In general, I must admit I have never been fond of any kind of long term tax deferral plan. The basic idea is to defer income under the premise that one day will come when the tax rates will be lower, your income will be lower thus qualifying for the lowest tax bracket in the future tax rate schedule and I just never bought into that idea. I always could see the tax rates increasing from now until death for all of us. That concept may be considered a bit dismal, but I never thought that life would become cheaper in any way no matter how old we may become or how little or how much money we might earn or accumulate in the future. I only see the deferred income plan as a time bomb waiting to explode when we least can afford it to occur.
This is why I now say to all who hold deferred accounts to Withdraw or Rollover to a Roth IRA, pay the tax on the deferred income portion NOW while the tax rates are the lowest we will ever see. If you roll the money into an IRA, you may have to not only pay the tax on all of the deferred portion of the account, but depending on your age, pay a penalty as well. I still say that it is worth it. Especially if you are self employed, own a company of your own and expect to have an increased personal income over the coming years. With a Roth IRA, not only can you withdraw as much and whenever you want to withdraw tax free but you can also withdraw the earnings tax free, which is the main difference between a Roth IRA and any other bank account paying interest. Your contributions to the account in the future are not tax deductible on your tax returns but the account is MORE yours than any other way of saving with any tax savings at all. You are limited as to how much you can contribute to the account each year, so you must view this account as a long term savings account. Keep your easy access emergency money in a money market account or other savings account at your local bank
The IRA as an Inheritance
If you anticipate inheriting an IRA or if you plan to pass on an IRA account to your children, you may find the following information valuable. Mistakes are common in the complex world of Retirement Plan transfers to heirs. One wrong move and the entire account is taxed rather than tax deferred upon receipt by your heirs.This is not what you had in mind when you first setup the account with thought to the future and your heirs.
Don’t lose sight of what an IRA really is. The money you put in the plan is invested into mutual funds. You have no control over that investment vehicle, usually. All the earnings including interest, dividends and capital gains, grow tax deferred. Your heirs will owe income tax on any amount of money they remove from the account. With Roth IRA’s, the money comes out tax-free to you or your heirs. The tax sheltered growth could possibly continue for decades if desired.
A Spouse Inherits the IRA – If you have just inherited an IRA from your spouse, you can put the IRA in your own name or you can roll the money, tax free, into a new IRA also in your own name. Then, you can leave the money alone until you reach age 70-1/2 when required withdrawals must begin. With a Roth, money you don’t need can stay in the Roth for the next generation if desired.
If you, the spouse, are younger than age 59-1/2, you must leave the money in the account until you turn 59-1/2 or pay the 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal of the money. A solution to this dilemma is that you can re-title the account as “an inherited IRA “. The exact wording should go like this: “John Doe IRA deceased (December 1, 2012) for the benefit of Jane Doe, beneficiary”. After that re-titling is completed, you can take funds from the account free of any penalty, because it meets the tax law requirements of inherited income, which is tax exempt. Once you reach 59-1/2, go in and re-title the account a second time as follows, “Jane Doe IRA”. This way it is yours alone and you can defer until you are 70-1/2 years of age, not limited to the year when your late husband would have reached 70-1/2. This is very important. I suggest you should put a note in your tax copy folder or other place to remind you every year to check on the date for re-titling this account so as to avoid penalties later. (Read the opening paragraphs of this article.)
A child or non-spouse inherits the IRA – If you are a child or other person inheriting the IRA, you cannot roll the money in the account into an IRA in your own name. If you cash out the account, you will owe income taxes if it is not a Roth, but a traditional IRA and you will lose the long term growth tax shelter that an inherited IRA can provide. The answer is to also re-title the inherited IRA. Example is: “John Doe IRA, (deceased December 1, 2012) for the benefit of James Jones, beneficiary”. If the money is to be divided among two or more heirs, then each heir should re-title their portion of the IRA in the same manner. Don’t forget that each year you are required to withdraw a minimum amount according to your age and you can withdraw even more, The withdrawals are taxed and the remainder accumulates tax-deferred. (Read the opening paragraphs of this article.)
What if the plan is a 401-K? That plan can also be re-titled as an inherited IRA.
If you are planning your own estate, be sure and prepare a list of instructions to your executor or executrix. Especially if the one to handle your affairs is someone close to you who might be overwhelmed at the time of your death. In that list of things to do be sure and include instructions about re-titling any retirement accounts and to contact your trusted attorney or tax adviser for help in making the re-titling happen as soon as possible following your death for each beneficiary. (You might want to print a copy of this article and place it in the folder with the list.)
If you are interested in setting up a Simple IRA Plan for your Small Business, go to the IRS.gov website and copy the Publication 4334 or telephone 1800-829-3676. Another source might be to go to www.dol.gov/ebsa and click on Request Assistance or telephone toll free 1866-444-3272. (An alternative format to persons with disabilities upon request: voice phone 1202-693-8664 or TDD: 1202-501-3911.
TIPS FOR RETIREMENT
Review your retirement plans BEFORE you retire. In fact, review it every year before the year closes. Rethink every plan you have annually. As we age, we change our plans for the future and often change our minds about things we have as short term plans.
Your pension plan’s annual statement needs to be poured over and then pickup the phone if you have any questions about its performance now or later. Don’t put this off! If there are risks, rethink staying in the plan and consider cashing out. Discuss the tax impact of keeping it or cashing it out before you make a move on it.
Review your RMD and take any action required if it appears that your tax situation might be affected by keeping the plan or dropping the plan. Always know your options!
In planning ahead to retirement, consider a complete review of your health insurance. Do you have dental, hearing and vision coverage? Should you have long-term coverage in the event you find it necessary to check into advanced health care facilities or services? Plan on a medicare supplemental plan.
Review your life insurance and last expenses policy(ies). If you can prepay your crematory or burial policies, it would be a great thing to do. Put something in your wallet to be sure the hospital or caregiver who might be with you at the end of your term will know what do to and who to call for handling your last services.
Never take it for granted that someone else will carry your burden just because you did not plan ahead. DO remember that things will never get cheaper. Things always increase in price and allow for high medical expenses to get higher from year to year.