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There was a lot of fuss back in 2011 when the first wave of Baby Boomers turned 65.

Baby Boomers hold 54% percent of all U.S. household wealth and account for almost 50% percent of consumer spending — and yet many were winging it as they moved into retirement. An average of 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S., and despite warnings, many are moving on unprepared.

Those first-wave Boomers? They’re now 72 years old and have a new wrinkle to contend with: required minimum distributions (RMDs).

Just as a lack of planning can affect your portfolio and your future, a seat-of-the-pants approach to your RMDs could end up costing money in penalties, taxes, and loss of income. But there are strategies that can help you preserve your hard-earned savings. Here are a few:

1. Educate yourself.
A lot of the people we sit down with don’t understand how RMDs work — how to calculate them when to take them or the best way to take them. At 72, you must start taking your RMD. The required withdrawal starts at about 3.65%, and that percentage goes up every year.

There are a few exceptions. For example, if you’re still working past the age of 72 and you have a retirement plan with that employer, you don’t have to take the RMD on that account until you actually retire. But if you have other accounts, you must take it on those.

2. Don’t wait until November or December to take your RMD.
Just as many people put off doing their taxes until April, many delay taking their RMDs until the end of the year. The problem with that is if the stock market is down in November or December, you’ll end up selling investments in a down market, and that can hurt you over time. A better way is to take the RMD over the course of the year using dividends and interest. If, for instance, you have an account that’s paying 4%, you can use that rather than relying on the market to go up.

3. Consider purchasing a retirement annuity with an income benefit rider to protect against longevity.
Let’s face it: Uncle Sam is determined to get the tax money you never paid because you had an IRA. The longer you live, the harder he tries, using those increasing RMD percentages. If your money is in stocks or a mutual fund, you could end up draining that down to zero when you may need it most. But if you purchase a retirement income annuity inside your IRA, you’ll still have that money coming in every single year.

4. Purchase a universal life insurance policy to maximize your legacy.
What if you don’t need your RMD to live your life? Some people are fortunate; having to withdraw that RMD money is actually a burden to them. They don’t want to have to take it out and pay more taxes. You can’t avoid taxes on your RMD, but you can direct that RMD to purchase a universal life insurance policy to maximize your legacy. So even if you’re drawing down your IRA over time, you can redirect the money and build it back up with a life insurance policy. Ultimately, you can convert a taxable account into a tax-free benefit.

Another strategy is to use a qualified longevity annuity contract (QLAC) to minimize your RMD exposure. You can set aside up to $125,000 or 25% of your IRA value, whichever is smaller, and you don’t have to take the RMD from that amount until you reach 85. It’s a good way to defer the taxes on that money if you don’t need it, and it will provide an income stream when you’re older and may need it for long-term care or other expenses.

5. Make sure to work with a financial planner who is well-versed in retirement income planning to put together a tangible plan.
Here’s where a lot of people fail. Perhaps you’re still using the adviser you chose when you were in the accumulation phase of life. But in retirement, you need someone who can help you figure out the best way to take your income and maximize your accounts annually. Calculating your RMD each year is a complicated matter, especially if you have several retirement accounts.

Heritage Financial Planning is the expert you trust can take you through it and make things a little less painful for you and your pocketbook. Our S.T.A.R. Strategy walks you through every step those nearing retirement or already in retirement need to consider and prepare for to safeguard their financial future.


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