Top 10 Retirement Savings Tips

Retirement: that sweet period of respite between work and death. If you do it right, this can be the greatest time of your life. Saving for retirement is the only way to ensure your “good years” don’t suck.

There are a lot of tricks the government uses to get its hands on your hard-earned money. You’ve poured years of your life into your retirement savings, so you should keep as much of it as you can.

Think you’re too young to think about this stuff? We hope you enjoy many remaining years of youth and beauty. But be advised: If you start planning for retirement early, you’ll be better prepared to keep more of your money when you’ve gotten a little long in the tooth.

Here are our top ten tips to keep you from parting with your hard-earned cash.

1. Avoid Early Withdrawal Penalties

A distribution from your IRA or 401k before 59 and half years old will incur a ten percent penalty. You’ll be paying taxes on it, too. That’s like getting punched in the ear and kicked in the shin at the same time. Hilarious, but it really hurts.
So, unless you need the money to keep yourself alive before sixty, you should leave it in the fund. Simple.

2. Avoid Required Minimum Distributions (RMD)

Whether you can spend it or not, your frenemies at the IRS are going to start making you take distributions after 70 and a half years old unless you’re still employed. These distributions are going to be taxed. There isn’t a lot you can do here from within a traditional retirement package.

The workaround? The Roth IRA. Unlike traditional IRAs, there are no RMDs for Roth IRAs during the account owner’s lifetime. You don’t have to take distributions. If you want to let it grow, grow it will.

3. Don’t Take Large Distributions in One Year

The money from your traditional retirement account is subject to tax at the time of distribution. If you take too much in one year, it can push you into a hire tax bracket. You’re older now. Take small nibbles. You’ll live longer.

4. Beware The Distribution Withholding

Most distributions are subject to 20% withholding by the IRS in anticipation of a tax penalty, unless you’re at the age of 59 and a half. In the case of an IRA, this might be lowered to 10%.

This is yet another reason to leave your money to grow a little longer. When you start a retirement plan, it’s long term. Think like the tortoise, not the hare.

5. Convert to a Roth IRA to Avoid Tax Penalties

Again, Roth IRAs are the real smart play. You can use tax penalties to offset income that arises when you convert traditional IRAs or 401ks to Roth accounts.

When you convert to a Roth account, you pay tax on the amount of the conversion, but believe me it’s worth it. These sexy beasts grow entirely tax free and there is no tax on distributions.

Speaking of Roth IRAs and Roth 401ks, these next five tips are exclusively for you masters who’ve already caught on.

6. Generate Passive Income With Rental Properties

Use your real estate knowledge and connections to identify the best real estate investment opportunities. Then use those properties to generate passive income that you can put toward your retirement.

7. “Designated” Roth 401ks Must Take RMDs

Yeah. Tax code is confusing. “Designated” 401(k) accounts have to take distributions. These are part of your employer plan. That’s what designated means.

If you don’t want to take money out, we’ve covered this. Roll the 401k into a Roth IRA when your reach 70 years old.

8. Distributions of Contributions Are Always Tax-Free

Unless, of course, the government decides to change things up. But for now, distributions of contributions to a Roth IRA are always tax-free. No matter your age. You pay the tax up front. You don’t pay it twice.

9. Don’t Take Early Distributions of Roth IRA Earnings

Before you get too excited by the prospect of drawing money from your Roth IRA, remember that you have to be 59 and a half years of age or older and you have to have had the Roth account for five years or longer. Slow and steady wins the race.

10. Leave Your Roth IRA Alone

Because they aren’t the most tax efficient funds while they are invested, you have another reason to let your Roth IRA grow as long as possible. Tax-free accounts are the best way to earn income in the U.S. if you use them right, but using them right is a matter of being patient while your money grows.

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.

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