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  • Writer's pictureDamon C Collins, MBA, AAMS®, CFEI®

Retiring in a Volatile Market: Control What You Can


Retirement during a volatile market is unsettling. Whether you are on the cusp or have already made the leap, a market downturn's impact on your savings will be felt now and potentially for years to come. How do you keep your plan on track and your desired lifestyle in place?


You'll need to manage expenses if you can't control your income. And that means budgeting and taxes. You can deploy tactics and strategies to optimize these factors no matter what stage you are in your retirement journey.


Set a Realistic Budget – And Stick to It


No matter how carefully you budget, the numbers on the spreadsheet don't mean much when confronted with fun, deliciousness, seeing family, a quick weekend trip, or anything else. You get the idea.


A volatile market means that drawing income from investments will likely result in selling into a down market. Selling into a down market not only crystallizes the loss, but you may also have to sell more significant amounts to make up for lower prices. This will hamper your recovery, and your assets may not grow as much over time.


Reviewing your budget to ensure you keep your spending at a level that is commensurate with your income is critical.


Plan Proactively to Reduce Taxes


Planning strategically for taxes can help you keep more of your income. This can compensate for budget shortfalls or help you give long-term capital growth investments the time they need to recover. There are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself in the lowest possible tax bracket.


Maximize Tax-Free Social Security Income


Social security benefits have a tax-free component of at least 15%. Paying taxes on the other 85% depends on your overall income level. Still, you can increase your tax-free income by maximizing your benefits, and waiting until age 70 to claim will increase your annual benefit by 8% every year from your full retirement age (FRA). If you are married, it may make sense for the spouse with the highest income level to wait until age 70 while the lower-income spouse claims early or full retirement.


Deploy an Asset Location Strategy


Asset location refers to the types of accounts where you hold investments. They are tax-deferred such as 401(k)s and IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, and tax-free Roth accounts.


The goal is to use all the accounts together to create a tax strategy that lowers lifetime taxes. The general principle is matching the asset to the account's tax treatment. Stocks receive tax-favorable treatment on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains, so one option is to put them in a taxable account. If you hold municipal bonds, they also go into a taxable account. Higher yielding corporate bonds would be held in a tax-deferred account, as the lower growth rate compared to equities will help reduce required minimum distributions based on the account value.


Using the Roth IRA account as a flexible source of funds can help keep you in lower tax brackets. When taxable income is higher, using funds from the Roth account for living expenses can reduce income taxes and help you avoid the IRMAA Medicare Part B and Part D premium surcharge.


Take Advantage of Lower Asset Values with a Roth Conversion


The drop in value of 401(k) and IRA accounts is painful – but it also means that you can convert those assets to a tax-free Roth account with a lower tax liability. This can set you up for a more effective asset location strategy and help you control future income and taxes by eliminating RMDs on the converted assets.


The Bottom Line


Retiring in a volatile market adds a layer of complexity to all the choices you need to make. It means emphasizing controlling your expenses, whether lifestyle or the taxes on the income you draw from retirement accounts. The critical thing to remember is that you have options, and you can control several essential levers to help keep your retirement plans intact.

 

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The information contained herein is intended to be used for educational purposes only and is not exhaustive. Diversification or any strategy that may be discussed does not guarantee against investment losses but is intended to help manage risk and return. Historical discussions or opinions are not predictive of future events. The content is presented in good faith and has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. The content is not legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult a legal, tax, or financial professional for information specific to your situation.


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