With a Roth you determine when you want to pay the taxes for what you put into the account. This is a benefit of the Roth that way too often gets overlooked.
Remember, anything contributed to a Roth is with after-tax money. If you choose the Roth, you pay tax now. If you choose the Traditional you pay tax later. It’s up to you when you want to pay the tax.
Let’s play out a scenario to see how this may work for you. Sarah and Dan just retired. Sarah is 62 and Dan 66. They are not taking Social Security yet just living off the savings they were able to squirrel away.
They have no mortgage and they figure they spend about $50,000 a year total, on everything, vacations, bills, helping the kids out occasionally, etc.
They have accumulated $300k in their 401ks and rolled those accounts to IRAs. They also have $150k in savings accounts. They wonder if they should start taking Social Security.
NO! Absolutely not!
Given they have no income other than minimal interest they’re making on their bank account they are paying NO TAX. They will continue to pay NO TAX until they reach 70.5 when RMDs kick in. They should take advantage of their $0 tax and start moving money over to a Roth, now! Any income they receive up to $25,300 is TAX FREE! ($12,000 is the Standard Deduction in 2018 for Sarah and $13,300 for Dan).
Let’s say I am able to convince them to convert $50,000 this year. That $50,000 will be taxable as ordinary income. But with their $25,300 of standard deductions kicking in and the fact they have no other income their taxable income will be all of $24,700. They’ll pay only $2,583 in taxes this year.
$2,583 in tax today is a tiny price to pay for all the benefits of the Roth IRA. Heck, I’d even advocate they convert a full $100,000.
If they convert $100,000 in year 1, $100,000 in year 2 and the rest in year 3, they’ll have moved all their money from their to-be-taxed accounts to never-taxed-again accounts.
In year 4, when they have exhausted their cash savings, then they both take Social Security. Dan will get his as a 69-year-old, meaning he’ll have nearly maximized his Delayed Earnings Credits (DEC) and will enjoy a significant bump in his benefit.
Say Dan averaged $75,000 a year over his career. His Averaged Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) will be $6,250. This means his Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) will be $2,519 at his Full Retirement Age (FRA). If he waits to file for Social Security at 69 his Social Security benefit will be $3,173 a month because of the three years of Delayed Earnings Credits.
If Sarah made the maximum under the Social Security rules at her FRA her benefit would be around $2800 a month. But because she is going to file at 65, a year before her FRA, her benefit will be reduced to $2,600 a month.
Following this strategy, Dan and Sarah will receive nearly $70,000 a year in Social Security benefits, which will meet all their income needs and it will be TAX FREE.
If they need to dip into their Roth IRAs to augment their Social Security income they can do so and will still pay no tax. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. Their primary source of income is Social Security which will be tax free augmented by tax-free Roth IRA distributions.
Dan and Sarah have another 20-25 years ahead of them and they will NEVER pay income tax again. Let that sink in. Can that work for you too? Absolutely!
Roth IRA + Social Security = An Amazing Benefit of the Tax Code
The beauty of this retirement cannot be overstated. Yet, very few people take advantage. Why? They’ve been taught, incorrectly, to defer taxes as long as possible. I take issue with this philosophy. If you can pay a small amount of tax today to avoid huge taxes in the future, you absolutely should.