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September 11, 2019
Converting Savings to Retirement Income
During your working years, you’ve probably set aside funds in retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, or other workplace savings plans, as well as in taxable accounts. Your challenge during retirement is to convert those savings into an ongoing income stream that will provide adequate income throughout your retirement years.
Setting a Withdrawal Rate
The retirement lifestyle you can afford will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio. The annual percentage that you take out of your portfolio, whether from returns or both returns and principal, is known as your withdrawal rate. Figuring out an appropriate initial withdrawal rate is a key issue in retirement planning and presents many challenges. Why? Take out too much too soon, and you might run out of money in your later years. Take out too little, and you might not enjoy your retirement years as much as you could. Your withdrawal rate is especially important in the early years of your retirement, as it will have a lasting impact on how long your savings last.
One widely used guideline on withdrawal rates for tax-deferred retirement accounts that emerged in the 1990s stated that withdrawing slightly more than 4% annually from a balanced portfolio of large-cap equities and bonds would provide inflation-adjusted income for at least 30 years. However, more recent studies have found that this guideline may be too generalized. Individuals may not be able to sustain a 4% withdrawal rate, or may even be able to support a higher rate, depending on their individual circumstances. The bottom line is that there is no standard guideline that works for everyone—your particular withdrawal rate needs to take into account many factors, including, but not limited to, your asset allocation and projected rate of return, annual income targets (accounting for inflation as desired), investment horizon, and life expectancy.1
Which Assets Should You Draw From First?
You may have assets in accounts that are taxable (e.g., CDs, mutual funds), tax deferred (e.g., traditional IRAs), and tax free (e.g., Roth IRAs). Given a choice, which type of account should you withdraw from first? The answer is—it depends.
For retirees who don’t care about leaving an estate to beneficiaries, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw money from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last, and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you’ll keep more of your retirement dollars working for you.
For retirees who intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the analysis is more complicated. You need to coordinate your retirement planning with your estate plan. For example, if you have appreciated or rapidly appreciating assets, it may be more advantageous for you to withdraw from tax-deferred and tax-free accounts first. This is because these accounts will not receive a step-up in basis at your death, as many of your other assets will.
However, this may not always be the best strategy. For example, if you intend to leave your entire estate to your spouse, it may make sense to withdraw from taxable accounts first. This is because spouses are given preferential tax treatment with regard to retirement plans. A surviving spouse can roll over retirement plan funds to his or her own IRA or retirement plan, or, in some cases, may continue the deceased spouse’s plan as his or her own. The funds in the plan continue to grow tax deferred, and distributions need not begin until the spouse’s own required beginning date.
The bottom line is that this decision is also a complicated one. A financial professional can help you determine the best course based on your individual circumstances.
Certain Distributions are Required
In practice, your choice of which assets to draw first may, to some extent, be directed by tax rules. You can’t keep your money in tax-deferred retirement accounts forever. The law requires you to start taking distributions—called “required minimum distributions” or RMDs—from traditional IRAs by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 70 1⁄2, whether you need the money or not. For employer plans, RMDs must begin by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70 1⁄2 or, if later, the year you retire. Roth IRAs aren’t subject to the lifetime RMD rules. (Beneficiaries of either type of IRA are required to take RMDs after the IRA owner’s death.)
If you have more than one IRA, a required distribution is calculated separately for each IRA. These amounts are then added together to determine your RMD for the year. You can withdraw your RMD from any one or more of your IRAs. (Your traditional IRA trustee or custodian must tell you how much you’re required to take out each year, or offer to calculate it for you.) For employer retirement plans, your plan will calculate the RMD, and distribute it to you. (If you participate in more than one employer plan, your RMD will be determined separately for each plan.)
It’s important to take RMDs into account when contemplating how you’ll withdraw money from your savings. Why? If you withdraw less than your RMD, you will pay a penalty tax equal to 50% of the amount you failed to withdraw. The good news: you can always withdraw more than your RMD amount.
If you’ve used an annuity for part of your retirement savings, at some point you’ll need to consider your options for converting the annuity into income. You can choose to simply withdraw earnings (or earnings and principal) from the annuity. There are several ways of doing this. You can withdraw all of the money in the annuity (both the principal and earnings) in one lump sum. You can also withdraw the money over a period of time through regular or irregular withdrawals. By choosing to make withdrawals from your annuity, you continue to have control over money you have invested in the annuity. However, if you systematically withdraw the principal and the earnings from the annuity, there is no guarantee that the funds in the annuity will last for your entire lifetime, unless you have separately purchased a rider that provides guaranteed minimum income payments for life (without annuitization).
In general, your withdrawals will be subject to income tax—on an “income-first” basis—to the extent your cash surrender value exceeds your investment in the contract. The taxable portion of your withdrawal may also be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty if you haven’t reached age 59 1⁄2, unless an exception applies.
A second distribution option is called the guaranteed2 income (or annuitization) option. If you select this option, your annuity will be “annuitized,” which means that the current value of your annuity is converted into a stream of payments. This allows you to receive a guaranteed2 income stream from the annuity. The annuity issuer promises to pay you an amount of money on a periodic basis (e.g., monthly, yearly, etc).
If you elect to annuitize, the periodic payments you receive are called annuity payouts. You can elect to receive either a fixed amount for each payment period or a variable amount for each period. You can receive the income stream for your entire lifetime (no matter how long you live), or you can receive the income stream for a specific time period (ten years, for example). You can also elect to receive annuity payouts over your lifetime and the lifetime of another person (called a “joint and survivor annuity”). The amount you receive for each payment period will depend on the cash value of the annuity, how earnings are credited to your account (whether fixed or variable), and the age at which you begin receiving annuity payments. The length of the distribution period will also affect how much you receive. For example, if you are 65 years old and elect to receive annuity payments over your entire lifetime, the amount of each payment you’ll receive will be less than if you had elected to receive annuity payouts over five years.
Each annuity payment is part nontaxable return of your investment in the contract and part payment of taxable accumulated earnings (until the investment in the contract is exhausted).
1“Is the 4 Percent Rule Too Low or Too High?” Journal of Financial Planning, onefpa.org, 2019
2Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuing insurance company.
Questions? Contact a CFS Financial Advisor.
Grow has contracted with CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS) to provide investment services, and your CFS Financial Advisor will help you build a plan that meets your needs. The advisor will look at your current spending, saving and investing, learn about your goals and priorities, make objective recommendations and support your efforts moving forward through the implementation and management of your plan.
CFS Financial Advisors are available by appointment. Click here for the financial advisor in your area and schedule your complimentary consultation today.
Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members. For specific tax advice, please consult a qualified tax professional.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019.
How to Find Your Routing & Account Numbers
When you make a payment online, by phone or on a mobile device, you may be asked for our routing number and your checking account number. Credit unions and banks use these numbers to identify accounts and make sure money gets where it’s supposed to be. You’ll also need to provide your routing and checking account numbers for:
- Direct deposits
- Electronic checks
- Military allotments
- Wire transfers
Where to Find Your Routing & Checking Account Numbers
Your personal checks include both our routing number and your account number, as shown on the Grow check example below.
Don’t have a Grow check? No worries.
Visit any Grow store and ask for a Direct Deposit Form. It lists both your routing number and checking account number.
Making a Loan Payment
Nobody likes paying bills. We get it. That’s why at Grow, we make it as painless as possible to pay your loan every month. You can even choose how to do it.
Pay From Another Credit Union or Bank
You have two ways to pay by transferring funds online from another institution.
- Debit Card or ACH
We accept both Mastercard® and Visa® debit cards and ACH. With debit cards you’ll also pay a convenience fee of $4.95. To make a loan payment other than your mortgage or Grow Visa® credit card, click the button below.
- Grow Online Banking
You can make one-time payments or set up automatic recurring payments in your Grow Online Banking account. Simply select “Transfer/Payments” from the menu. And if you’re not enrolled in Grow Online Banking, you can set up your account in just a few minutes.
Pay by Mail
You can also pay your loan by check through the mail. Please remember to include your account number and Grow loan number on the check.
Send auto, credit card and personal loan payments to:
Grow Financial Federal Credit Union
P.O. Box 10006
Irmo, SC 29063-5006
Send home loan and home equity payments to:
Grow Financial Federal Credit Union
P.O. Box 11733
Newark, NJ 07101-4733