RMDs to QCDs to save on taxes in retirement

Qualified Charitable Distributions May Reduce Retirement Taxes

Required minimum distributions may increase your tax bracket in retirement, but there is a way to help manage your tax exposure and help great causes: qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). At 72, you are required to take distributions from traditional IRAs to ensure you are not stockpiling the money, and that Uncle Sam gets his cut. QCDs are your ticket to reducing your retirement income taxes.

What exactly is a Qualified Charitable Distribution?

A qualified charitable distribution satisfies your required minimum distribution from your IRA directly to a qualified charity. Fortunately, the money gifted with a QCD does not count towards you adjusted gross income as it would with a regular RMD.

How can a QCD save you tax money?

They reduce your adjusted gross income but fulfilling the RMD requirement without needing to be reported as income.

How does a QCD work?

You instruct the custodian of your account to directly pay the RMD as a QCD to a qualified 501(c)(3) charity.

Are there any rules or qualifications for QCDs?

There are rules, but they are straightforward:

  • You must be 70 ½
  • To have the QCD count the funds must come from your IRA by your RMD deadline. And for most that is the last day of the year.
  • Whether one big contribution or smaller ones, QCDs have an annual max of $100,000 per individual. Meaning, married folks can donate up to $200,000.
  • QCDs cannot exceed more than what you owe in taxes or qualify for a refund.
  • IRA contributions may reduce the amount for QCD you can deduct.

Who can make QCDs?

Anyone with a traditional IRA who is over 70 ½ can make qualified charitable distributions. Note: QCDs only apply to IRAs and not 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SIMPLE, or SEP IRAs.

What charities can receive a QCD?

For tax purposes, the IRS has a defined list of organizations that can receive QCDs. Their list is here.

How do taxes work with QCDs?

Normal required minimum distributions must be reported and are taxed. No federal or state withholding tax is made on distributions to qualified charities.

Using IRS For 1099-R you report your QCD as a normal distribution. However, please note, this only works on IRAs that are not inherited. Distributions donated from inherited IRAs need reported as death distributions.

Though your QCD is not taxed, you cannot claim it as a charitable tax deduction (the IRS does not approve of double dipping). When you make the QCD make sure you get donation acknowledgement for your records.

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After Taxes Now, Tax-Free Later: Roth 401(k)

Tax-advantaged has quite the ring to it, doesn’t it? Unlike the tax-advantages a traditional 401(k) offers—funded with pretax wages—a Roth 401(k) is funded with after tax wages. Income tax has already been paid so when it comes to withdrawing in retirement, your money is withdrawn tax-free.

What exactly is a Roth 401(k)? Created in 2006, Roth 401(k)s are employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts that use after-tax money.

How They Work

While employer-sponsored, enrollment and participation in Roth 401(k)s is entirely voluntary. Payroll deducts the special funds after taxes have been taken out each paycheck. Some employers may offer matches for Roth 401(k)s.

In comparison, a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k) have different tax-advantages. A traditional 401(k) reduces an employee’s gross annual income, providing a tax break now. However, regular income taxes will be due upon withdrawal during retirement. A Roth 401(k) requires income tax be paid but reduces an individual’s annual net income. But after the money is placed into the Roth account, no further taxes are owed when taken during retirement—this includes profits earned.

Much like the traditional 401(k), a Roth 4010(k) is subject to contribution limits and is based off the investor’s age per guidelines of the IRS. For 2022, an individual may contribute up to $20,5000. Those over 50 are permitted a catch-up contribution of $6500. Another perk Roth 401(k)s offer is no income limit.

Withdrawal Special Considerations

Certain criteria must be met for withdrawals to be tax-free.

  • The Roth 401(k) must be at least 5 years old.
  • Withdrawals must occur when the account holder is at least 59 ½. If before, account holder must has passed or experiencing qualifying disability.

Roth 401(k)s do require required minimum distributions. Once you are 72 the first RMD from your Roth 401(k) must be taken by the first April after you turn 72. If you are still working for the company who sponsors the retirement account, you may hold off taking a distribution.

Advantages and Disadvantages Summary

Pros:

  • Helps those who may be in a higher tax bracket during retirement (which is commonly seen)
  • Distributions are tax-free.
  • Earnings grow tax-free.

Cons:

  • Uses after-tax dollars, meaning during working years you are out that money
  • Contributions do not limit taxable income

Roth 401(k)s and Market Volatility

Sadly, you can lose money since a 401(k) is an investment into the market. However, most employers offer low-risk options like government bonds. You are always welcome to work with the plan sponsor and stir up your investment yield and risk.

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Retirement & Cryptocurrency

What You Need to Know About Cryptocurrency and Your Retirement

Started as a small project, cryptocurrency has become a large and continuously growing part of the finance industry. These blockchain tokens are making way into retirement planning slowly. Recently, some major companies have opened their doors to cryptocurrency as an investment option. If you are considering cryptocurrency for your retirement planning, you need to know the risks that come with crypto assets.

It is no secret that the crypto ecosystem is fickle, and in retirement planning it is important to monitor and reduce risk so your assets last 20-40 years. However, cryptocurrency may offer retirees a solid diversification option.

The Newest of New Paradigm

While trends have been observed, analysists are still studying the ups and downs of the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Some experts will say that it is too risky to invest while others will say by not investing you are losing out even with the rules still being written and changing often. Cryptocurrency may offer diversification to your retirement portfolio. The risk lies within your decision to invest or not.

Market Volatility

You are likely very familiar with the success story of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Just this year alone cryptocurrencies have fluctuated significantly. In 2021, Bitcoin dropped $30,000 in value within 3-months.

New Cryptos Launched Often

There are over 13,5000 cryptocurrencies in existence. Some are considered overvalued, others undervalued, and others are predicted to be “just right” for long-term investments. But there are new cryptocurrencies added on the market daily, so when investing choose wisely.

Traditional Accounts & Crypto

Only a few plan sponsors allow for cryptocurrency to be invested in for retirement. There are options under cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin IRA or Bitcoin 401(k). You may rollover funds into a self-directed IRA that allows crypto investments if you qualify. Please note, a lot of the cryptocurrency ecosystem is not government regulated and poses greater risk than typical market stocks and investments.

Taxes & Recording

Record keeping is very important within cryptocurrency gains and losses. Within the USA, cryptocurrency is taxed the same as any other gain or losses on stock for long-term and short-term. However, the recordkeeping and reporting are not as established as with regular trade assets. It is primarily on you to keep accurate records.

The Exchanges & Brokerages

Cryptocurrency is traded on a crypto exchange mostly, but you can trade through a broker. While more expensive, brokers are often much less confusing. Purchasing directly on the exchange can get complicated fast.

At-Risk for Hacking & Theft

Unfortunately, being unregulated means cryptocurrencies are not as protected. There is a greater risk for theft and hacking. Heedless of your storage method—keep investment in the exchange, use external storage device, or store offline—there is a need to have extra precautions in place.

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International Living During Retirement

After having a taste of the working life and some traveling, retirees often consider living on foreign soil. Panama and Costa Rica are the two most sought out locations for retiring outside the U.S. If you are thinking settling aboard is in your future, the following are items you should consider before moving out of the country.

Preparation

            First and foremost: simplify your financial life where possible. Condense assets and prepare to do a lot of online banking. Make sure you have online access setup for your accounts and investments that will remain U.S-based.          

            If you can, find a community of American retirees wherever you are planning to settle. Those with experience retiring in the area are your best resource. This can be done by online social groups (i.e. Facebook) or by researching.

            Prepare to spend before you even get on the plane. While living expenses may be less per month in some areas, you may have to put several months’ rent down for a home. This could be up to $5,000. That does not consider travel there and moving belongings which could easily be another $5,000.

Credit History & Banking  

            What has been a determining factor throughout life for interest rates, mortgage, car payments? You guessed it! Credit score! The credit history you have built for decades will not likely transfer with you when moving aboard. If you can before, build up a credit history there—cell plan, lease, etc. It is recommended keeping a credit card or two from the U.S. active. This way you can use these for online shopping, travel expenses. This will keep your American credit score active.

            Unfortunately, it may be easier to build a credit history overseas than get a bank account within the country you settle. This goes for getting a credit card there, too. Why? The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enforced beginning summer of 2014. This law requires foreign banks to report any accounts of U.S. citizens. Because of FATCA, extra fees are charged if foreign banks work with Americans. Many turn Americans away. In addition, U.S. citizens must file a Foreign Bank & Financial Account report for accountability.

            With the foreign banking laws, other laws have been put in place called “anti-laundering rules.” These rules require providing proof of funds when depositing between U.S. and a foreign account. For example, if you have a large lump sum deposited into your foreign bank account from a house or business sale, you will need to provide documentation of this sale for the money to be properly deposited.

            Another matter to consider is the exchange rate for currency. If you are using an ATM for your U.S. account, what you pull and receive will be based on that day’s exchange rate. The rate may change frequently and there will be fees associated depending on what account you are withdrawing from. Before moving out of the country, find cards that have small or no fees for foreign transactions and withdrawals.

Investments & Social Security

            Top advisors recommend keeping most investments within the U.S. This allows for better reporting and efficiency fund management. Having investments in the world stock markets are riskier, with an additional risk when it comes to the currency rate. By keeping investment assets U.S-based, funds are easily be distributed and oftentimes uninterrupted. Doublecheck that an international address will not a problem. Some agencies have policies that require an American address. Retirees that have moved out of the country have reported that policies have been paid out or closed due to this; this led to tax issues and messing up the three-bucket system. Research into your policies before moving.

            Unlike the issues that investments may have overseas, social security benefits are still paid out. The funds are directly deposited into bank account. The only downside is that Medicare is not given when living aboard.

Taxes

            Living aboard comes with a double taxation price tag. Depending on the laws and other regulations, you will have to file taxes for the United States and wherever you have settled. This is heavily dependent on your financial situation. Luckily, there are some tax breaks you may qualify for living on foreign soil: Foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit.

            First, as of 2021, the foreign earned income exclusion permits $108,700 per individual. A married couple filing together potentially could exclude $217,400. This income exclusion does not apply to retirees who have zero income from working—401(k) and IRA distributions are not earned income. Secondly, the foreign tax credit allows qualified foreign taxes paid to offset U.S. tax liability. The credit is what American retirees rely on the most when living aboard due to itemization.

            Remember, if maintaining a U.S. address, state and local taxes may still be owed. Make sure when you are filing and claiming deductions and credits that you have converted the dollar correctly so no errors may result in major consequences.

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