Investors in the U.S. are keenly aware of how managing taxes can help to build wealth—as evidenced by the trillions of dollars that we’ve invested in IRAs, 401(k)’s and other tax-sheltered accounts.
What too many of us fail to consider, however, is the need to remain tax-conscious even after we’ve built our wealth. For retirees seeking to preserve and appreciate their wealth, tax-savvy decisions are especially important.
One of retirees’ key tools for tax management is known as retirement withdrawal sequencing. In plain English, this refers to the order in which you make withdrawals from various account types to fund your retirement.
Those who have saved successfully often have a combination of taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free accounts. When that’s the case, proper planning about which accounts to tap first can allow you to defer a substantial amount in taxes while maximizing the opportunity for the remaining accounts to appreciate.
On September 20th, our Chief Investment Officer, Jim Callahan, spoke on a panel in front of roughly 100 attendees at the Denver Athletic Club. Along with investment executives from four other wealth management firms, Jim was invited to discuss the topic of “Advanced Asset Allocation”.
The role of tax strategies in trading and managing investment portfolios
Certain tax strategies can add a meaningful boost to portfolio performance because taxes are an explicit cost to any portfolio and, therefore, a detractor from performance. Although tax situations are unique to each individual, any strategy that limits or delays the tax bill and retains more after-tax return for investors will face little argument.
“Avoidance of taxes is not a criminal offense. Any attempt to reduce, avoid, minimize, or alleviate taxes by legitimate means is permissible. The distinction between evasion and avoidance is fine yet definite. One who avoids tax does not conceal or misrepresent. He shapes events to reduce or eliminate tax liability and upon the happening of the events, makes a complete disclosure. Evasion, on the other hand, involves deceit, subterfuge, camouflage, concealment, some attempt to color or obscure events, or making things seem other than what they are.”— Internal Revenue Manual Code 18.104.22.168.2.1 (05-15-2008) 26 USC §7201 – Avoidance Distinguished from Evasion
Assuming all investors pay taxes either now or later, the chart below illustrates the benefit of delaying taxes. We assume a portfolio of 60% stocks, 40% bonds that is rebalanced every year. The solid line depicts the growth of the 100% taxable portfolio, while the dotted line shows portfolio growth in a 100% tax-deferred portfolio. Of course, the taxman arrives eventually, so we show the hit (a worst-case all-at-once tax consequence) to the tax-deferred line when withdrawing at ordinary income tax rates.