Tax planning is important stuff. Perhaps not as exciting as the markets but saving money on taxes can still be exciting! Mid-November begins the countdown to year-end. The following is a handy Tax Planning Checklist.* Some of these items, if done now, could make a big difference to the 2021 tax year AND add to savings.
1. How close are you to maxing out your 401k? The max is $19,500 for those under age 50 and an extra $6,500 for those age 50 and above. The deadline is December 31st and lots of 401k and 403b plans allow contributions of as much as 25-30% or even 100% of pay. Contribution rates can be lowered again in the new year.
The real title of this edition is: The 401k Trap – Have a 401k Strategy.
It has become clear that there is more to saving in a 401k than…simply saving in a 401k. Last year, amidst no travel and not being able to see clients and friends face-to-face, two colleagues and I took 5 months to write an actionable guide to the critical need – due to potentially higher taxes in the future – for a strategy around 401k saving TODAY. For Everyone. The name of the paper is: The 401k Trap.
For those who are just getting started saving in a company 401k or 403b, the strategies we suggest could make a huge difference in 10 years and beyond; for those who have been saving in a 401k for 15-20 years or more, a strategy may be even more urgent.
The key reason is taxes. It is true that no one knows for sure where tax rates will be in 5-10-20 years from today. But with history as a guide and the fact that tax rates on the federal level are near all-time lows, the conclusion can be drawn that tax rates will only be higher in the intermediate- and long-term future. This state of affairs will punish those who have done the hard work of saving large balances in pre-tax 401k and IRA accounts.
These are trying times. Despite the strains of pandemic, home schooling, work furloughs, and entire families sitting at dining room tables on laptops… there are still BIG decisions and “leaps of faith” to be made. Namely,
Annual Healthcare Enrollment (deadlines looming)
401k contributions by year-end amidst a year of zany cash flows
Kids’ high school enrollments (these have changed for lots of people)
College semester enrollment and tuition payments
Home improvements like, “Do I add a home office?”… and more.
Don’t even get me started on – “Do I know who my beneficiaries are?” or “When do I start taking Social Security?”
As we approach the end of the weirdest year ever, nearly everyone wants 2020 to be O-V-E-R (unless you love birthdays, and your birthday is between now and December 31st).
The year-end countdown has begun, and soon it will be too late to make certain positive changes to your 2020 tax situation. Several of these items, if addressed now, could make a big or small difference to your 2020 tax filing, AND add to your savings.
Talking taxes on a Friday is a lot easier than talking taxes on a Monday! Believe it or not, at this time of year it is smart to be talking taxes no matter what. Preparation and planning are the name of the game.*
The issue of higher FUTURE taxes is critical to clients of all income levels – especially those in higher tax brackets – and all ages. You will hear me repeatedly hammering home this “tax trap” issue – with the research and collaboration from my sources to back it up.
Here is some “good” news when it comes to taxes and tax strategies: the Roth IRA, Roth IRA conversion and Roth 401k are alive and well for now. The “good” part is that for nearly ALL reading this, you ARE eligible for both the Roth IRA conversion and the Roth 401k (if your company offers a Roth 401k) even if you are in the higher/highest income brackets or own a business! And these strategies can be employed NOW for 2020 and 2021.
Now that the calendar has turned from April to May there will be in effect a “Tax Time Groundhog Day” on July 15th, which is the new 2019 Federal (and most States*) filing deadline for 2019 taxes.
A number of people reading this note may already have signed and filed their 2019 tax returns^ in order to turn the page and move on to 2020 spending, budgeting and saving. However, if you are in the camp that is stretching out your 2019 filing until the July 15th date, then consider a few last-minute items:
As the year turned from 2019 to 2020, there stealthily rolled in several of the most sweeping reforms to retirement and tax legislation in a decade or so (outside of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA). The recent changes apply to IRA, 401k and other retirement savings accounts. If any of these apply to you then please read on:
Turning 70½ this or next year
Own a business with or proposing a 401k plan
Working for a small company and do not have access to a 401k plan
Need an early distribution for reasons of qualified birth or adoption