Five year-end planning ideas for retirement savings

Five year-end planning ideas for retirement savings

Whether saving toward retirement or managing income in retirement, it’s important to review your plan to make sure you’re on track to meet your goals. Now is an opportune time to assess your progress and determine if any adjustments are needed.

Here are some year-end planning considerations for retirement savings.

1. Review your retirement savings

  • Is there an opportunity to increase savings in a retirement plan or IRA? In 2022, the maximum amount for salary deferrals into a 401(k) plan increases to $20,500 (an additional $6,500 if age 50 or older)
  • If your income is too high to contribute to a Roth IRA consider executing a “backdoor” Roth IRA contribution before the end of the year. This strategy does not work if you own other IRAs consisting of pretax funds that you do not wish to convert to a Roth IRA, but it can be an effective strategy if you hold your retirement savings in non-IRA accounts like a 401(k). It is also important to note that 2021 may be the last year to convert after-tax IRA funds to a Roth. Legislation recently passed by the House would disallow this strategy beginning in 2022

2. Make sure to take your RMD

  • Given the harsh penalty — 50% of the required amount — once you reach age 72 it’s imperative to take a required minimum distribution from IRAs and other retirement accounts
  • You must generally take your first required minimum distribution for the year in which you turn age 72, although you can delay your first distribution until April 1 of the following year. However, your second RMD would have to be taken by the end of that calendar year, resulting in two RMDs for the year
  • There is a “still working” exception (only for retirement plans in which a worker is currently a participant). This exception applies to individuals at age 72, who are participating in their employer plan and meet other requirements (for example, not a 5% or more owner of the company). These individuals can delay the first RMD until April 1 following the year they separate from service
  • For those with several IRAs, only one RMD is needed. There is no need to take separate distributions from each account as long as the RMD is based on the aggregate value of all IRAs as of December 31 of the prior year. However, separate RMDs are required for employer-sponsored plans including 401(k)s
  • Be aware if you’ve inherited a retirement account recently from someone other than your spouse (and the owner died after 2019), be aware that, unless an exception applies, you need to liquidate the account by the end of the 10th year following the year the owner died. Under this rule, no annual withdrawals are needed. It’s important to review your tax situation with an advisor before the end of the year to determine if a withdrawal makes sense in 2021, depending on your projected marginal tax bracket

3. Consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) if over age 70½

  • If you are not relying on your RMD to meet current income needs, and if you are planning to claim the standard deduction, consider donating IRA assets to a qualified charity. A special provision of IRAs allows account owners to donate up to $100,000 tax free each year to charity. For more details, read “Donating IRA assets to charity.”

4. Review beneficiary designations

  • This review is key to avoid potential mistakes, as it is important that designations reflect current wishes and keep up with life changes (deaths, births, marriage, divorce, etc.)
  • Additionally, since most non-spouse beneficiaries of IRAs and retirement plans will have to fully distribute inherited accounts within a 10-year period following the death of the owner, it makes sense to review current designations to determine if changes are needed. Does it make sense to leave a greater proportion of traditional (i.e., pretax) retirement savings to heirs who may fall in lower tax brackets? Drawing down an inherited account with a large amount of assets within a 10-year period may cause a significant amount of income to be realized over that period, negatively impacting other areas such as Medicare Part B premiums or filing for federal financial aid

5. Consider a Roth conversion

  • If you are not in the highest tax brackets, does it make sense to add income before the year-end and create a source of tax-free income in the future?
  • A Roth conversion may make sense when considering the risk of higher taxes in the future. A Roth can help you achieve greater tax diversification that can help manage tax liability in retirement. The Roth may also appeal to those who want to leave a tax-free legacy to the next generation. To explore this strategy further, read “Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.”

Review tax planning with a financial professional

It is important to discuss tax strategies with a tax and financial advisor to determine if it is appropriate for an overall financial plan.


More in: Taxes