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tax adjusted portfolio value
Old 01-23-2013, 11:31 AM   #1
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tax adjusted portfolio value

The recent poll that showed wide (and nearly random) variations in the percentage of assets of forum members being held in taxable accounts got me thinking. Even though conventional wisdom encourages people to put retirement savings in tax deferred accounts, the people who ignore this advice and invest mostly in taxable accounts during their accumulation years do have a significant tax advantage in retirement. At the cost of what was most likely a higher tax bill during the accumulation phase, they have also probably reduced their future tax liability after retirement. So an apples-to-apples comparision of two different retirement portfolios should include an adjustment for future tax liability.

For my family, this means an adjustment for the funds in our tax deferred 457 plans. I have about $575,000 deferred and DW has $175,000. Our combined earned income this year puts us close to the top of the 15% tax bracket, but in future years we should be able to make about $50,000 per year in withdrawals and/or Roth conversions while remaining in the 15% bracket. So I expect our entire 457 balances to be taxed at 15%, for a total tax liability of .15*(575000+175000) = $112,500. That's federal taxes only. There would be a similar calculation for state taxes, unless we decide to move to a state with no income tax.

This $112,500 is something I would not expect to pay if we currently had the entire $750,000 invested in taxable accounts with no unrealized capital gains.

Is this a reasonable adjustment to make of portfolio balances at the beginning of retirement? I don't know the inner workings of Firecalc, so I don't know if it allows such an adjustment. It seems to me that the amount is large enough that it should be included in one's retirement planning.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:19 PM   #2
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It looks reasonable to me, although you could fine tune it a bit more by taking into account exemptions and the deduction, at least the standard one.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:24 PM   #3
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Good point. I know a number of very smart wealthy folks who STOPPED contributing to non-matching retirement accts a few yrs ago on theory that top marginal tax rates would rise. Somewhat dated specifics, but they felt paying 28% now was better than paying much higher rates just a few yrs later. In some cases they were right. The benefit of tax deferral was less than the increase in marginal tax (inc. Medicare & state income taxes)
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:29 PM   #4
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I don't think many people adjust portfolio balances at the beginning of retirement as you suggest.

What you are suggesting is what accountants refer to as deferred income taxes. In your case, you have a deferred income tax liability of $112,500 and it would reduce your net worth. So if you were to hire a CPA to prepare personal financial statements for you (for say, a bank loan or something like that) your net worth would be reduced by the $112,500.

But in my experience in informal groups like ours, deferred taxes are not typically included. In my case, I hope to be able to manage my income so I pay very little taxes on my tax-deferred funds.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:31 PM   #5
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Yes, when I compute my net worth, I compute it on after-tax basis. I make adjustments as follows:
Roth - no adjustments
401k/tIRA - 0.75 * balance (conservatively assuming 25% rate on these)
taxable - 0.9 * balance (you have to pay taxes for appreciation here too - you can estimate this one better if know or can estimate your basis... and of course if you tax-loss-harvested, you will have to pay more taxes as well)

Then, total these up for net worth.
I also use these after-tax adjustments for asset allocation purposes (e.g. for computing stocks vs bonds percentages, etc.).
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:55 PM   #6
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Yes, when I compute my net worth, I compute it on after-tax basis. I make adjustments as follows:
Roth - no adjustments
401k/tIRA - 0.75 * balance (conservatively assuming 25% rate on these)
taxable - 0.9 * balance (you have to pay taxes for appreciation here too - you can estimate this one better if know or can estimate your basis... and of course if you tax-loss-harvested, you will have to pay more taxes as well)

Then, total these up for net worth.
I also use these after-tax adjustments for asset allocation purposes (e.g. for computing stocks vs bonds percentages, etc.).
Not to nitpick, but if you're withdrawing say $90k/yr as a couple, in 2013 your effective tax would be 15.9% (because of the difference between marginal and effective tax rates). Don't sell yourself TOO short
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:59 PM   #7
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Not to nitpick, but if you're withdrawing say $90k/yr as a couple, in 2013 your effective tax would be 15.9% (because of the difference between marginal and effective tax rates). Don't sell yourself TOO short
Well...

- I rather be more conservative than less

- I will be withdrawing in a very long time, so tax rates are very unclear this far in advance

- 25% includes federal, state, local, any other applicable taxes

- It's not clear to me if 401(k) funds will be the only taxable ones upon distribution. For example, if social security is still there and is taxables to a degree, then effective rate on 401(k) will be higher than assuming it's at the "bottom" of the tax rates.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:11 PM   #8
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Not to nitpick, but if you're withdrawing say $90k/yr as a couple, in 2013 your effective tax would be 15.9% (because of the difference between marginal and effective tax rates). Don't sell yourself TOO short
+1 my view would be that you should use the tax rates that you expect to apply to income generated by the asset as you redeem it considering likely tax strategies. typically it would be based only on enacted tax law applicable to the expected taxable amounts (in other words, changes in tax laws or rates would not be anticipated).

The relevant tax rates to be applied is usually the most judgmental part.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:12 PM   #9
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Well...

- I rather be more conservative than less

- I will be withdrawing in a very long time, so tax rates are very unclear this far in advance

- 25% includes federal, state, local, any other applicable taxes

- It's not clear to me if 401(k) funds will be the only taxable ones upon distribution. For example, if social security is still there and is taxables to a degree, then effective rate on 401(k) will be higher than assuming it's at the "bottom" of the tax rates.
Cushions are allowed, for sure. You just didn't even mention how much you'd be withdrawing, so 25% effective rate seemed pretty high (as most people are in a lower bracket in retirement anyways).

Personally, I invest in various investments that carry various tax implications, so that I don't have to worry about trying to min/max in my accumulation phase. I'll just try to use those particular investments to my advantage when the time comes.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:12 PM   #10
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Is this a reasonable adjustment to make of portfolio balances at the beginning of retirement? I don't know the inner workings of Firecalc, so I don't know if it allows such an adjustment. It seems to me that the amount is large enough that it should be included in one's retirement planning.
Seems to me you would want to know this for two reasons. One is to compare with others. The other is to make sure you have enough money to fund your retirement. The way most here deal with the second is to include taxes on withdrawals as part of their spending. This is what FIRECalc assumes. When comparing with purely after-tax portfolios, calculating the deferred tax works. So does comparing withdrawal rate %, if they include income tax on the amount withdrawn.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:17 PM   #11
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Good point, if you are using tax adjusted portfolio amounts then you should probably reduce spending to only reflect taxes on current income in taxable accounts and exclude taxes on tax-deferred distributions so you don't double count.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:34 PM   #12
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25% effective rate seemed pretty high (as most people are in a lower bracket in retirement anyways).
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+1 my view would be that you should use the tax rates that you expect to apply to income generated by the asset as you redeem it considering likely tax strategies. typically it would be based only on enacted tax law applicable to the expected taxable amounts (in other words, changes in tax laws or rates would not be anticipated).
To give an example from today's tax laws... Take a person receiving Social Security. Due to the way it is taxed today, after first ~19k of taxable income, the rest of the withdrawal will be taxed at 22.5% rate (because every additional dollar will bring in $0.5 in taxable social security). And after ~28k, marginal tax rate will be 27.75% (increase of each $1 will bring in $0.85 into taxable territory).

This does not even account for state (or any other) taxes...

And yes, effective tax rate will be lower in above example of course but just saying the numbers are not totally out of wack... (unfortunately)
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Old 01-23-2013, 07:03 PM   #13
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Who says we ignored the advice to use tax deferred accounts? I put in enough to get the company match in early years, and in my later working years I maxed out my 401K, and was ineligible for a Roth. It just happened that I made enough primarily through employee stock options, and secondarily through ESPP and other investments that most of my nest egg is in taxable accounts.

Like smjsl, I also figure my net worth for SWR rate purposes based on an after tax calculation taking out 15% federal and 5.75% state for IRA distributions/conversions and LTCGs. It may be a bit high, especially for LTCGs, but I'll take the cushion.
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Old 01-23-2013, 07:17 PM   #14
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If one is in the 15% marginal income tax bracket, their effective tax rate has got to be less than 5%. That's because lots of their income is not taxed and only a little bit is taxed at 15%. Plus cap gains and qualified dividends are taxed at 0% for these folks.

I worked out our tax rate for spending $100,000 from our retirement portfolio. Basically, the overall rate was essentially 0%. Thus, there was no need to tax-adjust anything. (Aren't Roth conversions at a 0% tax rate nice?)

But this discussion occurs every so often. It seems to me that folks with pensions are the ones that will be paying taxes. For folks without pensions, are they not surprised that their taxes essentially disappear?
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:02 PM   #15
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But this discussion occurs every so often. It seems to me that folks with pensions are the ones that will be paying taxes. For folks without pensions, are they not surprised that their taxes essentially disappear?
As I just stopped working and barely got started in figuring out the tax situation for a non-pensioner retiree, I found this was way, way, too good to believe.
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Old 01-24-2013, 05:55 AM   #16
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If one is in the 15% marginal income tax bracket, their effective tax rate has got to be less than 5%. That's because lots of their income is not taxed and only a little bit is taxed at 15%. Plus cap gains and qualified dividends are taxed at 0% for these folks.

I worked out our tax rate for spending $100,000 from our retirement portfolio. Basically, the overall rate was essentially 0%. Thus, there was no need to tax-adjust anything. (Aren't Roth conversions at a 0% tax rate nice?)

But this discussion occurs every so often. It seems to me that folks with pensions are the ones that will be paying taxes. For folks without pensions, are they not surprised that their taxes essentially disappear?
I'm glad your taxes are so low. For others, such as my family, tax considerations form an essential part of retirement planning. Our pension income and DW's earned income will put us well into the 15% tax bracket for the foreseeable future. That means that every dollar I withdraw from my 457 plan will be taxed at 15% federal. State taxes will put the total tax burden on withdrawals over 20%. So the key for us is to limit the damage by staying in the 15% bracket. I have a plan which should allow us to do so, but it doesn't change the fact that I have an expected future tax burden in the low six figures, which should really be subtracted from the value of our portfolio in order to give an accurate picture of our financial situation.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:06 AM   #17
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I also use these after-tax adjustments for asset allocation purposes (e.g. for computing stocks vs bonds percentages, etc.).
Would you mind explaining your after-tax asset allocation in more depth? It sounds to me as if you are doing something like the following hypothetical calculation:

pre-tax portfolio size = $1,000,000
after-tax value = $900,000

Asset allocaton targets:
50% stocks
50% bonds

If this were your situation, would you invest 50% of $900,000 = $450,000 in stocks and bonds because $900,000 is a more accurate measure of your portfolio's value than $1,000,000? If so, what do you do with the extra $100,000?
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:44 AM   #18
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If one is in the 15% marginal income tax bracket, their effective tax rate has got to be less than 5%. That's because lots of their income is not taxed and only a little bit is taxed at 15%. Plus cap gains and qualified dividends are taxed at 0% for these folks.

I worked out our tax rate for spending $100,000 from our retirement portfolio. Basically, the overall rate was essentially 0%. Thus, there was no need to tax-adjust anything. (Aren't Roth conversions at a 0% tax rate nice?)

But this discussion occurs every so often. It seems to me that folks with pensions are the ones that will be paying taxes. For folks without pensions, are they not surprised that their taxes essentially disappear?
I suppose the reason folks with pensions pay taxes is because the funding for those pensions was pre-tax?

Yep - save pre-tax (tax deferred) and pay taxes during retirement when you draw on those savings. Save post-tax, pay taxes while working and while investments are growing, and tax burden is lower in retirement. Makes sense - you pay sooner, or you pay later.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:50 AM   #19
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I'm glad your taxes are so low. For others, such as my family, tax considerations form an essential part of retirement planning. Our pension income and DW's earned income will put us well into the 15% tax bracket for the foreseeable future. That means that every dollar I withdraw from my 457 plan will be taxed at 15% federal. State taxes will put the total tax burden on withdrawals over 20%. So the key for us is to limit the damage by staying in the 15% bracket. I have a plan which should allow us to do so, but it doesn't change the fact that I have an expected future tax burden in the low six figures, which should really be subtracted from the value of our portfolio in order to give an accurate picture of our financial situation.
Ah, yes, as long as someone is in the household earning a (large enough) salary, funds drawn (pensions, IRA withdrawal, etc.) on top of that are taxed at the marginal rate.

Personally, I just know my taxes come out of my annual withdrawal as an expense, and that was budgeted for since day 1. I have no need to calculate the "after-tax" value of my portfolio.
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:01 AM   #20
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Personally, I just know my taxes come out of my annual withdrawal as an expense, and that was budgeted for since day 1. I have no need to calculate the "after-tax" value of my portfolio.
+1

I budget for two categories of taxes each year: property tax and income tax. Works for me.
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