Taxes can be a huge burden at any stage of life. But during retirement, they can be particularly problematic.
Many retirees end up on a fixed income that consists largely of Social Security. So minimizing taxes in retirement by planning ahead could make your senior years a lot less stressful. With that in mind, here are three options for gaining access to tax-free income when you might need it the most.
1. Save in a Roth retirement plan
It’s easy to see why traditional 401(k) plans and IRAs appeal to so many people: You get a tax break on the money you put in. But if you’re willing to forgo that up-front tax break, you’ll benefit from tax-free investment gains, as well as tax-free withdrawals, when you save for retirement in a Roth IRA or 401(k) instead.
Now for many years, Roth IRAs offered the distinct benefit of being the only tax-advantaged retirement plan to not impose required minimum distributions. But beginning in 2024, Roth 401(k)s will not impose these, either.
2. Fund a health savings account
If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan, you may be eligible to contribute to a health savings account, or HSA. Now the only way to enjoy tax-free withdrawals from an HSA is to use your money for healthcare spending. But that’s an expense that’s likely to rise on you during retirement anyway.
Fidelity estimated that the average 65-year-old couple retiring last year was looking at $315,000 in healthcare costs throughout retirement . And if you have a lot of health problems going into retirement, you might end up spending even more. Funding an HSA could allow you to access tax-free income to cover some (or, ideally, most) of your medical bills as a senior.
Now one thing you should know about HSAs is that once you turn 65, you can use your money for any purpose without incurring a penalty — it doesn’t have to be to cover a healthcare bill. But withdrawals taken for nonmedical purposes will be subject to taxes, so if you want tax-free access to that money, be sure to earmark it for healthcare spending. Chances are, you’ll need it anyway.
3. Invest in municipal bonds
Bonds tend to be a great investment for retirees because they’re fairly stable and can lead to a predictable income stream. Bonds commonly pay interest twice a year, and if you invest your money in municipal bonds, that income will be tax-exempt at the federal level.
Furthermore, if you buy municipal bonds issued by your state of residence, you won’t face taxes at the state or local level, either. Just keep in mind that these bonds’ tax-free status applies to interest payments only. If you sell municipal bonds at a profit, those gains could be subject to taxes.
Ease the burden of taxes
Money inevitably gets tight for a lot of people once they kick off retirement. Boosting your tax-free income could save you a lot of worry and stress, and it could give you more spending power throughout your senior years.
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