Making the Most of Your Savings: Tax-Efficient Strategies for Retirees
by Gabriel Lewit
Navigating 30 or more years of retirement in a volatile economic landscape poses unique challenges, especially for professionals, business owners, and executives who have spent years accumulating substantial wealth.
As you transition into this next chapter of your life, you may find that market volatility and whispers of a recession add a layer of risk to your financial decisions. But fear not, making the most of your wealth is entirely possible when you use strategic tax planning for retirement.
Most retirees’ three primary financial goals are to sustain their quality of life, have financial security later in life, and transfer their wealth to future generations. One obvious concern is the several types of taxes that can reduce the value of their estates for future generations.
This blog focuses on tax-efficient investment strategies to help you mitigate tax burdens and make your money last longer for you and the generations that follow you. By the end of this brief read, you will be better equipped with actionable insights to maintain your retirement savings while effectively managing your exposure to various types of taxes.
The following are five tax-efficient investment strategies specifically tailored for retirees who want to preserve capital while minimizing their current and future tax liabilities. By using these strategies, retirees can achieve a more tax-efficient investment portfolio, which is critical for capital preservation and long-term financial security.
1. Roth IRA Conversions
Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can be a positive strategic move for retirees who expect to be in a higher tax bracket after they retire.
In a Roth IRA conversion, you pay taxes upfront on the amount you transfer to this type of investment vehicle.
This may sound a little onerous, but your assets are tax-free inside the Roth IRA, all distributions are tax-free, and there are no Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), giving you more control over your retirement income without being concerned about tax consequences.
If done correctly, the conversion can optimize your retirement assets by locking in a lower tax rate today for a tax-free future, potentially saving you considerable money over the life of the Roth IRA.
2. Tax-Loss Harvesting
Tax loss harvesting can be an invaluable tool for retirees aiming to manage their tax liabilities strategically. The practice involves selling underperforming assets at a loss to offset capital gains or even ordinary income when you sell appreciated assets for gains. Even underperforming assets have strategic value in your portfolio.
By tactically managing realized gains and losses, you can reduce your tax bill, which is particularly valuable during retirement when every dollar counts.
It’s not just about selling losing investments to offset gains; it’s a calculated move that aligns with your overall financial plan to optimize your after-tax returns. Remember, though, that it’s crucial to consult with your financial advisor and tax professional to ensure this strategy dovetails seamlessly with your retirement and estate planning goals.
3. Dividend Investing in Tax-Advantaged Accounts
Dividend investing within tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s offers retirees a dual advantage—growth potential and tax efficiency.
By holding dividend-paying stocks or mutual funds in these accounts, you create a stream of income shielded from current taxation. This strategy becomes all the more compelling when you consider that qualified dividends in a standard brokerage account (not an IRA or 401k) are subject to a 15% to 20% federal tax rate, depending on your tax bracket.
In tax-advantaged accounts, dividend payments can be reinvested to continue to compound over time or be withdrawn in retirement at a lower tax rate.
As a retiree concerned about limiting tax liabilities, this approach offers a tax-efficient way to grow wealth, produce income, and sustain your savings throughout your retirement years.
4. Municipal Bond Investments
Unlike traditional bonds, the interest earned on municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal taxes and often state and local taxes when investing in your state.
This triple tax exemption makes municipal bonds a strategically smart choice if you are in higher tax brackets, effectively boosting your after-tax yield.
Municipal bonds are usually considered a lower-risk investment backed by taxing powers of various local governments, offering financial stability that aligns well with the conservative investment strategies you may seek.
Municipal bond investing can efficiently generate tax-free income while maintaining a relatively low-risk profile.
5. Strategic Withdrawal Sequence
Strategic withdrawal sequencing is another way you can minimize your tax burden during retirement. By carefully planning how you distribute assets from different retirement accounts—such as 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and taxable accounts—you can effectively manage your tax liabilities and extend the life of your retirement nest egg.
A typical goal is to withdraw from taxable accounts first, allowing tax-advantaged accounts more time to grow. Then, you distribute assets from tax-deferred accounts, followed by tax-free accounts like Roth IRAs. This approach lets you control your taxable income year-by-year, thereby reducing the amount you’ll owe in taxes and increasing the longevity of your assets.
Proper sequencing, aligned with your financial situation and market conditions, can substantially impact your financial security later in life.
Tax Consequences Related to Social Security Benefits
Determining the right time to start taking Social Security benefits is also a pivotal decision that can significantly impact your financial well-being in retirement. The age at which you begin collecting these benefits will impact your monthly benefits and overall tax liabilities.
By correctly timing your Social Security benefits, you can better balance your current and future income streams, ensuring a more financially secure retirement.
Depending on your total income, up to 85% of your Social Security benefits may be subject to federal income tax. When combined with other sources of income like pension distributions or withdrawals from other tax-deferred accounts like IRAs, the tax bite can be substantial.
Planning wisely means managing your income streams to minimize tax liabilities in retirement. For example, if you defer Social Security and live off other assets initially, you can control your income in a way that makes more of those benefits tax-free or subject to a lower tax rate.
Second, there’s the advantage of Social Security benefits helping you cover day-to-day living expenses, thus reducing the need to draw down on your other retirement savings. The longer your savings stay invested, the more potential they have to grow, thanks to the power of compounding.
The decision about when to take Social Security shouldn’t be taken lightly. The right strategy can provide tax advantages and preserve your hard-earned retirement savings.
The SGL 4-Pillar Retirement Plan
At SGL Financial, we develop a plan before recommending an investment strategy. Our team of fiduciary financial advisors in Buffalo Grove specializes in helping people like you create more robust retirement plans. And our 4-Pillar Retirement Plan helps you get custom-tailored advice and financial strategy recommendations.
In other words, we do not provide one-size-fits-all retirement solutions.
Here’s how it works.
We look at four primary components of your financial situation:
Mapping out your financial future begins with asking the right questions. Understanding your goals helps us zero in on what you truly need. With our guidance at SGL Financial, we can co-create a tailored plan that suits you perfectly.
Our approach is consistently proactive, designed to anticipate and address potential hurdles in your financial journey. We’re always refining our methods to make sure we’re offering you unparalleled service and state-of-the-art advice.
Why Choose an SGL Financial Advisor?
If retirement planning is on your radar—or if you want to elevate your current retirement lifestyle—an SGL financial advisor can be your all-important partner. Our experts excel at understanding your income and retirement needs to develop a viable strategy that’s uniquely yours. With an array of options at your disposal and our ability to leverage cutting-edge financial planning tools, any time is a good time to take control of your financial future.