Reviewing 2023: Retirement Podcast Resource List

Every week, we have podcasts come out, and as new listeners find us, it can get very tedious to find all the resources we provide. This week we have prepared an End of 2023 wrap up to highlight some of the episodes from this year. 

Reviewing 2023’s Episode List 

Finding an episode on your respective listening platform will vary, so we’re going to provide: 

  • Title 
  • Episode number 
  • Date 

We’ll also link to the location on our website where you can listen to each podcast to make it a bit easier to find. 

Ep. 193 – Navigating The Decision to Retire Now or Work Longer – January 16, 2023 

If you’re wondering if you can retire or if you’re ready to retire, you’ll love this episode. It can be an overwhelming process, so we take some time to outline important considerations such as: 

  • Budgeting 
  • Health and Age 
  • Goal and Interests 

This episode helps you think through your financial readiness to secure your retirement. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 197 – 10 Reasons Everyone Needs a Power of Attorney in Retirement – February 13, 2023 

Anything can happen at any time. A Power of Attorney, particularly a Durable Power of Attorney, is one that we’ve seen come up a lot this year with clients. Disability or incapacitation can happen at any time. 

We outline 10 very important reasons to have your Power of Attorney documents in order, including: 

  • Protecting Privacy 
  • Dealing with Tax Matters 
  • Having Someone to Manage Your Finances 

A Power of Attorney is up there in importance with your will and HIPAA authorization. 

You’ll learn the ins and outs of Power of Attorney documents in this episode. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 201 – Do You Need a Trust in Retirement? – March 13, 2023 

We did quite a few episodes on trusts this year because they’re such an important part of retirement planning. We’ve partnered with professionals in this area so that our clients can easily have a trust put in place for them. 

In this episode, we interview Andres Mazabel at Trust & Will. He addresses the common question, “Do I Need a Trust?”, to really help you understand if a trust is right for you or not. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 204 – Social Security Spousal Benefit in Retirement – April 3, 2023 

Social Security has a lot of complications, which is why we brought Heather Schreiber on to explain how spousal benefits work. In our example scenario, one client has worked their entire life, and his spouse did not. 

His spouse assumed that without working, she wouldn’t have Social Security, but we explained how she would receive $1,700 a month in benefits. 

For many couples, an additional $1,700 in benefits is completely finance-altering. If you’re close to Social Security age, this is certainly a good episode to listen to. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 208 – Maximizing Tax Benefits by “Bunching” – May 1, 2023 

If you’re charitably inclined, you can leverage “bunching” and donor-advised funds to save money on your taxes. In the episode, we discuss how you can bunch multiple years of contributions into one so that you can take a larger deduction. 

Utilizing this strategy has saved some of our clients hundreds or thousands of dollars. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 217 – You Have Enough to Retire, but How Do You Create an Income – July 3, 2023 

Creating income is challenging when you’re in the accumulation phase of life transitioning into the retirement phase. In this episode, we discuss how to put assets into buckets and methods that you can follow to have a consistent income. 

We talk about sequence of return risks and how to really have fun in retirement. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 219 – Annuities or CDs – What You Should Consider – July 17, 2023 

Last year, interest rates rose. For annuities and CDs, interest rates were favorable and therefore quite attractive to many people. In this episode, we cover what you need to think about when deciding between an annuity and a CD. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 223 – Protecting Against Cybersecurity Threats – August 14, 2023 

Cybersecurity is something that you may not expect to see on this list, but it’s a crucial topic that demands attention. Around this time of year (the holiday season), threats increase dramatically. 

You may receive spam and phishing threats from many directions, including texts and emails. 

We outline 14 items for you to consider to help protect yourself from these threats going into 2024. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 224 – Long-Term Care Planning Options – August 21, 2023 

Long-term care planning is something no one wants to think about, but it’s something that you really must dive into before you need it. Our guest Jessica Iverson talks with us about how this form of planning has evolved, the breakdown of increasing costs, and alternative options that are available. 

You do have options where you’re not stuck in a “use it or lose it” scenario, which is what we cover in great detail in this episode. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 226 – Integrated Wealth Management Experience in Retirement – September 4, 2023 

In this episode, we look at what integrated wealth management means and how it works in our practice. You will be interested in this episode if you want to know how we address: 

  • Income and tax planning 
  • Estate planning 
  • Long-term care 
  • Social Security 
  • Medicare 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 231 – Social Security Taxation – How it Works in Retirement – October 9, 2023 

Many people are shocked to learn that they must pay taxes on their Social Security. We had our enrolled agent, Taylor Wolverton, CFP® walk us through: 

  • The factors and math behind Social Security Taxation 
  • How Social Security Taxation can impact your Retirement Planning 
  • How to know if you’ll be taxed on Social Security 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 234 – Roth IRA – 5-Year Rule – Your Retirement – Part 2 with Denise Appleby – October 30, 2023 

Denise Appleby was our special guest during this episode, and she discusses Roth IRAs in such great detail that it’s a must-listen. We go over the rules for Roth accounts and conversions from start to finish in a nice and easy manner. 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 235 – The Art of a Risk-Adjusted Portfolio in Retirement – November 6, 2023 

Risk in retirement exists, but you can use a risk-adjusted portfolio to hedge those risks. We explore determining risk tolerance and some of the strategy behind investment styles. We also take some time to define terms like: 

  • Core 
  • Tactical 
  • Structured notes 
  • Fixed income 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 236 – Rae Dawson – The Basics of a CCRC – November 13, 2023 

Note: Rae was also on for Episode 236 on November 27 (listen here) for Part 2. 

Rae teaches a class on Continuous Care Retirement Community (CCRCs) at Duke University, and joined us on the podcast to dive in on the basics, such as: 

  • When’s the best time to join a community? 
  • Should you do an upfront or rent-only scenario? 
  • What to think about when choosing a CCRC? 

Listen to the episode here. 

Ep. 239 – Anne Rhodes – Estate Planning– Simplified – December 4, 2023 

Anne Rhodes from helped us simplify estate planning in retirement. She works closely with us and our clients to explain: 

  • Legal documents you need 
  • Reasons to have a trust vs a will 
  • What certain documents do  

Listen to the episode here. 

We look forward to our new schedule going into 2024 where we’ll continue to provide relevant insights every Monday with a more structured format. 

Click here to schedule a call with us to discuss any of the topics above in greater detail. 

October 30, 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 30, 2023

Roth IRA – 5-Year Rule – Your Retirement – Part 2 with Denise Appleby

Denise Appleby explains the nuances around two separate Roth IRA 5-year rules and what you need to take distributions from a Roth IRA if you’re aged 59 and a half or below. Listen in to learn the importance of starting your Roth IRA 5-year clock earlier and protecting your records to avoid paying taxes you don’t owe.


Roth IRA – 5-Year Rule – Part 2 with Denise Appleby

In our last podcast (read the blog here), we dove right into one of the most common questions our clients and listeners have: Roth IRAs and the 5-year rule. Well, we decided that we need to cover this topic even more in-depth and brought Denise Appleby on the show to clear up any confusion that you may have.

Roth IRA – 5-Year Rule – Part 2 with Denise Appleby

In our last podcast (read the blog here), we dove right into one of the most common questions our clients and listeners have: Roth IRAs and the 5-year rule. Well, we decided that we need to cover this topic even more in-depth and brought Denise Appleby on the show to clear up any confusion that you may have.

Denise is an expert in all things IRAs and an excellent consultant for these types of questions.

What are the 5-Year Rules?

Denise was quick to point out that it’s not the 5-year rule but the 5-year rules. Two main rules are in place and the challenge is determining which rule applies to you.

First 5-Year Rule

This rule is used to determine if a Roth IRA distribution is qualified. This rule starts January 1 on the first year that you fund your Roth IRA, and it never starts over.

For example:

  • 2010, you contribute to a Roth IRA
  • 2023, you start a new Roth IRA because you cleared out the original
  • When did the 5-year period start? January 1, 2010.

Second 5-Year Rule

The second 5-year rule only pertains to you if you’re not eligible for a qualified distribution. Under this rule, we’re looking at Roth conversions and their distributions. If you withdraw the money that you put in within the first 5 years, you’re subject to a 10% distribution penalty.

However, the rule is very complex because it starts over with each conversion.

For example:

  • In 2020, you perform a Roth conversion
  • You take a distribution in 2023

The distribution would come from the 2020 conversion first before any conversion you do at a later date, if that applies.

This rule can be very hard to wrap your head around without an example.

Whose Responsibility Is It to Track Distributions and the 5-Year Rule?

Each conversion you make has a 5-year rule attached to it. Unfortunately, it’s your responsibility to track these conversions and how long ago they were made. For example, let’s assume that you convert $10,000 over the next 5 years.

The IRA custodian will not track these conversions. The IRS says that if a distribution is made and the IRA custodian doesn’t know the following, the custodian will report it as a non-qualified distribution without an exception:

  • If the person is eligible for an exception, or
  • If the person is eligible for a qualified distribution

It’s your burden to provide your tax preparer with the documentation necessary to show that the distributions are penalty-free. You can do this by keeping documents handy, such as your Form 5498.

You must protect yourself by keeping clear documentation of conversions. If you don’t keep proper records, you’ll pay penalties because there’s no proof that the distributions are non-qualified.

As you can see, there are a few nuances around the 5-year rule that can be complex and a bit tricky. Part of the reason why we’re diving deep into this rule for retirement planning is that you can leverage conversions now for tax planning purposes.

We know that unless there are significant legislative changes made before 2026, tax rates are going to go up.

Converting traditional IRAs to Roth accounts now may be beneficial for you and allow your money to grow tax-free. Most of our clients are doing conversions for future potential use way down the road or they’re doing it for their legacy. In these cases, the 5-year rule won’t matter to them.

With this in mind, let’s consider the following example:

Example 1: 60 Year Old with a Roth Balance of $100,000 that is Well Past the 5-Year Rule

If this person did a conversion last year of $100,000, do they have to wait five years to take distributions on this conversion? No. Because they are over the age 59 and a half, the second 5-year rule does not apply, and they can take a distribution without additional tax or penalty.

Anyone over age 59 and a half doesn’t need to track anything aside from having had a Roth account open for at least 5 years. You’re in a very nice place to be at age 60.

Because of this, we recommend that you establish a Roth account, even with a small contribution, as soon as possible. Why? Your five-year period starts ticking down the moment that the account opens. You could potentially not contribute to the account for years, but that five-year period will be ticking down, allowing you the freedom to do conversions in the future and still take distributions from the account without penalties.

Example 2: 50 Year Old, No Roth Account and Has Opportunity to Do a Roth Conversion

Imagine that this individual begins converting their accounts and assumes that they’ll wait until they’re at least 59 and a half to begin distributions. Life happens, and suddenly, the person does need to take money out of the account before then.

If they haven’t had the Roth IRA for 5 years and aren’t eligible for a distribution, then we need to look next at the ordering rules.

What are Ordering Rules?

Ordering rules pertain to your Roth IRA and distributions. Your distribution is taken from your account in the following levels:

  1. Regular Roth IRA contributions or money rolled over from Roth 401(k), 403(b), 457(b). These contributions come out first and are always tax- and penalty-free.
  2. Conversions from traditional SEPs and SIMPLEs and rollovers from the pre-tax side of 401(k) plans. Unless you qualify for an exception, these distributions will have a 10% penalty because of your age and not meeting the 5-year rule. What are the exceptions? If you converted the account at least 5 years prior, you could take distributions without penalty.
  3. Earnings, which are taxable and subject to the 10% penalty.

If you must take distributions early, you want to avoid taking money from levels 2 and 3. Level 2 money still has the 10% penalty unless you fall under very specific circumstances, and level 3 money is both taxable and comes with a penalty.

Example 3: 50 Year Old with Plans to Convert $10,000 Each Year Until 60, Never Had a Roth Before

Over the 10 years, the person has $100,000 in conversions in the account. The account has been open for five years, so one rule is checked off. The person is also 60, so they can start taking qualified distributions if they wish. Any distribution going forward is both tax-free and penalty-free. They can tap into growth without penalty as well. 

Legislatively, everything is always up in the air. Ages can change for these rules. A few years ago, the government did try to make changes to some Roth provisions, but they haven’t tried to do so recently.

Even the Secure Act 2.0 was very Roth-friendly.

Denise does not believe that Roth accounts are going anywhere any time soon because the IRS wants to be paid upfront. The IRS always wants to be paid as soon as possible, so it’s not likely that Roth accounts will be a major legislative target at this time.

Of course, things can change and new rules can be added, but we’ll keep you up to date on these occurrences.

Does a Roth 401(k) Start the 5-Year Clock?

No. A Roth 401(k) does not start the Roth IRA clock. The time that you’ve had the 401(k) open doesn’t apply to your IRA, which is very unfortunate.

What Should People Think About When It Comes to the 5-Year Rule?

Final points from Denise:

  • Having and contributing to Roth 401(k) is not the same as opening and contributing to a Roth IRA.
  • If a spouse beneficiary inherits a Roth IRA and the spouse treats it as their own, the 5-year period is considered to have begun at the earlier of the two spouse’s first Roth IRA contributions. However, if the funds are transferred to a beneficiary IRA, the accounts inherit the decedent’s period. Do you have documentation on these accounts?
  • Beneficiary IRA accounts allow for $10,000 to be used for a first-time home purchase without penalties.

Clearly, there is quite a lot to think about with Roth IRAs, conversions and the 5-year rule. Having an expert like Denise at your side is extremely beneficial when working on these accounts.

If you have any questions, you can schedule a free 15 minute call with us and we’ll be more than happy to have a conversation with you. We can even consult Denise on any complex questions.

October 23, 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 23, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Roth IRAs – 5-Year Rule and Conversions in Retirement

Listen in to learn the difference between Roth IRAs’ contributions and conversions and how the 5-year rule applies to each. You will also learn about the five advantages of a Roth IRA: tax-free growth, not subject to RMDs, tax diversification, estate planning benefits, and hedge against future tax increases.


This Week’s Blog – Roth IRAs – 5-Year Rule and Conversions

Roth IRAs are on the minds of many of our clients and listeners. If you’re concerned that taxes may be higher in the future, you may want to learn more about Roth Accounts. In a Roth account, you pay taxes on the money today and can then allow it to grow tax-free. However, you also need to be aware of the 5-year rule for Roth IRA conversions. The rule is a small caveat that is easy to overlook…

Roth IRAs – 5-Year Rule and Conversions

Roth IRAs are on the minds of many of our clients and listeners. If you’re concerned that taxes may be higher in the future, you may want to learn more about Roth Accounts. In a Roth account, you pay taxes on the money today and can then allow it to grow tax-free.

However, you also need to be aware of the 5-year rule for Roth IRA conversions. The rule is a small caveat that is easy to overlook, but it impacts your ability to withdraw your earnings without penalties or taxes.

5-Year Rule for Roth IRA Contribution: Limits and Requirements

You can contribute to a Roth, but there is an income level that you need to be concerned about. We won’t go into these levels in great detail, but a lot of companies are offering Roth 401(k) options to circumvent these income limits – just a contribution limit.

If you contribute money into a traditional Roth IRA, it’s 100% liquid. You can put $10,000 in and take it right back out of the account.

However, the 5-year rule pertains to the interest earned on the account.

Example 1: the 59 ½ Rule

For example, let’s say that I’m 40 years old and I put $10,000 into a Roth IRA. Fast-forward 10 years. Now I’m 50 years old, and the $10,000 I put into the account has swelled to $20,000. You’re past the 5-year rule, but you’re not 59 1/2 yet.

You can take out the $10,000 that you put into the account without penalties, but you cannot touch the interest until you reach the 59 1/2 threshold.

Example 2: the 5-year Rule

Since many of our listeners and clients are past the 59 1/2 age requirement, let’s look at another example of someone who is 60 and contributes to a new Roth IRA. In four years, they gain $3,000 – $4,000 in interest, but since it’s a new Roth, they cannot take the interest out with a penalty based on the 5-year rule.

So, the 5-year rule for a new Roth IRA account has two main components:

  1. 59 1/2 years of age to touch the interest
  2. 5 years to take out the interest without 10% tax penalty and paying taxes on the interest

Even if you’re 65 and just opened the account, you still need to wait five years before you can touch the interest without being concerned about penalties or taxes.

Note: Contributions into Roth IRAs are always penalty-free, as you’ve already paid taxes on the money.

5-Year Rule for Roth IRA Conversions

Conversions and contributions are different. A Roth conversion is not subject to limits, so if you have pre-taxed assets, you can convert $1 million (or whatever amount you like). Let’s say that you have a traditional IRA. You can convert 100% of the account if you like.

However, you will need to pay taxes today on the money that you’re converting into the Roth IRA to leverage this tax-free bucket.

How Does the 5-Year Rule Impact Roth IRA Conversions?

Roth conversions are very powerful and beneficial because your money can grow tax-free. The rules on these conversions are different, so let’s look at an example:

  • This person is 60 years of age
  • $1 million in pre-tax IRA
  • $100,000 converted into a Roth IRA
  • **This is the first time the person opened a Roth IRA

The person is above the age of 59 1/2, so they meet this threshold for taking money out of the account without penalties. However, since this is the first time the person has had a Roth IRA account, they must wait five years before being able to withdraw on the tax-free growth.

Let’s say that if the person comes back in two years and wants to take out $30,000 for a new roof, they can do so because they’re not touching the tax-free growth on the account.

If you’re under the age of 59 1/2 or fall into one of the following categories, there are some exceptions:

  • Disability
  • First-time homebuyer
  • Deceased 

Pro Tips: The clock starts ticking from the moment you open the account. Let’s say that you did a conversion at 55 and a conversion at 60. You don’t need to worry about the 5-year rule. We recommend converting even a small amount into a Roth IRA to get the clock started so that the account is open for 5 years.

Note: Always be sure to consult with a financial advisor before making any distributions to ensure that you follow all the rules and regulations.

Click here to schedule a call with us to discuss your Roth conversions, contributions, or distributions.

Example of the Power of Roth IRA Conversions

In this example, let’s say you’re 60 years old and opening a brand-new Roth account to start doing $50,000 into conversions per year for 5 years. We’re not worried about the 59 1/2 age rule, and we estimate that the account will earn 5% compound interest annually.

Year 1: Conversion of $50,000 + 5% interest ($2,500) = $52,500 total
Year 2: Conversion of $50,000 + 5% interest on ($52,500 + 50,000 = $5,125 = $107,625 total
Year 3: Conversion of $50,000 + 5% interest on ($107,625 + 50,000) = $7,881.25 = $165,506.25 total
Year 4: Conversion of $50,000 + 5% interest on ($165,506.25 + 50,000) = $10,775.31 = $226,281.56 total
Year 5: Conversion of $50,000 + 5% interest on ($226,281.56 + 50,000 = $13,814.08 = $290,095.64 total

Cumulative growth on your money is very powerful. You’ve contributed $250,000 in conversions and earned over $40,000 in interest in just five years.

What happens if, in year four, you need to take a withdrawal?

At year 4, you have an account total of $226,281.56. How much can you take out of the account? You can take out $200,000 because those are your contributions. At the end of year 5, you have 100% access to the money because you hit all thresholds.

Walking you through some math, let’s assume that you don’t need the money and let the $290,095.64 sit for 15 years without any further conversions or contributions. 

Based on 5% interest per year, your $250,000 put into the account would now be $602,998.22.

You’ve earned over $350,000 in interest alone.

Now, you want to take out $350,000 and pay taxes on it. You would need to pay a huge chunk of money if you didn’t pay taxes already. However, since you did a conversion of $50,000 a year, you paid 22% in taxes or $11,000 in taxes per conversion.

You paid:

  • $55,000 in taxes total for all contributions
  • Gained $350,000 in interest that is 100% tax-free

You achieved great tax-free growth and can now withdraw the $350,000 in its entirety.

With that said, Roth IRAs have their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of a Roth Conversion

Roth accounts are one of our favorites and we like them so much because of how advantageous they are. You benefit from:

  1. Tax-free growth that grows over time.
  2. Not subject to required minimum distributions. Unlike a 401(k) or other pre-tax accounts, you don’t need to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) on the account. You can keep the money in the Roth for as long as you wish, allowing you to be in more control.
  3. Tax diversification because you have a sizeable tax-free asset. You can blend withdrawal strategies using taxable and non-taxable accounts to minimize taxes.
  4. Estate planning benefits also exist. You can pass the account to your heirs, who can take tax-free distributions over their lifetime. Beneficiaries must withdraw the entire account over 10 years and can allow it to remain in the account for 10 years and still don’t need to pay taxes on the growth.
  5. Hedge against future tax rates because this tax-free bucket will not be subject to higher taxes, which we’re very likely to see in 2026 unless major legislation is otherwise passed.

Disadvantages of a Roth Conversion

While we’re major fans of Roth IRAs for retirement planning, Roth conversions are not ideal for everyone. These disadvantages are things you should keep in mind.

  1. Immediate tax burden. You will need to pay taxes on the conversion, which no one likes. But you benefit from the money growing tax-free.
  2. Potential of lost tax benefit. If you’re at a higher tax bracket today but in the future taxes are lower, you lose the benefit of lower taxes. We don’t know what the tax rate will be in 10, 15, or 20 years from now.
  3. Loss of liquidity. You lose some liquidity with your money because, in many cases, you’ll use outside funds to fund the account, such as cash.
  4. 5-year rule. Of course, you do have to wait 5 years to touch any of the interest in the account.
  5. Potential impact on other benefits. If you’re about to convert at Medicare age, you may have to pay an IRMAA surcharge for a single year of the conversion. 

If you’re looking at this and have questions, it is very overwhelming. However, you can always schedule a call with us right on our website to go over this information in greater detail.

Click here to schedule your call.

How to Convert an IRA to a Roth IRA

Is a Roth conversion right for you?

Moving your money from a traditional IRA or 401k and into a Roth IRA can be a smart choice for your future finances. But, while the mechanics of a Roth conversion are simple, it’s important to get the full picture to find out if it will benefit you in the long term.

In this post, we share everything you need to know about doing a Roth conversion, including what a Roth conversion is, why you may choose to do one, and the process of moving your money between these two different types of accounts.

You can watch the video on this topic above. To listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

The differences between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA

A traditional IRA or 401k is considered pre-tax money. It gives you an immediate tax benefit. So, for example, you may be using salary deferrals to contribute to a 401k which automatically comes off your income for the year. When you withdraw from a traditional IRA, then the money becomes taxable, similar to a paycheck.

A Roth IRA contains after-tax dollars, but it grows tax-free, and you won’t be taxed when you withdraw it. Say you contribute $50,000 to a Roth IRA that’s invested in the market, and it grows to $100,000 or even $200,000. You can withdraw this without being taxed.

So, these are the two key differences:

  • Traditional IRAs and 401ks are pre-tax (but you’ll pay tax on withdrawal)
  • Roth IRAs use after-tax money (but you get a tax benefit later)

One thing that is the same between the two accounts is how you invest. You can invest both a traditional IRA and Roth IRA exactly the same.

How much of a traditional IRA can you convert to a Roth IRA?

Broadly speaking, you can convert 100% of your traditional IRA or 401k into a Roth IRA. There are no conversion limits. So, if you have $1 million in your traditional IRA, you can convert the entire $1 million into a Roth IRA.

But don’t get conversion and contributions mixed up. There are contribution limitations. However, these depend on your age and income.

How to convert your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA

Converting your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA is a simple process, similar to switching any account. The easiest way to do a Roth conversion is when both IRAs are held at the same institution.

For example, if you had a traditional IRA at Charles Schwab and wanted to do a Roth conversion, the easiest option is to open a Roth IRA also at Charles Schwab. Then it’s a straightforward transfer to move your money from your traditional account into your Roth account. You just have to know how much you want to convert, then sign the document and the custodian (in this case Charles Schwab) will take care of the rest.

If your traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts aren’t held at the same institution, the process is almost the same, but with a few extra steps. It’s best to check with your traditional IRA or 401k account holder to find out what their exact process is, and they’ll help you through it.

Taxes: what to look out for when converting

When you do a Roth conversion, you have to pay taxes as you’re moving money out of a pre-tax account and into an account for after-tax dollars only.

You might consider holding back some money to cover these taxes. However, we believe this isn’t the best option. You may not be able to make contributions to your Roth IRA, so a conversion is the only way to put as much money as you can in this tax-free account. So, we advise converting 100% of your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA and paying the taxes from another account, such as savings or a brokerage account.

Say you want to convert $30,000 from your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. First, you should make sure you have enough money outside of your traditional IRA to cover the taxes. On $30,000, these taxes may equate to around $6,000. If you decide to take that $6,000 from your IRA money, you’re putting yourself at a long-term disadvantage. The tax-free growth of a Roth IRA means you should put as much money in as possible to reap the future benefits.

Depending on your tax situation, you may need to think strategically about how much you can convert. You don’t want to end up in a higher tax bracket because you converted too many extra dollars. If you’re unsure about how much you can convert without changing your tax bracket, speak to your financial planner or advisor who can help you play with the numbers.

Why you need to consider future tax

The number one reason to do a Roth conversion is to protect against higher tax rates in future. The idea is to pay lower tax rates now and avoid rising ones later down the line. So, if you believe that your taxes will be lower in future, a Roth IRA will not make sense for you.

If you currently have a high-income rate, say $250,000, but are expecting this to drop to $60,000 in 15-20 years, then you could be paying less tax in future. However, if tax rates rise, you may pay a higher percentage, even though you’re earning a lower amount. So, the question is, would you still convert?

In this situation, one solution is to do smaller conversions and split your money into both pre-tax and after-tax assets. Ultimately, we don’t know what might happen in the future, so you will need to think carefully about whether a conversion is really right for you and put a strategy in place.

How to avoid required minimum distributions with a Roth conversion

Any pre-tax account, including traditional IRAs, 401ks, and 403bs, are subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs). These are to make sure that you do eventually pay tax on this money. At age 72, you’ll be required to take withdrawals from your pre-tax account based on your life expectancy.

Another reason many people choose to do a Roth conversion is to avoid these RMDs. You may prefer to pay your taxes now rather than on RMDs at age 72. If you’re already at this age, it becomes more challenging to do a Roth conversion as the IRS requires you to take the RMDs every year.

Say you have $1 million in a traditional IRA and your RMD for that year is $50,000. If you want to do a Roth conversion, you have to take the $50,000, put it in your bank, pay the taxes on it, and only then can you proceed with the Roth conversion. So, if you wanted to convert $20,000 from your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, you could do this after you’ve taken and paid tax on your RMD. It’s important to note that this means you’ll have to pay tax on both amounts, so $70,000 in total that’s been added to your income for the year.

Our advice is, if you’re planning to do a Roth conversion, don’t wait until you’re RMD age.

It’s important to look at the whole picture when deciding whether to do a Roth conversion. Tax numbers can be confusing, so it’s best to find out what solution suits your specific situation. If you want to get more insight on converting your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, you can book a complimentary 15-minute call with us and we’ll discuss what option is right for you.

How Are You Going to Stay on Top of Your Finances in 2021?

How are you going to stay on top of your finances in 2021?

Financially planning for retirement can feel like a lot of work, especially if you have multiple moving parts to your money. Dealing with 401Ks, IRAs, Social Security, and RMDs can become overwhelming as the year gets busier, so we recommend taking stock of your finances early and planning ahead.

The beginning of the year is a great time to review your finances but knowing where to start is challenging. So, we’ve created our retirement and financial planning checklist.

Read on to discover the nine key areas you should consider for the upcoming year. We also point out some key changes and information for 2021, so you can start this year as securely as possible.

1. Review your 401K, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and HSA contributions

If you’re earning income, you should review your accounts and plan how much you want to contribute to each one this year. Do you have a goal for each? How much will you need to contribute to get you there?

Bear in mind that contributions may be limited, so you might need to adjust your plans and payroll accordingly. For example, the contribution limit for 401Ks in 2021 is $19,500. However, if you’re over 50 years of age, you can qualify for the ‘catch-up contribution’, increasing the $19,500 limit by an additional $6,500. This also applies to 403Bs and 457 plans.

Roth IRA accounts have a much lower contribution limit of $6,000, with an additional $1,000 for those over 50.

We’ve detailed the difference between Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs before, but to recap, the main differences are:

  • A Roth IRA is tax-free assets: contributed to after you’ve paid tax on the money – these have income limitations, so if you earn over a certain amount, you will not be able to contribute
  • A traditional IRA is pre-tax assets: contributed to before you’ve paid tax on the money – no income limitations

To learn more about the pros and cons of Roth IRAs vs traditional IRAs, read this post.

Once you are aware of your accounts’ limitations, we advise you plan your contributions for the year. This way, you can ensure you’re on track to achieving your long-term money goals without having to continually review your accounts’ statuses.

2. Update your beneficiaries

Life sometimes moves so fast that it can be hard to keep up. New grandchildren, marriages, or other life changes may affect who you want as a beneficiary.

It’s important to stay on top of your different accounts and which beneficiaries are associated with them. Your accounts and associated beneficiaries should align with your overall estate plan and life insurance to avoid confusion.

Updating beneficiaries can be easily done online or with a signature on a form. It should only take a few minutes and is something we highly recommend putting in order while you have the time.

3. Consolidate your accounts

If you’ve previously changed employment, you may well have more than one 401K plan open. We often speak to clients who have two, three, or four 401Ks with past employers, that they’ve completely forgotten about – and that have substantial balances in them!

Moving existing 401Ks into a traditional IRA is a fantastic way to consolidate your accounts. It’s completely tax-free, with no risk, penalties, and typically no fees. If you hold multiple traditional IRAs, we also advise consolidating these into just one account.

By reducing the number of unnecessary accounts, managing your money will become more straightforward and less stressful.

4. Assess your mortgage rate

It’s very unlikely that mortgage rates will reduce further, so we recommend taking advantage of them while you can. Now is a great time to refinance your house or any investment properties you have a loan on. An advantageous rate could lower your payments, giving you greater monthly cash flow, or help you pay off the loan faster.

We spoke to a Loan Officer with 15 years’ experience about the benefits of refinancing in our podcast episode ‘Tammi Rowe – Planning Your Mortgage and Retirement’. To find out more about what refinancing could do for you, listen to the episode.

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5. Plan for emergencies

You might be faced with a financial opportunity, for example, paying off your mortgage, but it’ll leave you with less cash in the bank than you’d like. Should you do it? Or should you build up your ‘emergency fund’ first?

Having cash reserves in case of emergencies is necessary. But you don’t always have to choose between keeping lots of cash in the bank or paying off a substantial loan.

One tip we give our clients is to open an equity line of credit. There can be a minimal fee to open it, but there’s no interest if you don’t have any balance. This means that if you spend your cash reserves on something like paying off a mortgage, you have easy access to cash, as an equity line of credit comes with either a debit card, a checkbook, or both.

An equity line of credit is only available to those still working, so if you want an emergency fund for the future, we urge you to set one up while you still qualify. You won’t need to make any payments, and it won’t gain any interest, so long as the balance is zero.

6. Consider how and when you’ll take your RMDs

If you’re turning 72 in 2021, pay close attention. RMDs or Required Minimum Distributions were optional in 2020, however, the rules are changing for 2021, and if you turn 72 this year, you will have to take your RMDs this year and every year going forward.

Your individual RMDs are based on your IRAs’ combined balance, so there isn’t one set figure for everyone. You can spend your RMDs, or you can reinvest them into another brokerage account, but they must leave your IRA and cannot go into another IRA.

Bear in mind that money in a traditional IRA is pre-tax. So, when it leaves the IRA as an RMD, it’s treated as income and will be taxed.

There is no rule when you should take your RMDs, but you must start taking them before December 31st from the year you turn 72. Some people choose to take it monthly, like a paycheck, and others take it as a lump sum at the beginning or end of the year.

If you don’t need to take your RMD and don’t want to pay tax on the money you don’t need, you can make a qualified charitable deduction once you’re aged 70 and a half. This is where you direct your RMD straight from your IRA to a charity of your choice. This way, your RMD leaves the IRA but isn’t claimed as income, making it tax-free.

You can also do this with a portion of your RMD. For example, if your RMD is $10,000, and you want to instruct $5,000 to a charity and keep $5,000 for yourself, you only have to pay tax on the $5,000 you keep.

7. Apply for Social Security

If you’re planning on taking Social Security in 2021, it can be a long process. Right now, there are thousands of people applying every single day, so we advise applying two to three months ahead of when you want to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

You can apply as early as three months before the date that you want to start receiving them, so if you’ve already decided it’s part of your financial plan for 2021, don’t wait. Plan ahead, make the phone calls, and fill out the paperwork as soon as you can so that you can receive your benefits when you need them.

8. Research your Medicare options

Health insurance has never been more vital, so putting a plan in place as soon as possible is recommended. There’s a lot to think about with Medicare, from how your income affects your premiums to when the open enrollment periods are. If you’re turning 65 or going to be receiving Medicare, we encourage you to research your options.

We spoke to Medicare Specialist, Lorraine Bowen, on our podcast, and she answered all of our Medicare questions, including what it covers and how to find out if you’re entitled to it. To learn more about Medicare, listen to this episode.

9. Understand your income plan

When you stop working, you might find it more challenging to keep track of your income. There can be many moving parts in retirement with different income streams and RMDs, and it could leave you with an unnecessarily high tax bill or with fewer cash reserves than you’d like.

Now is the perfect time to adjust your income to ensure that you’re not taking too much or too little. We use a couple of different software programs that help us automatically track income on a month-by-month basis to find a monthly income figure that’s best suited to you. If you want to learn more about how we do this, reach out to us.

Those are our nine key points for preparing your finances for retirement in 2021. By completing this checklist, you’ll be giving yourself peace of mind that you’re on track to achieving your financial goals throughout the year.

We’re going to delve deeper into more of these topics as the year progresses, but if you have any urgent questions about any of the subjects we discussed in this post, please get in touch. You can contact us, or if you want to discuss your retirement goals with a member of our team, we invite you to schedule a 15-minute complimentary call with us.

Roth Conversion – When and How to Plan

If you have a traditional IRA, you may be considering a Roth conversion. There are many reasons why a Roth might suit your money better than a traditional IRA, however, knowing the differences between the two and the long-term results of moving your money can help you decide which IRA to choose.

Roth IRAs and conversions are a popular topic for those approaching retirement, so in this post, we explain why a Roth IRA might be beneficial to you, when to do a Roth conversion, and what’s involved in the process. 

The differences between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA

An IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, allows you to save for your retirement through tax-free growth or on a tax-deferred basis. There are several different types of IRA, but the two most common we see compared are Roth and traditional accounts.

If you have a traditional IRA, you typically receive an immediate tax benefit after you’ve contributed. You put your money in pre-tax, and it will grow tax-deferred. This means that when you begin withdrawing money from the IRA, it’s treated as income and is taxable.

If you have a Roth IRA, you don’t get any immediate tax benefits after contributing. You put your money in after-tax, however, it grows tax-free within the Roth account and remains tax-free after you withdraw it.

So, if you’re looking at making substantial or long-term contributions to an IRA, a Roth account could be a better option for you. This way, you’ll pay less tax in the long run, as you won’t have to pay any tax on your savings growth.

But if you’d prefer immediate tax benefits, then a traditional IRA could be the better choice. So which IRA is best for you depends on whether you’d like your tax benefits now or in the future.

How RMDs affect traditional IRAs 

One thing to bear in mind with traditional IRAs is that you have to take an RMD (required minimum distribution) from the age of 72 and every year after.

This is the deal you make with traditional IRAs. While you receive immediate tax benefits when you make contributions, RMDs are the government’s way of ensuring that they still receive tax revenue. RMDs are not optional, and you have to take them every year even if you don’t need the money.

RMDs are also taxed at future tax rates. If you believe that tax rates will be lower in the future, then a traditional IRA may make more sense for you. However, if you think that they will be higher, you might want to consider a Roth IRA.

A Roth IRA has no RMDs. You can withdraw as much or as little as you like, and you won’t be taxed on any withdrawals. 

Why contribution limitations can lead to conversions

There are contribution limits to both Roth and traditional IRAs, but for Roth IRAs there are also income limitations. If you earn too much, then you cannot make a direct contribution to your Roth IRA.

This is where a Roth conversion can help.

A Roth conversion is where you transfer money from your traditional IRA into your Roth IRA. One important thing to remember when you do this is that you have to pay tax on that asset. As the money will have gone into your traditional IRA pre-tax, you must pay tax on it before you can put it into your Roth IRA.

Once your money is in the Roth account, it can continue to grow tax-free for however long it’s in there. There are no requirements for when you should start taking money out or how much you should take out annually.

If you are taking RMDs from your traditional IRA, it’s important to know that you cannot convert them into a Roth account. The only way to move your RMDs into a Roth account is to combine it with an additional amount first. For example, if your RMD is $15,000 and you want to move this into your Roth account, you’ll have to take out more from your traditional IRA, say an extra $15,000, and move both amounts into the Roth account.

You can contribute to your IRA account when you file your taxes. For most people this is usually around April. But conversions must be done by the end of the year. The deadline for Roth conversions is December 31st.

Why should you do a Roth conversion

Roth conversions make a lot of financial sense when you’re temporarily in a low tax bracket or receiving very little taxable income. If you’re in a situation where you’re expecting your tax bracket to rise or your taxable income to increase, then it’s best to do a Roth conversion as soon as possible.

Converting at a time when you pay less tax has the best long-term benefits for your money as it will continue to grow tax-free and you’ll never have to pay tax on it again. This is the number one reason that many people do a Roth conversion.

The second reason is that you want to avoid RMDs. If you’re planning long term, then you could aim to convert all of your money from your traditional IRA before you turn 72. This way you won’t have to take RMDs and pay tax on them. Even if it’s not possible to convert all of your money before then, by moving some money into a Roth account, your RMDs could decrease and you’ll pay less tax overall.

The step-by-step process of a Roth conversion

If you’re thinking about doing a Roth conversion, the first step is to speak to a financial advisor. We can help you look at the whole picture and gauge whether it makes sense for your money.

We take a look at your current tax bracket, what future tax brackets we can expect, and if it’s the best year to make this type of conversion. We also involve CPAs who can help us decide how much to convert and navigate tax brackets.

Speaking to a financial advisor will also help you determine what your goals are for your money. We’ll help you understand why a Roth conversion may or may not help you reach those goals, and then once you’re happy, the process is as simple as moving money from one account to another.

So, if you’re considering a Roth conversion or have any questions about IRAs and what they can do for you, then reach out to us. You can book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss which avenue is right for you. Book your call today to get started!