Withdrawing Income in Retirement




While we use up much of our employment income toward paying for our retirement accounts, we rarely consider what we need to do when taking it out in retirement. For example, if you have pre-tax, Roth, and taxable accounts, how much money should you take out from each account? Consider these few suggestions:


1) What is the safe amount to withdraw? Your safest choice is to only take out earnings and the principal but at present dividend yields and interest rates, not expecting to get anything beyond more or less 2% of your portfolio. It is not much for majority of people and the amount can shift and will not catch up with inflation over the long haul.


The normal rule-of-thumb is that you can securely take out about 4% of the initial value of a diversified portfolio and raise that amount to keep pace with inflation for 30 years or so. But the rule was conceived back in the 1990s when interest rates were higher and many financial experts consider the rule as passé, including the financial planner who developed it. Likewise, it does not include the possibility of you withdrawing higher amounts while you are paying a mortgage or before you begin using your pension and Social Security benefits; hence, a fixed withdrawal rate may not actually be practical at all.


The other way is to make use of a retirement calculator (you can browse for a free app online) to help you appreciate how your portfolio withdrawals might have progressed historically. Although not a certainty, if you would have endured every rolling-time event since 1871, you are bound to outlast others.


2) How are your accounts taxed? Withdrawals from a conventional pre-tax retirement account will be fully taxed as regular income. A Roth account that you have held for a minimum of 5 years and you are, say over 59½ years of age, will be offer tax-free withdrawals. Likewise, loans from cash-value life insurance and reverse mortgage payments are tax-free. In general, investments in regular taxable accounts can be taxed as long as you withdraw gains and not your principal.


3) Do you plan to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act? If you intend to retire prior to becoming eligible for Medicare at 65, you have to determine where you will get health insurance. One choice is under the Affordable Care Act (if it still applies) since insurance firms cannot disqualify you for pre-existing conditions and you can avail of tax credits that reduce your premiums.


Since those credits are calculated according to your taxable income, you stand to gain by delaying any withdrawals from pre-tax accounts and instead using tax-free sources or taxable accounts to reduce your taxable income and, it follows, your insurance premiums.