How Tax Reform Might Affect Your Retirement

How Tax Reform Might Affect Your Retirement

During his campaign, President Trump promised a significant overhaul to the federal tax code. If he comes through on his promises, the seven federal tax brackets would be streamlined to just three: 12, 25, and 33 percent.

Under such a plan, taxpayers who make between $48,000 and $83,000 would see roughly a $1,000 reduction in income taxes per year. High earners—America’s 1 percent—would enjoy an average reduction of $214,000. But not everyone will pay less.

For instance, removing the head of household filing status, as Trump proposes, would force single parents to pay more in taxes. So, it’s important to assess how these tax policies could affect what you pay. Because you could end up with more or less money in your hand each year.

With all that said, a new tax plan like the one White House leadership wants will impact your retirement as well, especially if you change tax brackets. Here’s what you need to know:

The possibility of lower taxes equals more options for retirement

As mentioned, Trump’s tax plan will save many folks money each filing season. Overall, taxes would decrease by $2,940 per filer on average. That extra money can be spent on retirement investments, like life insurance, stocks, mutual funds, or real estate, rather than a new TV or car.

If a new tax plan is implemented, and your taxes are reduced, start planning for what to do with the extra cash you save. You want to make the right investments for your retirement, which involves taking a look at how the entire tax plan affects where you should put your money.

Pre-tax investments may become less attractive

One of the advantages of a pre-tax investment, like a traditional IRA or 401K, is that it reduces your present tax burden. You can let that investment grow and then pay taxes on it when you retire.

But if you have less tax to pay, then it becomes less beneficial to save money on those taxes today. It may actually be smarter to pay the taxes now and then invest the money (especially if you believe taxes will go up in the future).

Consider this scenario:

  • In Trump’s proposed plan, a married couple with $100,000 in taxable income would pay $12,000 in taxes (a 12 percent rate).
  • Previously, a married couple having $100,000 in taxable income would have paid $25,000 in taxes (a 25 percent rate).

Clearly, it makes less sense to toss money into a traditional IRA or 401K to decrease your taxes. What you’re able to save is reduced because you’re already paying less in taxes (at least in this case).

Also, since pre-tax investments would become less attractive for most, after-tax investments, like a Roth IRA or annuity, would become more attractive. For most people, it might be wise to pay taxes on income now since rates are lower, and invest in something like a Roth IRA account to ensure money can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement.

Cutting Medicare surtax would benefit the wealthy

The Affordable Care Act helped fund Medicare partially with a surtax on investment income of 3.8 percent for those in the highest tax bracket. Trump and the GOP plan to eliminate this surtax, which would give high-income investors significantly more return on their investments.

The capital gains tax rate for them would decrease from 23.8 percent to 20 percent.

Opponents say this surtax would reduce federal revenues by $117 billion over a decade and accelerate Medicare insolvency, all the while putting an incredible amount of money back in the pockets of the wealthy. This could result in Congress raising Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 or higher. It also could lead to a reduction in benefits from Medicare, which is seen as a bedrock of health care coverage.

You should pay serious attention to what goes on with the Medicare surtax and even the Medicare employer tax (which could change).

Other factors to consider

Although President Trump has promised to protect Social Security, no concrete plans have been put forward. Some research institutions estimate Social Security will be insolvent by 2035, and there may be changes in the tax code that will impact the program. Pay serious attention to this, especially if you’re going to depend on that income in retirement.

Additionally, Medicare isn’t the only medical issue you need to consider. The Trump administration has talked a lot making Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) more accessible for Americans. Plans include increasing contribution limits, establishing easier ways to pass HSAs on to beneficiaries, and making the accounts more portable.

HSAs, which are tax-deductible, will definitely become a more useful option if the Medicare surtax is repealed and the Cadillac plan is canceled. That plan, starting in 2020, would impose a 40% excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored plans.  

Wait to see what happens—then make the right move

Tax policies change with every administration, so it’s always best to observe what’s being changed and how it affects what you’re doing for your retirement.

Analyze your personal situation and do your research. See what investment vehicles suit you best—and make those investments. Watch out for changes in the tax plan that will affect Social Security and health care in retirement—and prepare accordingly. Doing all this will put you in a better spot for retirement.

Goldstone Financial Group: Financial Health: Get Out of it What You Put Into It

Goldstone Financial Group: Financial Health: Get Out of it What You Put Into It

Those most successful at putting money away—whether through savings, investments, or retirement structures—most likely have at least one thing in common: They give regular attention to the picture of their finances and how they are managing them.  Much like your physical health, your financial health is dependent upon taking a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to its maintenance. For most investors this makes sense in theory, but when it comes to the actual implementation there is a lot of noise, all of which can be misleading if taken out of context, especially if the advice doesn’t necessarily pertain to your personal financial picture.

As we always remind our own investors, all good financial advisors will make sure to learn about your individual situation before providing any advice, so take this information with care. However, the four things we list below are crucial pieces of the financial puzzle, which apply to nearly anyone trying to grow wealth, in any amount.

Pay attention to your consumer-debt ratio: While pretty much a given, even the New York Times will tell you that you always want to be earning more than you are spending—probably because it bears reminding in this consumer-drive society.  Your consumer debt ratio is determined by dividing your assets by your liabilities. Now, ideally, this number will be positive, indicating that you own more than you owe. More often than you’d think, however, the reverse is true. According to a study by popular Nerd Wallet, the average household is continually growing and currently at about $130,922. With social security disappearing, this is particularly concerning for the younger generations. More on that below.

Create an Emergency Fund: Like a savings account, this money sits aside in the event that you need access to an unusually large amount of liquidity, in a short period of time. The standard emergency fund amount recommended is the equivalent of three months salary, however, if you are a dual income home, make that the equivalent to 6 months of salary. Emergency funds ensure a certain amount of flexibility should something unexpected—a sudden accident or illness, or the need to take time off from work—befall you or your family.

Max out your retirement accounts: This is important at any age, and especially as you get closer to retirement, but its equally if not more important when you are young. In addition to the fact that social security is only guaranteed until 2035, this allows the younger generation to put money away when they don’t need to use it to care for dependents. It also encourages a habit early on, that will ideally compound over a lifetime. It’s also helpful to actively picture what your retirement looks like, so that you have some idea of the type of lifestyle you are saving toward, and what it will cost to support that. For more tips on saving for retirement read “Making the Most of Life After Work.”

Be respectful of inflation: This is true with regard to the national inflation we experience collectively, but should also be taken into account with the natural inflation that occurs in each of our lives as we age. Many people fail to track their earning and spending trajectories based on their future circumstances and situations, which can wreak unexpected havoc when significant shifts in spending are caused due to big life transitions, like moving or having a baby. Planning well in advance of the natural inflation of your life will also be helpful in protecting your financial health.

Credit Score: Of course, we can’t leave out the credit score. While bemoaned for its haunting qualities in many situations, your credit score can very easily be coaxed to work in your favor as long as you treat it right. And these days, it can dip or rise within a matter of days based on your recent financial activity. Some people simply ignore their credit score, allowing it to work entirely to their detriment by not paying attention, but those who are proactive about their rating can do infinitely more good. Just take a look at U.S. News and World Report’s strategies on quickly raising your credit score.

Studies show that those who are cognizant enough of their finances to be able to easily check in on and understand the above are far more likely to experience financial success because they are, in essence, conditioning themselves for it.

Visit Goldstone Financial for more information on how to ensure your financial health.