Skip to content

The Daffy Duck School of Retirement Planning

Happy-old-coupleWhat Baby Boomer doesn’t remember the over-the-top declarations of Daffy Duck, especially when he’s grabbing something that he thinks he’s about to lose to Bugs Bunny, sputtering” It’s mine, all mine!"

Daffy Duck may have been a bit manic, but apply his thinking to your Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and you’ll be on the right track. Treat your individual IRA, funded with pre-tax dollars that lowers your taxable income and contributions that grow tax free, like a pile of gold coins you want to grab from Bugs Bunny, advises CNBC in “Boomers: Take a page from Daffy Duck and his stash of gold.”

Yes, there are still taxes when you withdraw money from an IRA. The taxes typically begin on withdrawals in retirement sometime after you reach age 59½ to avoid early withdrawal penalties. If you qualify, consider a Roth IRA. It’s funded with post-tax dollars and the contributions also grow tax-free. However, the withdrawals are not taxed—unlike a traditional IRA.

Don’t just select one type of IRA over another, but rather use them in concert to mitigate taxes now, as well as in retirement. A sound strategy is to divide your money into three groups: (i) tax-deferred accounts, like a 401(k) or a traditional IRA, (ii) a tax-free Roth and (iii) taxable accounts such as  brokerage or savings accounts. This diversification gives you the flexibility to pick where to withdraw funds to take advantage of the tax laws, as they exist in the future.

Can I open a Roth? Couples earning more than $196,000 and singles making $133,000 are not eligible to open Roth accounts directly. An option for these folks is a conversion. That’s where you transfer the money from your regular IRA to a Roth. However, this will be taxed at your ordinary income rate, so plan ahead.

When do I make the switch? The optimal time to convert an IRA is when you have little or no income. For example, this would be if you take a leave of absence from work, are between jobs or just retired. Each of these times present opportunities because your tax bracket may be lower.

How much do I move? It's your call as to how much money to move from a regular IRA to a Roth each year.  Therefore, you have some flexibility to avoid some higher taxes. You don’t want to convert everything at once,  since this would put you into a higher tax bracket. Remember, the additional converted income is taxable.

How will the Roth IRA fit with the rest of my estate plan? If you want your money to go to your children and grandchildren, the Roth conversion could be a good way to go. An inherited Roth allows your descendants to take money out of the account over the course of their lifetime, leaving plenty of time for the money to grow tax free.

Speak with your estate planning attorney to create a strategy for your IRAs to suit your overall estate planning goals.

Reference: CNBC (March 16, 2017) “Boomers: Take a page from Daffy Duck and his stash of gold”