Required Minimum Distributions – Monthly, Quarterly or Annually?

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) become a very important point of discussion before the end of the year, and there is a lot that you need to consider. You can take your RMDs monthly, quarterly, and annually. 

However, which one is the right choice for you? That’s what we’re going to cover in this post. If you would rather listen to this post, we do have a podcast on this very topic.


What are RMDs?

US tax law requires you to take a certain amount out of your traditional retirement accounts or employer-sponsored retirement plans each year, called a required minimum distribution.

A traditional account is a tax-deferred account, such as your:

  • IRA
  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • 457

If you transferred money into these qualified plans and didn’t pay taxes on it, guess what? The IRS will eventually want you to pay your taxes, which is where RMDs come into the equation.

Basically, you need to take out “roughly” 3.5% of your money each year, but there is a more complex calculation involved that we won’t go into with this post. The most important thing is that you’re required to take these distributions even if you don’t need the money.

Whether you’re in your 50s or 65, it’s important to educate yourself on RMDs and what you are required to do. Developing a plan for your RMD is important because you can incorporate a few strategies to lower your distribution requirements, too.

If you reach a certain age, you must take distributions.

In 2020, once you had reached age 70.5, in the calendar year, you would have needed to take distributions. After the Secure Act, this age has changed to age 73 – 75, depending on your birth year. The year you were born dictates this age:

  • Born in 1951 – 1959, your RMD age is 73
  • Born 1960 and later, your RMD age is 75

In the first year, you can defer your distribution to the next year and take it by April 1st. However, if you do this deferral, you will need to take two distributions, which is uncommon because it will push your tax bracket up.

On a Roth IRA, you have a tax-free bucket that you can use with no RMD requirement during the life of the original owner. Roth accounts are something that we often recommend as a strategy for eliminating or reducing RMDs, but this is something we’ll dive into more shortly.

Quick Note: Inherited IRA accounts work a bit differently. You used to be able to take distributions over a lifetime. Now, the new rule requires you to deplete the entire account over 10 years. There are a few caveats to this rule, but you’ll want to sit down with a financial advisor to discuss these in greater detail. Exceptions do exist for disabled individuals, minor or chronically ill beneficiaries and those who are less than 10 years younger than the original account owner.

Penalty for Not Taking an RMD

We do want to mention that when researching RMDs, you’ll learn that there is a penalty for not taking your distribution once required. The penalty can be 50% of the distribution, which is a lot, but we have never actually seen this applied.

Often, the government will give you a reprieve, but they do want you to take your RMD.

Is It Better to Take Your Required Minimum Distributions Monthly, Quarterly or Annually?

You know what RMDs are and that you can be penalized for not taking them, but one question still remains: at what frequency should you take your RMDs? We’re going to walk you through each of these distribution options.

Everyone has their own line of thinking when it comes to taking their RMDs, and it’s ultimately up to you. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Monthly RMDs: Advantages and Disadvantages

Monthly distributions offer consistent cash flow – just like a paycheck. For example, if you need to take $12,000 per year in distributions, you can rely on $1,000 a month coming into your account.

You also benefit from market volatility.

For example, you are withdrawing the $1,000 when the account is up or down for the month, which can be an advantage or disadvantage. If you have a consistently down market when you’re withdrawing, that can become an issue.

The main advantages are:

  • Monthly cash
  • Less concern about the market
  • Easier to maintain a budget

However, the disadvantages are almost the exact opposite of the advantages. You’re taking money out of the account and missing growth opportunities.

Note on RMD Calculations and Growth Buckets

The IRS calculates your required minimum distribution on the balance of the account at the end of December 31st. If the IRS states that you need to withdraw $12,000 per year, it doesn’t matter if the markets are up or down 100% that year – you still need to take the full distribution.

When offering retirement planning, we often use a bucket strategy

In this article, we’ll discuss the:

  1. Income/Safety bucket
  2. Growth bucket

Why? They offer advantages in a down or up market, helping you mitigate some of the risks your accounts have in retirement.

The income safety bucket often isn’t correlated with the market so:

  • It provides income
  • Protects against stock market volatility

The growth bucket is, in all essence, money in the stock market. Last year, the market was down 20% or more.

When both buckets work together, it helps safeguard against the market. Money comes from the income bucket and the growth bucket is allowed to grow long-term and mitigate retirement accounts being down.

Income buckets buy us time so that we don’t remove money when an account is down.

During a year like 2022, the growth bucket was allowed to recuperate while still having a steady income from the income bucket. If you have all your money in a growth bucket, it leaves you very little room to mitigate losses.

Note on RMDs and Multiple Accounts

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that you have 3 IRA accounts and the government states that you need to take a $12,000 RMD annually. Your distribution can come out of one account, a combination of accounts or all your accounts.

You may have $1 million in an IRA and decide to put 50% in an income bucket and 50% in the growth bucket. You can take all the distribution from the income bucket and let the growth bucket grow.

However, if your money is in a 401(k), there are stricter rules. Money in the 401(k) must come out first if multiple other non-401(k) accounts exist.

You can also put money from a 401(k) into an IRA with different strategies, which may be a better option for you.

Quarterly RMDs: Advantages and Disadvantages

Quarterly distributions are middle-of-the-road. You’re between the monthly and annual distributions, and the advantages and disadvantages are very similar to monthly.

For our clients, it’s always a monthly or annual distribution because many people don’t prefer the quarterly option.

Annual RMDs: Advantages and Disadvantages

Annual distributions are ideal for clients who want to keep their money in the market and let it grow as much as possible. Since the account balance may be higher, you’ll benefit from higher returns.

You can also have a down year where you’ve lost money and now need to take it out of the account when you’re in the negative for the year.

  • During up years, you benefit from greater returns
  • During down years, you lose some money

What’s best for you? Consider your personal preference and needs. If you need a monthly paycheck, then the monthly RMD is best. However, if you plan to reinvest your RMDs because you don’t need the extra cash flow, it may be better to go with the annual RMDs.

A retirement-focused financial plan is what we recommend to our clients. The rules of RMDs are general, but your case is always going to be unique. Analyzing financial plans in retirement allows us to optimize income and RMD planning.

We can walk you through how this looks, even if you’re not currently a client of ours. You can schedule a 15-minute complimentary call with us that will allow you to discuss your options with us to have a more personal discussion about your RMDs and retirement plan.

Click here to schedule a 15-minute call with us to discuss your retirement plan and required minimum distributions.

October 9, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for October 9, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Social Security Taxation – How it Works in Retirement

Learn the importance of understanding your sources of income, social security benefits, and how they’ll be taxed, and have a long-term perspective. You will also learn why some people with low income in other areas can have their social security untaxed.


This Week’s Blog – Social Security Taxation – How it Works

Social Security taxation is complex. You may need to pay taxes on your benefits, or you may not have to pay taxes. Ultimately, your combined income will determine if you pay taxes and will include the sum of….

Social Security Taxation – How it Works

Social Security taxation is complex. You may need to pay taxes on your benefits, or you may not have to pay taxes. Ultimately, your combined income will determine if you pay taxes and will include the sum of:

  • Adjusted gross income
  • Non-taxable interest
  • Half of your Social Security benefits

Often, clients of ours are taken aback because they paid into Social Security their entire lives, and then they find out that they may be taxed on their benefits. For many of our clients, the benefits that they receive are not enough to live the lifestyle they want in retirement, so they’ll need other sources of income, such as distributions from their IRA.

We brought Taylor Wolverton, a member of our team, to our podcast to discuss how your Social Security is taxed because there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Taylor is our lead tax strategist and an Enrolled Agent, so she’s hyper-focused on individual taxation.

P.S. We are going to go through a lot of numbers, so take your time and reread this post a few times. However, if you do have questions about your specific situation, feel free to schedule a free 15-minute call with us.

Breaking Down the Figures

We have three main factors in determining how much of your benefits are taxable, but what do these really encompass?

What is Adjusted Gross Income?

Adjusted gross income (AGI) includes:

  • Interest from savings accounts
  • Dividends
  • IRA or other distributions

Your AGI includes any type of income that you’ll be taxed on in a given year.

What is Non-taxable Interest?

Your non-taxable interest comes from things like municipal bonds. Now, you must combine all this income plus half of your Social Security benefits. It’s a lot to consider.

Example of Taxation on Social Security

Someone has other sources of income of $75,000. Bob and Jane each receive $3,000 per month from Social Security ($6,000 total). Based on this example, there is:

  • $75,000 AGI
  • $0 tax-exempt interest
  • 50% of Social Security benefits, or $36,000 annually

Other sources of income are now $75,000 + $36,000 or $111,000. Now, it gets a little more complicated because of your tax filing status and the various thresholds that this may include.

Married Filing Jointly

If your income is between $32,000 and $40,000, up to 50% of your benefits may be taxable. However, if the couple’s income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of benefits will be taxable.

In the example above, the couple has $72,000 in Social Security benefits, so $61,200 will be reported on the couple’s tax return and will be taxable.

Going over these figures again, based on these calculations, the couple would have:

  • $75,000 AGI
  • $61,200 (85% of $72,000) from Social Security

Total taxable income is $136,200.

Note: For people who have income less than $32,000, you might not pay any taxes at all on your Social Security. However, taxation is on a sliding scale. At the most, 85% of your benefits are taxable.

Thresholds for Single, Head of Household, Qualifying Widow(er), or Married Filing Separately (and you did not live with your spouse during the year) 

A single person will have a different threshold for Social Security. You’ll be taxed up to 50% if you have income of $25,000 – $34,000. You may be taxed up to 85% if you have income of more than $34,000.

You’ll want to keep in mind that taxes are a bit more complicated than the examples above. We used approximations for these figures, but you’ll also need to consider credits, deductions, and special financial situations, which can lower your tax bill, too.

Variations Based on States

All the taxation above this point is based on the federal level. Every state has different rules that you must consider when retirement planning because some may follow federal rules, while others may not tax Social Security.

In North Carolina, where our office is located, there is no tax on Social Security, and this can be advantageous when trying to secure your retirement. 

How Social Security Taxation Impacts Retirement Planning

When looking at Social Security taxation, it’s important to know:

  • Sources of income
  • Taxes

Often, one of the largest expenses people have is the taxes that they need to pay in retirement. You’re not saving money for retirement any longer – you’re living off what you saved.

You need to understand how Social Security benefits will impact your taxes this coming year.

It’s possible to withhold taxes in some areas to lower the pending tax burden, but this is something that you need to consider well ahead of time. You never want to have a surprise when filing a tax return because you didn’t realize that Social Security is taxed.

Example of the Impact Social Security Had On One Client

One client of ours has the goal of leaving a tax-free legacy behind when she retires. She turned on Social Security, but she didn’t realize that she would be taxed on her benefits. 

What did she do?

  • Turned off Social Security
  • Paid it back
  • Leveraged Roth conversions for a few years
  • Turned benefits back on

She wants to leave a tax-free legacy behind, so it was crucial to make the most out of tax-free Roth conversions.

While she did have to pay back the benefits she received, she does benefit from higher Social Security benefits when she does decide to take them in the future.

Working with an advisor allows you to take the long-term approach to your Social Security and maybe avoid 85% of your benefits being taxable. A long-term perspective, based on your goals, needs to be considered.

Our goal is to limit the amount of taxation over a lifetime rather than a short period of time.

You may find that paying more taxes this year allows you to lower your burden over your lifetime. If you pay a bit more in taxes today but save 10% every year, it’s often in your favor to take the tax hit immediately.

Where to Learn How Much of Your Benefits Were Taxable

Pull out your most recent tax return and find your 1040 form. Often, this is the first page of your return. You’ll want to go to line 6a. This will show you how much of your benefits were for that year. If you look to the right to 6b, you’ll see how much of your benefits were taxable.

IRS officials do like to update income tax brackets and change percentages around for inflation. You’ll need to consult with us or a tax professional to learn the current year’s guidelines for income ranges and maximum taxation percentages.

The IRS does have an online calculator (here) where you can plug in data and learn how much of your benefits are taxable.

Do you want to talk to us about your tax situation?Schedule a free 15-minute call today.

September 25, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for September 25, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Practical Tips for a Successful RV Lifestyle when you Retire

In this Episode of the Secure Your Retirement Podcast, Radon speaks with Jenelle Jones about the perks of the RV lifestyle in retirement. Jenelle is the owner of the oldest RV club for anyone traveling on their own, The Wandering Individuals Network. She refers to herself as an RV travel enabler who has been living the RV lifestyle full-time for four years.


This Week’s Blog – Practical Tips for a Successful RV Lifestyle

Have you always dreamed of a successful RV lifestyle in retirement? You’re not alone. Jenell Jones was our special guest on the Secure Your Retirement podcast this week, and she was more than happy to exclaim, “I live everywhere.”

Practical Tips for a Successful RV Lifestyle

Have you always dreamed of a successful RV lifestyle in retirement? You’re not alone. Jenell Jones was our special guest on the Secure Your Retirement podcast this week, and she was more than happy to exclaim, “I live everywhere.”

If you’re in the midst of retirement planning and think, “I would love to live in an RV and travel the US,” you definitely want to grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. You can also listen to this episode right on our podcast: click here to get started.

About Janell and Her Insight into the RV Lifestyle

Janell started living full-time in her RV in 2019, but she has been on and off in this lifestyle since 2015/2016. Living in an RV allows her to travel across the country. Why did she want to live this lifestyle?

In her government job, her office window faced an RV dealership.

She would sit there, watching out her window, as people purchased RVs and drove off. The seed was planted in her mind that the RV life may be for her, but when she retired in 2015, she thought, “No, this is crazy.”

She didn’t want a large RV or to be without a house. So, she bought a small RV. The more she traveled in the RV, the more she realized that she didn’t want a house anymore. She only returned to her home to check on it, so she decided that she would do what she wanted to do: travel full-time.

Tips on Seeing the Places You Want to See

If you want to spend the summer in Florida, don’t. Janell did, and she says it was hot. Instead, she chases the weather and claims that she hasn’t been really hot or cold for a long time. 

How does she see the places she wants? She starts by grabbing a map, and making some calls.

RVing around and visiting the places you want is a travel experience that includes planning your trips. You’ll need to get comfortable with rolling with the punches, missing friends and family, and dealing with constant change.

One thing that has helped Janell a lot in her RV lifestyle is RV clubs. She actually loved the club she joined so much that she purchased it.

Why join an RV Club?

If you are anxious about going RVing alone, join a club where you can travel with your friends. You can go to Mexico together for the month, or some can go to Canada and others to Washington.

Clubs are one of the best ways to transition into the RV lifestyle because you have the opportunity to travel with other people following the same lifestyle as you. Traveling in a group will help you remain calm and have less worry if you break down or have issues on the road.

Travel buddies can also help push you outside of your comfort zone to visit places and do things that you wouldn’t be able to do alone. For example, she went on a 5-mile hike to a gorgeous location with her group that she would not have attempted alone.

Maintaining Your RV

Your RV is your home, so you need to maintain it and keep it up. Before buying her RV, she had never even entered one. You’ll learn the ropes of maintenance, but you need to have a positive attitude.

Like your car, RVers need to maintain the vehicle by:

  • Changing water filters
  • Putting air in the tires
  • Fixing things as they break

These items are even more important to be aware of on your RV, as it is also your home.

Challenges of the RV Lifestyle

Owning an RV does come with its challenges. You may have an occasional blowout, but the one challenge that never seems to get better is getting lost. Doing a U-turn or backing up is difficult when your RV is 30 feet long and you’re towing a car. You’re always on the go, traversing different roads, so you need to plan for a situation where you may end up blocking traffic and need to call the cops for non-emergency help.

Janell has three GPS systems running just so she doesn’t get lost.

The first year of RV ownership was a challenge. She went to a McDonald’s, went under trees that were lower than she thought and knocked everything off her roof. Learning to back up was also a challenge.

With this in mind, she rolled with the punches, and everything started getting better as she learned the ins and outs of the lifestyle.

Important Items to Keep in Your RV

Probably the most important item to keep in your RV is actually two different types of GPS. She means an in-dash GPS, phone, paper map, or other type of GPS. 

You also want to have a:

  • Water pump (an extra)
  • Air compressor
  • Jumper cable
  • Internet 
  • Square #2 screwdriver
  • Spare screws

Towing an RV is different from a car. Tow companies will charge $6,000 to come out, so you want to avoid calling them when you can. Simply being able to fill your tire so that you can get it changed can save you thousands of dollars.

Top Experiences in an RV

Janell noted that we don’t have three hours to do a podcast, but since exiting the corporate world and living in an RV, she has learned one thing: patience. She was fast-paced, and RV living taught her to slow down and smell the roses.

She visited the Grand Canyon, biked 13 miles in it and hiked. She has been to Maine, Utah, and Colorado and places where there are no people for miles. She values being able to experience the joys of life without needing to sacrifice anything. Some of the adventures that she’s been on could never have happened if she wasn’t living an RV lifestyle.

Purchasing the RV Club

Janell retired at 54, so she was looking for something that she could buy and do “here and there.” Going back into an office is certainly not something that she aspires to do because it’s not up to her alley anymore.

She joined the RV club in 2015 and over time, she thought – I could take this business to the next level.

The club started in 1988 and the founders thought, “There must be other people like us.” However, with Janell’s background, she knew that she could market the club in new ways. Owning it also allows her to travel and write off expenses, which is certainly a great way to keep taxes low in retirement.

She has achieved 12% growth each month since March.

If you’ve never been part of an RV club, it offers you a lot:

  • Company to go with you 
  • A community of like-minded people
  • Safety in numbers
  • Year-round traveling

The club offers traveling together with trips already planned out for you. The club handles all the planning. You will book your reservations and can come and go as you please if you’ve already been to a location.

As a member of the club, you’re free to travel when you want, which is the beauty of joining.

You can join the club for a few weeks and then go back to your sister’s house and hop back into the club’s route. All the itineraries and plans are given to you, so you can have someone else handle the planning for you.

If you want to learn more about the club, you can go directly to her website, Wandering Individuals Network.

September 18, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for September 18, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Mastering Medicare Planning in Retirement

Learn how to evaluate your prescription drug needs and choose the right Medicare plan that caters to those needs. You will also learn about Medicare supplements and Medicare Advantage plans, plus how to join our Free Webinar to learn more about Medicare planning from experts.


This Week’s Blog – Mastering Medicare Planning

Open enrollment for Medicare is right around the corner, and people on all points of the spectrum should begin planning for it. If you’re in one of the categories below, you’ll especially want to continue reading…

Mastering Medicare Planning

Open enrollment for Medicare is right around the corner, and people on all points of the spectrum should begin planning for it. If you’re in one of the categories below, you’ll especially want to continue reading:

  1. You’re already enrolled in Medicare and want to make sure that you’re in the right plan
  2. You’re eligible for Medicare and need to select your providers

We’re going to create a checklist of sorts for folks who are already enrolled in Medicare or need to sign up for a plan.

Note: We also have a webinar on this topic coming up, where we’ll go into all these points in far greater detail.

Prescription Drug Plans

Prescription drug plans are crucial for retirement planning because you may need very costly medicine in retirement. Each drug plan has different drugs that they cover, so you need to:

  • Review your individual medication needs
  • Find a list of prescription drugs that the plan covers
  • Have an idea of when you need to have prescriptions filled

If you’re not on any medication, your choice may be easier than someone who is on a few medications. You’ll want to read through the prescription drug plan to ensure that the medicine you’re taking now is all covered under the plan.

Anyone who is planning on switching plans must be extremely diligent to ensure that the desired plan covers the drugs you’re taking.

Comparing Part D Plans

Part D is the prescription portion of Medicare. You’ll have one plan that covers hospital visits, one for doctor’s visits and another for prescriptions. If you worked through our first point, then you’ll need to compare drug coverage and the costs you will cover.

Imagine one person with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Their medicine may be covered on one plan. However, what happens if you also have arthritis and are on blood thinners? You’ll need to consider all these factors when making a choice on which Part D plan to join.

But what if you’re not on any medication?

If you’re not on medication, you need to really look at your risk factors when choosing a plan. Perhaps there’s a history of high blood pressure in your family, so you’ll want to find a plan that covers related medications.

Evaluating Your Pharmacy Network

Next, you need to consider each plan’s pharmacy network. If you go to your local Walgreens to have your prescriptions filled, you may not be able to fill them at Walgreens if they’re not a part of the Walgreens pharmacy network.

You should consider cost and convenience.

Is the plan that you plan on entering ideal for your location? Most people don’t want to drive 30+ minutes away once or twice a month for their prescriptions. Online prescriptions are becoming more popular; however, you do have to wait for the medicine to arrive, which can be inconvenient or completely impractical for certain illnesses.

Everyone should evaluate what they’re comfortable with in terms of the pharmacy network each plan offers.

Cost Analysis

Medicare plans are not free. In most cases, you’ll still pay premium cost and out-of-pocket cost.

If you want to have 100% of everything covered, you’ll pay more in premiums. Instead, you need to consider your medications and what the cost is for each of them. What if you have a very simple scenario where your prescription drug cost is very low? In this case, you may not need the most expensive plan.

What we are really looking at here is the “coverage gap” or “donut hole.”

These two terms mean that you need to analyze:

  • Premium costs
  • Prescription costs
  • Income

If you do not have a lot of taxable income, this can work to your benefit and help you get into a more comprehensive prescription drug plan.

Annual Reviews

Annually, we recommend that you review your plan. One of the biggest Medicare mistakes we see is that people do not review their plans annually.

You might have been on the same plan for a decade, but switching plans can save you a lot of money. Some of the Medicare professionals that we work with have saved clients that we’ve worked with $2,000+ a year by simply reviewing and switching plans.

Dental, Vision and Hearing

Our second point revolves around parts of Medicare that are easy to overlook:

  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Hearing

In fact, a lot of health insurance providers are severely lacking in these three areas of coverage, which can cause you to pay out of pocket for any related expenses.

Medicare requires you to think about the dental coverage you need and find a plan that will better meet your needs. Dental issues can spill over into your overall health issues, and you certainly want to maintain your eyesight and hearing, too.

Each of these elements deteriorates faster as we age, so this is an area that you need to focus on heavily.

Vision Coverage

Do you want your:

  • Eye exams covered
  • Lenses or contacts covered

You may want to cover these costs and forget about a plan that offers them. Why? You may compare plans and find that your premiums for vision coverage are much higher, and it’s more cost effective to cover these expenses on your own.

Hearing Coverage

If you think there’s a chance that you’ll need a hearing aid or screening in the future, then you’ll want to consider coverage for hearing. Otherwise, you may be fine without having hearing coverage as a part of your plan.

Integrative Plans

Finally, an integrative plan is when you look at all these items and come across Medicare Advantage plans. There’s a lot to look at with an Advantage plan. You may even find that a Gap plan is better for you.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things to consider with integrative plans, but it’s something we’ll discuss in greater detail in our upcoming webinar.

Individual Needs Assessment

An individual needs assessment is an integral part of Medicare planning because what works for your neighbor may not work for you. Medicare is very individualized and will help you better understand your needs, true coverage needs, and potential future needs.

Medicare Supplement and Advantage Plans

We do want you to attend the webinar because these plans are so important for you to secure your retirement. Medical expenses can rise rapidly, and you need to be prepared to cover these costs.

In the webinar, we plan to cover:

  • Medicare basics, such as supplements vs advantage plans
  • State-specific coverages and differences
  • Cost considerations
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Value of one plan to another
  • Restrictions of each type of plan
  • In-network and out-of-network differences
  • Additional benefits of Advantage plans and if they offer the most coverage
  • Getting access to personalized advice

We work with specialists who can help you make the best decision for your annual plan based on current and future medical needs.

During the webinar, we’ll be working with a Medicare expert who will answer all your questions and those that others have sent to us.

Want to learn more about Medicare planning? 

Click Here to register for our “Medicare Webinar” on October 9th at 12:00pm EST. The webinar is 100% free, so feel free to invite your friends to listen to it, too

September 11, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for September 11, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – What’s The Difference Between an EA and a CPA in Retirement?

In this Episode of the Secure Your Retirement Podcast, Radon and Murs discuss the difference between an enrolled agent (EA) and a certified public accountant (CPA) in retirement planning. The CPA and EA deal with tax at a certain level but differ in their education, scope of work, geographical limitations, and ethical standards.

Listen in to learn how we utilize an EA to do tax strategy beyond just tax filing as part of retirement planning


This Week’s Blog – What’s The Difference Between an EA and a CPA?

We’ve been working hard for years on our integrated wealth management experience. A major component of the experience is tax planning and advice, and we even assist with tax filing to help lift the burden of financial management as a whole off the shoulders of our clients.

The integrated experience we offer allows our clients to have peace of mind and not worry about their taxes unless they want to. 

What’s The Difference Between an EA and a CPA?

We’ve been working hard for years on our integrated wealth management experience. A major component of the experience is tax planning and advice, and we even assist with tax filing to help lift the burden of financial management as a whole off the shoulders of our clients.

The integrated experience we offer allows our clients to have peace of mind and not worry about their taxes unless they want to. We can take care of it all in-house.

Last year, we hired Taylor Wolverton to be part of our team. She’s a certified financial planner and has just finished every requirement to become an enrolled agent (EA). We thought in this week’s episode (or blog post), we would explain a little bit about the differences between a CPA and an EA.

Even if you have a simple tax return and think, “I don’t really need tax planning,” you would be surprised by how much a CPA and EA can offer you.

Difference Between an EA and a CPA

First, before going any further, it’s crucial to explain what a CPA and EA are so that you have a clear understanding of the two and the requirements for these designations.

What is a CPA?

A CPA, or certified public accountant, must have a bachelor’s degree and may need quite a bit of education beyond that. CPAs are required to pass the uniform CPA examination, which we believe requires multi-layer testing in four areas.

You’ll also need to meet state-specific requirements, such as:

  • Educational
  • Work experience
  • Ethical standards

CPAs must meet license and state-specific requirements.

What is an EA?

An EA, or enrolled agent, does not need the same level of education as a CPA. You will not need a bachelor’s degree for this designation, but you will need to pass a licensing exam. The exam to become an EA requires passing three tests that specialize primarily in taxation, covering:

  • Personal
  • Business
  • Ethics

CPAs must understand aspects of tax planning, business planning and a variety of other things. Of course, the CPA can become a specialist and focus on one of these main areas of practice. On the other hand, an EA focuses on taxation and isn’t a “jack of all trades.”

Scope of Practice

The scope of practice between a CPA and an EA is much different.

CPA Scope of Practice

A CPA covers a wide range of duties and can handle:

They can also represent clients in front of the IRS with limitations.

EA Scope of Practice

The EA’s scope of practice is taxation. These individuals can represent a person in front of the IRS on all administrative levels. However, they cannot prepare financial statements or review financial audits.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is something both a CPA and EA will need to undergo to maintain their designations. Either of these professionals have the expectation to stay current on:

  • Accounting
  • Taxes
  • Taxation

CPAs must meet state-specific continued education requirements that they must fulfill. Traditionally, these professionals will need to complete a certain number of hours of continued education.

An EA must complete:

  • 72 hours of continuing education every three years

These requirements are across the board.

Since the EA focuses on the ever-changing world of taxes, you want them to have the most updated education possible.

Geographic Limitations

Since CPAs have to meet state requirements, they do have some limitations in their practice. However, they can obtain licensing in multiple states if they want to serve a wider range of clients.

EAs are licensed on the federal level, so they can operate in any US jurisdiction.

Ethical Standards

As a client, ethical standards are crucial to ensure that your best interests are followed. A CPA must adhere to the ethical standards that are established by the American Institute of Public Accountants and the State Board.

EAs must meet the requirements of the Treasury Department.

How We Utilize EAs in Our Practices

You may be wondering: What does an EA have to do with my retirement planning? And it’s something that we certainly want to cover because an EA is a vital cog in the integrated wealth management experience that we have created.

EAs help us create a tax strategy to:

  • Look ahead to make filing better
  • Reduce taxes

Taylor will review tax returns to see what our clients need to be doing to work through a favorable tax strategy.

Let’s examine this in great detail:

  1. During the tax strategy meeting, we’ll look through a person’s current tax situation. This may seem simple, but the EA needs to consider everything: IRA accounts, pensions, Social Security and other forms of income. The EA will look at debt and other aspects, too.
  2. Retirement plan. The EA will look through your retirement plan to see if they’re leveraging the tax advantages of these accounts. Your withdrawal strategy will also be reviewed. We want to make sure that you have the appropriate amount of money coming in.
  3. RMD planning. As a taxable, forced withdrawal, the EA will also look through this to help you reduce or eliminate this tax whenever possible.

Once all of the information is gathered during the meeting, we can begin working on strategic tax deductions.

Tax Deductions

When you secure your retirement, the last thing that you want to do is pay more money in taxes than necessary. If you have a simple tax plan and just take the standard deduction, you may be missing out on savings.

We may be able to strategize to make it make sense to itemize your deductions.

QCDs are one of the topics that we’ve covered a lot, and they reduce your taxable income by contributing to charity directly from your IRA. 

Tax Loss Harvesting

Tax loss harvesting may be an option for you to save on taxes, too. If you have brokerage accounts that have appreciated assets, we may be able to sell some of the assets in the account that are at a loss to offset some of the gains that you have.

Typically, we’ll look at tax loss harvesting in the fourth quarter of the year.

Changes in Tax Law

If you know a tax law is changing, we may be able to strategize around this change. We can also do the same thing when you hit certain age milestones.


Multi-year planning is also part of the overall plan that an EA assists with because you often need to make key changes for the future. We want to look forward to reducing taxes in the year ahead. We can often do things this year to make taxes lower next year.

For example, we may be able to do Roth conversions, which will keep you in a favorable tax bracket.

We may also spread out your withdrawals or blend multiple income sources to prevent overloading your tax return this year.

Life Changes

Unfortunately, you’ll also need to consider life changes. You may lose a spouse or get divorced, and these are major changes that will affect your life and finances.

If you’re listening to this and don’t have tax planning or strategies in your plan, it’s certainly something to consider as part of your retirement plan.

Want to learn more about securing your retirement?

Click here to read our latest book, Secure Your Retirement.

September 5, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for September 5, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Integrated Wealth Management Experience in Retirement

Learn more about the elements of an integrated wealth management experience: a retirement financial plan, specific-to-the-client investment process, and tax planning. You will also learn how we’re involved in every step of the wealth management process, in-house or with a partner.


This Week’s Blog – Integrated Wealth Management

Integrated wealth management experiences are our way to help clients have the type of retirement planning assistance that is provided in a “family office.” If you don’t know what this term means or who it applies to, we’re going to cover that in great detail before explaining the concept of integrated wealth management to you.

Integrated Wealth Management Experience

Integrated wealth management experiences are our way to help clients have the type of retirement planning assistance that is provided in a “family office.” If you don’t know what this term means or who it applies to, we’re going to cover that in great detail before explaining the concept of integrated wealth management to you.

Note: Click here to listen to the podcast that this article was based on using Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music. 

What is a “Family Office?”

A “family office” caters to what can be considered ultra-high net worth. You have enough assets that you require an entire team to help manage your assets. These offices will help you with:

  • Family businesses
  • Taking care of budgets
  • Paying bills
  • Managing cash flow, credit cards, real estate

Individuals in a family office have assets of $50+ million. Anyone who falls into this category can be their “own client,” meaning that the entire team works for you to manage your wealth. Extensive assistance is offered, including tax and estate planning, to the degree that 99% of people will never require. You’ll also work with attorneys and CPAs.

All these employees work for you, they’re registered with the SEC, and they assist with managing your “family.” If a person has this high of a net worth, they may need to have a chief financial officer (CFO) who will handle hiring or working with certain experts to meet their family’s needs.

Often, with a family office, they have a CPA working with them full-time.

The family office works solely for the family and will handle all their financial and wealth management needs. If a lawyer needs to be hired to work on estate plans, that’s all handled for you behind the scenes.

Integrated Wealth Management Experience

In our office, our average client doesn’t have $100 – $200 million or a billion dollars. We can’t create a family office for these individuals, but we wanted to create a system that offered the same experience as a family office for all our clients.

What we devised is known as our integrated wealth management experience.

What Does an Integrated Wealth Management Experience Look Like?

Instead of working with one individual, we work with many and take on the role similar to a “CFO.” We look at the person’s entire financial picture and beyond to help you secure your retirement. We partner with multiple professionals on a range of services, in addition to in-house wealth management.

For simplicity, we’ll break this down into a few of our in-house and partnered services.

In-House Wealth Management

In-house, we specialize in wealth management. We are financial advisors, and fiduciaries- which means we’re required to put your best interests first. The majority of our clients are people close to or retirement, and we’re big on the retirement-focused financial plan.

In a few words, the retirement-focused financial plan:

  • Analyzes where you are today
  • Outlines retirement goals
  • Identifies changes that need to be made to reach your goals

Reaching your financial goals will often mean investing in some sort of return. We may invest in the market, bonds, annuities, or a wide range of other financial vehicles. We invest for a return that is comfortable for the client and is based on individual risk tolerance.

Next, we offer tax planning. Some of the tax planning is in-house and some of it is done by working with outside experts. We have checks and balances in place to understand:

  • What your taxes look like today
  • What strategies we can implement before the end of the year to lower the tax burden
  • What to do to save you money next year

We can also handle the tax return for you, and we have partnered with CPAs to lead this process. CPAs will also provide a stamp of approval for all the tax planning strategies that we prepare to ensure that everything moves along smoothly.

Our team helps clients understand where their income is coming from and ensures that their retirement-focused financial plan is operating to reach their goals.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is a crucial part of retirement planning that folks really struggle to talk and think about. However, we incorporate this planning into the experience because it provides you with peace of mind that your estate matters are all handled in a legal manner.

Without an up-to-date estate plan, it can be difficult for you to leave assets in your desired way for heirs and beneficiaries. If you’ve had a major life change since you’ve created or looked at your estate plan, it is a good idea to have your estate plan professionally reviewed and updated. 

For our clients, we have a system in place for the state they live in to create a:

  1. Trust
  2. Will
  3. Power of Attorney
  4. Healthcare Power of Attorney
  5. HIPAA form

We believe this aspect of your retirement-focused financial plan is urgent, and strongly encourage our clients to review and update these documents on a regular basis.

Social Security

We work with a Social Security consultant, so our clients have an expert look at avoiding mistakes when filing for Social Security. Some clients have an easy process for Social Security, and we can help them apply for their benefits. However, other clients do not have as easy of a time.

Our consultant is on retainer and will help consider:

  • Complex decisions
  • Divorce
  • Optimizing for certain forms of income
  • Survivorship

She assists us when running the numbers for Social Security to help you make the best decision on when to take your benefits and how to reach your financial goals.


Insurance includes many different options, but one of the major ones is health insurance. When you retire, you’re responsible for your own health insurance, which will be Medicare.

Medicare can be overwhelming when it comes to options, plans, and thresholds. We work with our clients and partners to help them find the best Medicare options for their health scenario and budget. We may be able to structure things to avoid IRMAA surcharges on Medicare, too.

Additionally, we help clients during open enrollment to find plans that may be more affordable or a better overall option for them. 

Long-term Care Planning

Speaking of healthcare planning, we also dive into long-term care planning. Hopefully, you’ll never need this level of care, but you just never know what the future will hold for you. We recently had a podcast on long-term care planning.

We’ll analyze your long-term care options and even help you secure the insurance you need to pay for a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Life Insurance

We’ll work through the question of life insurance and how to structure it for you and your family. 

These are just some of the insurance options that we can use to help build our clients retirement-focused financial plan. As we’ve outlined, we do our best to mimic the “family office” so that it works in your best interests.

What Getting Started with Our Integrated Wealth Management Experience Looks Like

If you call us to discuss your options, we already have:

  • Ongoing, up-to-date research to aid in building plan for your goals
  • Multiple estate planning methods in place
  • Many in-house Insurance and Wealth Management strategy options

We’re involved the entire time, working to have all your questions answered. We will do the research with the estate planner or Social Security expert to have your questions answered.

Since we work with the outside experts, you bypass the extra step to make sure your financial, tax, and estate planning professionals are all on the same page when it comes to your retirement-focused financial plan. We’re very much involved with every aspect of your plan to help you make sound financial decisions.

Want to learn more about our Integrated Wealth Management Experience? Schedule a free call with us today.

August 28, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for August 28, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – 5 Financial Planning Topics That Need to Be Discussed Annually

Listen in to learn about things to consider when doing tax strategy and planning before the end of the year to enable changes. You will also learn the importance of having a Medicare and healthcare planning, year-end investment review, estate planning update, and reviewing your RMDs.


This Week’s Blog – 5 Financial Planning Topics That Need to Be Discussed Annually

Annual financial planning topics evolve as you age. We believe that once you secure your retirement, or when you’re close to it, you should consider the following: 

5 Annual Financial Planning Topics 

We recommend…..

5 Financial Planning Topics That Need to Be Discussed Annually 

Annual financial planning topics evolve as you age. We believe that once you secure your retirement, or when you’re close to it, you should consider the following: 

5 Annual Financial Planning Topics 

1. Tax Planning 

Why would you be doing your tax planning in September, October, or November? Several of the following strategies need to be employed before December 31, so if you wait until your tax return is being prepared around March or April of the next year, it will be too late.  

We recommend: 

  • Conducting a review of your earned income 
  • Confirming distribution amounts from your IRA or 401(k) 
  • Identifying any interest and capital gains you may have received in taxable accounts 

In the years you have lower income than what you expect in the future, we recommend thinking about Roth conversions. Although you will likely pay more taxes in the year you convert to Roth, the ultimate goal with all tax planning strategies is to minimize lifetime taxation. 

On the flipside, if you are expecting an influx of income in the future, you can plan ahead to minimize your tax liability by considering the following strategies: 

  • Tax loss harvesting, which is selling securities at a loss to offset capital gains from securities sold at a profit in the same year.  
  • Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) or other charitable giving and donor-advised funds 
  • Verifying that you’re withholding a satisfactory amount of taxes on earned income and any retirement account distributions 

Everyone must pay their dues, but if you take strategic steps today, you can lower your tax burden to ensure that you’re not paying a dime more than you owe. 

2. Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) 

IRA contributions are typically tax deductible, meaning the contributor does not pay tax on those amounts. Instead, taxes are owed on distributions. Once the IRA account owner reaches a certain age, the IRS imposes required minimum distributions (RMDs) to ensure the taxes are eventually paid rather than allowing the owner to indefinitely defer their tax liability.  

Your RMD start age depends on the year you were born. The age for these distributions was 70-and-a-half, and then the law changed to 72, and then 73. Some individuals will need to begin RMDs at 75. The IRS can assess a very hefty penalty if you miss your RMD. If you are charitably inclined, a QCD from your IRA will satisfy your RMD. We have a great article on this topic: How Do Required Minimum Distributions and QCDs Work?  

3. Medicare and Healthcare Planning 

Open enrollment happens in the last quarter of the year, somewhere at the beginning of October. You can move plans at this time without any underwriting. Everyone should look at: 

  • What their plan includes 
  • Options to change plans 
  • Coverage you may need added 

Everyone is different, and most people end up not changing their plans. However, it is still a good idea to review your plan around the last quarter, because if changes need to be made, open enrollment is the opportune time to do so. 

Note: We can put you in contact with some of our partners who specialize in Medicare and healthcare planning. You may even be able to switch to an identical plan at another provider and pay lower premiums, which is always a great way to secure your retirement. 

4. Year-end Investment Review 

If you’ve been looking at your investments throughout the year, you know that your portfolio has gone up and down quite a bit. However, you might overlook a few things and really need to perform a year-end investment review. What is a year-end investment review? 

It’s an annual best practice to consider: 

  • Portfolio risk 
  • Tax loss harvesting 
  • Adjusting your allocations 

You may want to rebalance your portfolio, depending on how one stock performs compared to others. Perhaps one stock is responsible for 60% of your gains. Unfortunately, this is a major risk that needs rebalancing because you risk the stock falling and your portfolio struggling as a result. 

Additionally, you may be at the point in your retirement planning where you’re close to leaving your job and have enough money to live the life you want, but you have too much risk. Bonds, annuities, or other financial vehicles may need to make up more of your retirement strategy at this time. 

Different age groups have differing risk tolerances. 

Your risk tolerance at 50 will be much different than when you’re 60, and so on. Changes can be made based on how the markets performed, how the economy is doing and your feelings going into the coming year. 

5. Estate Planning Update 

Clients often drag their feet when it comes to estate planning because it’s a topic no one wants to think about. However, if you make it a routine, you will be sure that these documents are 100% in order and accurate. 

You want to be sure that: 

  • Every document is up to date 
  • Beneficiaries (and their information) are up to date 

Often, people come into our office, and they haven’t updated their plan in 10 years. Time goes by so fast, and if any major changes aren’t put down on paper, you may leave money or assets to someone who is no longer in your life. 

Beneficiaries may be incorrect or no longer with us, and these documents are final once executed. A simple review is worth your peace of mind that all the hard work and energy that you put into retirement planning will help the individuals that you love when you pass on. 

An annual update is a check and balance that your estate plan is in order. 

If you check all these items off in September or October, you can go into the coming year knowing that you have your retirement plan in order. 

Want to discuss any of these topics more? Schedule a call with us and we’ll do our best to help you.