Taxes are one of the most important things to consider when saving for retirement. The way you are taxed depends on the instruments you’re using to save. Sometimes, savers are taxed at the time they put money away. At other times, their contributions are tax-free, but taxes are scheduled to be collected when they’re distributed down the line. It’s important for people to understand a little about how this all works. It can prevent unpleasant surprises in the future.
Former federal employees will find that their FERS annuity is taxed like regular income at the federal level. Depending on the state, it can be taxed at that level, too. Over 80% of retirees’ Social Security payments are also taxable as ordinary income. People can elect to have taxes withheld from their payments, but that doesn’t happen automatically. If not, they will have to pay at tax time. People should make this decision carefully, ideally after talking with a financial advisor.
Retirement accounts that people may contribute to taking different approaches to taxes. With a Roth IRA, account holders pay taxes upfront, when they make deposits. Later, their withdrawals in retirement are tax-free. This is essentially the opposite of a traditional IRA. Contributions are tax-advantage, but distributions are taxed later on. Some people maintain both types of accounts, in order to reap the tax advantages on both ends.
401(k) and 403(b) are popular retirement plans that are offered by employers to their workers. 401(k)s are generally available from for-profit companies, and 403(b)s from charities and religious organizations. These plans offer tax benefits upfront. Employers take money from each paycheck on a pre-tax basis and place it in a plan where the money grows for the account holder. Generally, 401(k) distributions are taxed as normal income. There are Roth 401(k) accounts available, and contributions to those are taxed.
Retirement planning is complicated. It’s important that every worker keeps one eye on the future and considers what they want their retirement years to look at. Being more aggressive, and taking advantage of some Roth-style accounts, can be a good idea for many American workers. Speaking with a financial advisor about these decisions can be prudent.