insurance retirement plan (LIRP) allows owners to contribute funds beyond that required by the plan’s premiums and later withdraw the excess cash tax-free.
According to expert Kevin Kimbrough of Saybrus Partners, these funds accumulate similar to an annuity but come with an added benefit.
“Unlike the annuity, you’re able to take your basis out first and that comes out tax free,” said Kimbrough to ThinkAdvisor. “When you get into the gains, you’re able to switch over and start taking policy loans against the income-tax-free death benefit.”
This method is usually better suited for higher earners, due to the fees associated with such an investment. It’s highly advisable that pre-retirees examine their portfolio, research and adopt a plan best suited for their particular circumstances.
“There are only two options in retirement: You can be working for your money or your money can be working for you. You have to be realistic and ask yourself if you really can retire when you’d like,” said finance advisor Christopher Kimball to Turbotax. “During retirement, it is critical to monitor your investments and current tax law. You should be positioned to take money from whatever ‘bucket’ is most beneficial at the time.”