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Your advice on a withdrawal strategy
Old 06-24-2008, 04:01 PM   #1
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Your advice on a withdrawal strategy

Ok...excuse me if a bit long-winded...but would like your thoughts on my situation.
  • Age 46, wife 50
  • No kids
  • Hope to retire when I'm 52 in 6 years, wife will be 56
  • Currently $850k in retirement accounts, split amongst 401k, Roth, traditional, and some after tax 401k as well.
  • $75k in MM fund as our emergency fund
  • All proper insurance in place, including $1M umbrella (may have to increase to $2M soon )
  • House will be paid off in 5+ years
  • Minimal car debt...will be paid off in 10 months
  • No pension...company has a cash balance plan, and the amounts for that are included in the $900k above.
  • Including both our contributions and our company's contributions...we are adding $61k/year to our retirement balance currently
  • I'm estimating our balance at retirement to be $1.8M in all accounts (using an 8% growth rate for the next 6 years…a bit risky for sure)
  • Currently combined gross is $160/year, but I’ve done a complete retirement needs analysis and estimate we'll need about $85k/year net to live on after retirement (just stopping our retirement savings along will save us $45k net...and the house will be paid off..saving another $25k/year)
  • We’ll most likely have to purchase health insurance on the open market…I’ve included that in our needs analysis
Now here's the question. Most experts recommend withdrawing tax-deferred money last so that it can grow. However, if we do this, we'll be using up all our after-tax money in the early retirement years. The implication of this is that later, we’ll be withdrawing ~$85k/year of pre-tax money, so we’ll be paying higher marginal rates on all $85k.

Keep in mind I’m making several simplifying assumptions to keep the analysis from getting overly complex. For example, we actually plan to work PT in retirement…but we’ll leave that out for now.


Scenario 1:
  • Follow popular wisdom of taking all AT money first.
  • Pay zero taxes in first 5 years, effectively depleting after-tax amounts
  • Then start using PT money and pay taxes on full amount
  • Years 1-5 – pay zero taxes
  • Years 6 - ?? pay $13,930/year (adjusted up for inflation)

Scenario 2 (my preferred method)
  • Each year in retirement, take out just enough from the pre-tax money to get us to the top of the 15% marginal bracket (~$61k in 2008, then take all additional amounts from monies that have already been taxed. This would limit our tax rate to 15% for all future years
  • Years 1-?? – pay $3,600/year (adjusted up for inflation)
I suppose I could run a discounted cash flow analysis using a 6-7% investment opportunity cost rate, and see what NPV comes out ahead…but was wondering if I’m thinking of the opportunity correctly in my specific case.

Thanks,

Dave
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Old 06-24-2008, 04:15 PM   #2
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Your intuition is correct, you want to use up the lower brackets.

This calculator may help you: Retirement Calculator

You might do a little better with Roth conversions instead of spending to use up the low brackets.
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Old 06-24-2008, 05:42 PM   #3
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My circumstances and plan are similar to yours. I intend to do what you describe in Scenario 2 as well. But not only because it will be all taxable income at the end in Scenario 1.

You (and hopefully many others including me) will have a very long retirement. As you may be implying, I don't see any way possible that tax rates/brackets won't rise in the future, probably considerably. I suspect the current rates are as low as we will ever see in our lives (read The Coming Generational Storm for reference). So I want to be withdrawing from my brokerage and tax deferred accounts throughout my retirement up to the limit of the 15% bracket when I start retirement. But I assume you/we will have some ST (taxable as income) and LT gains (capital gains) from my brokerage account holdings that will also have to be figured in - so we'll have to be careful how much tax deferred cash we withdraw to keep total income under the 15% bracket. My 2...
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:50 PM   #4
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Finance Dave,

I think you're onto to the right idea, but you should run your own numbers.

The advice to take already taxed money first works for me PROVIDED I incur taxes anyway to do Roth conversions. Otherwise, my IRA grows bigger, and RMDs (7 more years for me) move me from the 15% to the 25% bracket for the rest of my life!

I did some modeling of various alternatives for my particular situation, and posted results at www.geocities.com/baldeaglenw
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Old 06-25-2008, 12:50 AM   #5
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Would you guys quit teasing me with your thread titles?
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Old 06-25-2008, 03:17 PM   #6
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I am about 18 years behind you- meaning I expect to encounter this problem in about 18 years. I like scenario 2 or hidden scenario #3.

You have 6 years to implement a hybrid strategy of #2 and other choices:

1) can you divert most new contributions to retirement accounts with either a Roth status or taxable status?
2) are you eligible for Roth conversions now if you do #1? Probably not based on income, but something to consider.

The goal- get the 75k cash account up to 6 figure range in 6 years. You will be 52 when you retire, you have 17 years before you HAVE to withdraw the tax defferred accounts.

The question- if you have 1,445k in taxable accounts (1.445 M=17 years*85k of annual expenses), you have enough to live on while converting the tax deferred to a Roth status. That should lower future tax bills more than the scenario 2 you presented. Might raise current taxes some, but only for 6 years. You would need to calculate the tax cost (25%* converted amount) and compare to the $3600*17=$61200 bill you would have otherwise.
17 years is 65100*17=~1,200k worth of tax deferred assets you can convert to a Roth at 15% tax bracket- you don't have 1.2 M now, so your case is less than this.

I realize you do not have (and probably will not have) 1.4 M in taxable accounts or 1.2 M in tax deferred accounts. But take those two extreme examples, and find the middle which allows all your 401k, rollover and tax deferred monies to be converted to a 100% Roth flavor before age 69.5.

It's possible you have most of this done by age 59.5 and the whole strategy is then tax free for remainder of your life (even less than the $3600/yr you estimated).

Probably makes most sense to do the conversions when you are in 15% tax bracket, so you might need to wait 6 years to do this (as opposed to taking advantage of 2010 limit elimination).
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Old 06-25-2008, 05:53 PM   #7
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We've been basically doing your scenario #2 (maxing out IRA -> Roth conversions). The amount you can convert is:
convert = A + B + C - D - E - F

A = top of 15% bracket
B = exemptions
C = Sch A itemized deductions
D = interest
E = dividends
F = cap gains

When doing this it's best to be a little conservative as it's no fun at all to have to do a recharacterization and file a 1040X as I found out.
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Withdrawal is not a 100% safe
Old 06-25-2008, 10:25 PM   #8
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Withdrawal is not a 100% safe

My girlfriend told me the withdrawal method is not entirely safe!
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Old 06-25-2008, 10:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 37andhappy View Post
My girlfriend told me the withdrawal method is not entirely safe!
Funny, I've often thought the same but felt it impolite to point this out as so many find pleasure with it.
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:11 PM   #10
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Would you guys quit teasing me with your thread titles?
I don't understand your comment.
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:18 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jIMOh View Post
I am about 18 years behind you- meaning I expect to encounter this problem in about 18 years. I like scenario 2 or hidden scenario #3.

You have 6 years to implement a hybrid strategy of #2 and other choices:

1) can you divert most new contributions to retirement accounts with either a Roth status or taxable status?
2) are you eligible for Roth conversions now if you do #1? Probably not based on income, but something to consider.

The goal- get the 75k cash account up to 6 figure range in 6 years. You will be 52 when you retire, you have 17 years before you HAVE to withdraw the tax defferred accounts.

The question- if you have 1,445k in taxable accounts (1.445 M=17 years*85k of annual expenses), you have enough to live on while converting the tax deferred to a Roth status. That should lower future tax bills more than the scenario 2 you presented. Might raise current taxes some, but only for 6 years. You would need to calculate the tax cost (25%* converted amount) and compare to the $3600*17=$61200 bill you would have otherwise.
17 years is 65100*17=~1,200k worth of tax deferred assets you can convert to a Roth at 15% tax bracket- you don't have 1.2 M now, so your case is less than this.

I realize you do not have (and probably will not have) 1.4 M in taxable accounts or 1.2 M in tax deferred accounts. But take those two extreme examples, and find the middle which allows all your 401k, rollover and tax deferred monies to be converted to a 100% Roth flavor before age 69.5.

It's possible you have most of this done by age 59.5 and the whole strategy is then tax free for remainder of your life (even less than the $3600/yr you estimated).

Probably makes most sense to do the conversions when you are in 15% tax bracket, so you might need to wait 6 years to do this (as opposed to taking advantage of 2010 limit elimination).
Not sure I follow this...let me summarize and see if I get it....

You're suggesting I take the max out of my 401k each year up to the 25% bracket, and put that into a Roth WHILE I'M RETIRED so that I effectively convert my 401k into Roth money by the time I must take RMDs?

If so, that sounds like an option I should look at.

You asked if I could divert new contributions from my 401k to a Roth? No, my income is too high.

Can I divert them to taxable accounts? Yes, but then I lose the company match and my current tax rates go up. I suppose I could put in just 6% (enough to get the match), and the other 12% (yes, I'm saving 18% pre-tax today and 8% after-tax in my 401k).

I guess I'd have to run some complex numbers to see if that strategy makes sense....basically paying more taxes now so that I will have lower taxes later.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Dave

Edit: In addition to the 18% and 8% in my 401k, I'm contributing $4,000/year to a Traditional NON-DEDUCTIBLE IRA. I'm doing this so that I can do the conversion to Roth in 2010 Plan now to make most of 2010 Roth conversion rules | Gazette, The (Colorado Springs) | Find Articles at BNET.
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsbcal View Post
We've been basically doing your scenario #2 (maxing out IRA -> Roth conversions). The amount you can convert is:
convert = A + B + C - D - E - F

A = top of 15% bracket
B = exemptions
C = Sch A itemized deductions
D = interest
E = dividends
F = cap gains

When doing this it's best to be a little conservative as it's no fun at all to have to do a recharacterization and file a 1040X as I found out.
Isbcal,

Were you talking about MY scenario #2? Or the guy who posted just before you?

I was not planning on a CONVERSION...rather just withdrawing the 401k money and spending it. Please clarify...I'm a bit confused now.

Thanks,

Dave
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:36 PM   #13
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This is the kind of scenario that ESPlanner could help you with. Given a rate of return, it will tell you what scenario will get you the best consumption over your lifetime taking into account taxes, RMD, SS & taxes on it etc.

I don't think it can take movement of funds from IRA/401K to Roth IRAs into account, but not sure.
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:41 PM   #14
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This is the kind of scenario that ESPlanner could help you with. Given a rate of return, it will tell you what scenario will get you the best consumption over your lifetime taking into account taxes, RMD, SS & taxes on it etc.

I don't think it can take movement of funds from IRA/401K to Roth IRAs into account, but not sure.
Yes, thanks...I'll try ESP Planner...just need to find an hour of solitude.
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:52 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post
...Were you talking about MY scenario #2? Or the guy who posted just before you?

I was not planning on a CONVERSION...rather just withdrawing the 401k money and spending it. Please clarify...I'm a bit confused now.
...
Sorry Dave, I misread your post. My reply was assuming that the conversion amounts were what kept you within the 15% bracket. Of course, if you have to withdraw to get the living expenses you need then my reply was inappropriate.
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Old 06-29-2008, 03:05 AM   #16
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Sorry Dave, I misread your post. My reply was assuming that the conversion amounts were what kept you within the 15% bracket. Of course, if you have to withdraw to get the living expenses you need then my reply was inappropriate.
Thanks for clarifying isbcal. Yes I will have to withdraw to live on the money. But we do have lots of options since we're different ages (we turn 59 1/2 at different times and reach SS age at different times...so our access to money is all over the place...actually I see this as a "good" thing).

Dave
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nondeductible IRAs
Old 06-29-2008, 06:56 AM   #17
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nondeductible IRAs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post
I'm contributing $4,000/year to a Traditional NON-DEDUCTIBLE IRA. I'm doing this so that I can do the conversion to Roth in 2010.
Be careful with this. You have to pay taxes on this proportionately meaning if you have $10,000 in nondeductible IRAs and $90,000 in deductible, if you convert the $10,000 you cannot "pick" the nondeductible part. The government says $9,000 came from deductible and only $1,000 from nondeductible, so you would owe taxes on 90% of the conversion.

I do not think 401ks count in the equation, but you mention you have some traditional IRAs. Depending on the amount, it may not make sense to do the conversion while you are still working.
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Old 06-29-2008, 07:27 AM   #18
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FD,

Reading your initial post looks like almost all of your money is in sheltered accounts. If so, you will have a hard time limiting your marginal tax rate to 15%. You might want to go and max out the 25% tax rate and convert taxable IRA money to your Roth. That will leave you with the ability to not get forced to go over the 25% bracket between SS and RMD.

I didn't see when you were planning to start SS. I tend to assume that people with assets will defer to age 70 but since your wife is older the benefit to her is less. Unfortunately, taking SS drastically increases your marginal tax rate. That's why its good to move money into your Roth for use after you start taking SS.

It's obvious the FA business pays pretty well.
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Old 06-29-2008, 04:02 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post
Not sure I follow this...let me summarize and see if I get it....

You're suggesting I take the max out of my 401k each year up to the 25% bracket, and put that into a Roth WHILE I'M RETIRED so that I effectively convert my 401k into Roth money by the time I must take RMDs?
YES, this is what I was referring to as a third scenario. I think it was mentioned by another poster too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post


You asked if I could divert new contributions from my 401k to a Roth? No, my income is too high.
I guessed that, but that option needed alknowledgement.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post
Can I divert them to taxable accounts? Yes, but then I lose the company match and my current tax rates go up. I suppose I could put in just 6% (enough to get the match), and the other 12% (yes, I'm saving 18% pre-tax today and 8% after-tax in my 401k).
I would stop the taxable 401k contributions and at least divert those funds to a taxable account option. This will give you more flexibility (get the taxable account balance higher so you have options).

I understand saving on taxes now- you are in 25 or 28% bracket, I believe. If the 401k is not lowering your current tax bracket, I would seriously look at getting taxable account balance higher.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finance Dave View Post

I guess I'd have to run some complex numbers to see if that strategy makes sense....basically paying more taxes now so that I will have lower taxes later.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Dave

Edit: In addition to the 18% and 8% in my 401k, I'm contributing $4,000/year to a Traditional NON-DEDUCTIBLE IRA. I'm doing this so that I can do the conversion to Roth in 2010 Plan now to make most of 2010 Roth conversion rules | Gazette, The (Colorado Springs) | Find Articles at BNET.
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Old 06-29-2008, 06:58 PM   #20
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Be careful with this. You have to pay taxes on this proportionately meaning if you have $10,000 in nondeductible IRAs and $90,000 in deductible, if you convert the $10,000 you cannot "pick" the nondeductible part. The government says $9,000 came from deductible and only $1,000 from nondeductible, so you would owe taxes on 90% of the conversion.

I do not think 401ks count in the equation, but you mention you have some traditional IRAs. Depending on the amount, it may not make sense to do the conversion while you are still working.

Thanks for pointing this out...although that's not a concern to me. I have two IRAs currently.
1) A Roth
2) A non-deductible traditional IRA

In 2010 I plan to transfer all the traditional money into the Roth...and at that point all of my IRA money will be non-taxed. Yes, at the point of conversion I'll have to pay tax on any earnings in the non-deductible traditional...and I'm ok with that.

I think the key point is that I do not have any deductible traditional IRAs...thus simplifying my situation.

Dave
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