This Often-Overlooked Way to Fund Your Roth IRA Has Many Advantages

A Roth IRA is a uniquely powerful retirement savings tool, because you won’t pay taxes on the money you withdraw during retirement. An annuity is a way of generating guaranteed income. Put them together, and you have a powerful retirement protection tool that can provide guaranteed income for life, with a big plus: It’s completely tax-free.

Anyone may roll over part or all of an existing Roth to a Roth annuity.  You may transfer all or part of the funds in an ordinary Roth to a Roth annuity. While there are income and contribution limits for new money going into a Roth IRA, they don’t apply to rollovers — including rollovers to a Roth annuity.

Different types of annuities accomplish different things and have distinct pros and cons — like the Swiss army knife of personal finance. Since they’re so varied, one type or another can work well for a Roth IRA.  Investment choices, fees and contract provisions vary, so work with an annuity agent who will educate you about your choices and clearly lay out the pros and cons.

What kind of annuity works for a Roth? It depends on which stage of your financial life you’re in. In the accumulation stage, you’re building wealth for retirement. In your decumulation stage, you’re retired and receiving income from your savings.

Here’s how Roth annuities can work in each stage.

Building wealth for those approaching retirement

One attractive option is a fixed indexed annuity. With the stock market continuing to break records, it may be vulnerable to a major long-term downturn. When you’re young, you can ride out the ups and downs. But if you’re in your 50s or 60s, you may want to get growth potential without taking the risk of losing Roth money you’ll need during retirement. If so, an indexed annuity might be a good choice for you.

It pays interest based on an underlying market index, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. While the interest earnings are locked in, up to a stated cap (you may not get all of the upside) each year, you’ll never lose money when the index declines.

While indexed annuities are linked to one or more underlying market indexes, their value does not vary from day to day. Instead, they pay a varying amount of interest that is credited and locked in each year on the anniversary date of the contract. Since equity markets can be volatile, indexed annuities are designed to be held long-term, whether yoked to a Roth IRA or not.

A fixed-rate annuity — also called a multi-year guarantee annuity, or MYGA — is a more conservative choice. It works like a bank CD, paying a set interest rate for a set period. Fixed-rate annuities these days pay much more than CDs of the same term. As of April 2021, you can earn up to 2.90% a year on a five-year fixed-rate annuity and up to 2.25% on a three-year contract, according to AnnuityAdvantage’s online rate database. The top rate for a five-year CD is 1.25% and 1.05% for a three-year CD, according to Bankrate. 

Fixed-rate annuities can play a key role in asset allocation. Let’s say you decide to split your Roth assets up 50-50 between equities and fixed income. A fixed-rate annuity can give you a much higher rate of interest than you’d get today with safe fixed-income alternatives, such as CDs and Treasury bonds.

For current annuity rates, see this online annuity database. Interest is paid and compounded annually.

How to get tax-free lifetime income during retirement

Other than a traditional employer pension or Social Security, an income annuity is about the only vehicle that can guarantee an income for as long as you live. And by combining an income annuity with a Roth, that income is tax-free.

If you need income from your Roth very soon, consider an immediate income annuity. You can open a Roth annuity with a single payment (such as a tax-free rollover from an existing Roth IRA) to an insurance company. The insurer in turn guarantees you a stream of income. You can choose how long the payments will last — for instance, 15 years. Most people, however, choose lifetime payments as “longevity insurance.”

You can receive your first monthly income payment a month after your annuity contract is issued.

If you’re married, consider the joint-income option. With it, your spouse will receive regular monthly income payments for the remainder of his or her life too. Payments to a surviving spouse are always tax-free.

If you don’t need income right now, consider a deferred income annuity. Here, your income stream will begin at a future date you choose. By deferring payments, you let the insurer credit more interest over the years on your behalf, and you’ll ultimately get more monthly income. For instance, by delaying lifetime annuity payments from age 65 to 75, you’ll get about 85% to 90% more each month. On the other hand, you and/or your spouse won’t receive the deferred payments as long.

Another option is an indexed annuity with an income rider. The rider guarantees a certain income regardless of the performance of the annuity. It provides income like a deferred income annuity, plus the potential upside of an indexed annuity. It’s sometimes called a “hybrid” annuity.

The downside is cost. The rider typically costs about 1% of the annuity value annually. The insurer deducts this amount from your policy.

The advantage is retaining your money. Unlike an income annuity, which typically has no cash surrender value, an indexed annuity with an income rider lets you keep your money while guaranteeing lifetime income, starting on a date you choose.  You thus have flexibility. If you need the money, it will be there for you to withdraw or annuitize. (Wait until the surrender period is over to avoid any penalties.)  If you don’t need the money, you can pass on any remaining value to your heirs.

Is the extra cost worth it?  It all depends on your situation and goals and your desire to leave money to your heirs.

Whether you’re saving for future retirement or are currently retired or soon will be, annuities offer a range of often-overlooked strategies for the Roth IRA and amplify its advantage of tax-free retirement income.

A free quote comparison service with interest rates from dozens of insurers is available at https://www.annuityadvantage.com or by calling (800) 239-0356.

CEO / Founder, AnnuityAdvantage

Retirement-income expert Ken Nuss is the founder and CEO of AnnuityAdvantage, a leading online provider of fixed-rate, fixed-indexed and immediate-income annuities. It provides a free quote comparison service. He launched the AnnuityAdvantage website in 1999 to help people looking for their best options in principal-protected annuities.

Source: kiplinger.com

4 Credit Cards With Great Security Features

[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Thieves lurk in the physical and virtual world, looking for ways to access your credit card number or commit identity theft. Whether you shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s wise to take steps to protect yourself against fraud.

Credit card companies have many tools to help combat credit card fraud, and sometimes offer additional security features to protect against identity theft.

Here are four credit cards with great security features.

1. Discover it Cash Back

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating categories like gas stations or restaurants, 1% cash back on everything else

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Signup Bonus: Discover will match the cash back you earn in the first year.

Annual Fee:

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): , then

Why We Picked It: Discover’s Freeze it feature gives you peace of mind if you’ve lost track of your card.

Security Features: With Freeze it, cardholders can freeze their card within seconds using Discover’s website or mobile app. This way, if you can’t locate your card, you can freeze it and look around before reporting it lost or stolen. If your card is misplaced, Discover offers free overnight card replacement. Cardholders also won’t be held liable for any unauthorized purchases.

Drawbacks: To maximize cash back, you’ll have to do the work of activating and tracking rotating purchase categories.

2. Blue Cash Everyday from American Express

Rewards: 3% cash back on up to $6,000 spent at supermarkets, 2% cash back at gas stations and select department stores, 1% cash back on everything else

Welcome Offer: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership

Annual Fee:
$0

APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases , then 13.99%-23.99% Variable
See Rates and Fees

Why We Picked It: Cardholders can control available spending for authorized users.

Security Features: If you have multiple cards for authorized users on your account, you can set a spending limit for each card’s billing period. That way, your authorized user (or a conniving friend) can’t rack up a huge balance. American Express won’t hold you accountable for any unauthorized charges.

Drawbacks: If you don’t spend a lot at supermarkets or gas stations, you may want to look for another cash back card.

3. Citi ThankYou Preferred

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, one point per dollar spent on everything else

Signup Bonus: 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and then 15.24% – 25.24% (Variable) ongoing APR.

Why We Picked It: Citi has an impressive range of security features that help you fight fraud and identity theft. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

Security Features: If your credit card is lost or stolen, Citi will send you a new card for free and provide an emergency cash advance. To protect you online, Citi can issue temporary credit card numbers for secure online purchases. Finally, if you become the victim of identity theft, a Citi specialist will help you contact TransUnion to put a fraud alert on your credit reports and help you complete a police report. Cardholders aren’t held liable for any unauthorized purchase.

Drawbacks: If you use your credit card for “meat and potatoes” spending and rarely use it on a night out, this card won’t deliver as much value.

4. Bank Americard Credit Card

Rewards: None

Signup Bonus: None

Annual Fee: None

APR: 0% intro rate for 15 months, then variable 12.74% to 22.74%

Why We Picked It: Online shopping is safer with Bank of America’s ShopSafe service.

Security Features: With ShopSafe, you can receive temporary credit card numbers to safely shop online. If abnormal spending patterns are detected, Bank of America will block the card’s use and contact you to discuss potential fraudulent activity. You’ll never be held accountable for unauthorized transactions.

Drawbacks: This is a very basic card without any rewards to speak of.

Choosing a Card With Strong Security Features

Federal law states that you can’t be held accountable for more than $50 in unauthorized purchases if your card is stolen. But cardholders concerned with security should look for card issuers that offer zero liability for unauthorized charges.

To further protect yourself, consider cards that go above and beyond in the realm of security and protect you in areas where you may be particularly vulnerable.

If you frequently shop online, you may want a card that offers temporary credit card numbers for limited time use, which stops digital thieves from gaining access to your real card number. If you tend to misplace things and you’re scared of losing your card, you may want a card that lets you easily freeze all activity.

Of course, if your only credit card requirement is security, you should pick a card with the most enhanced protections. But if you also want a card that rewards spending with points or cash back, you’ll want to consider your spending habits and how a card can reward your purchasing behavior.

What Is Required to Get a Card With Security Protections?

Any legitimate credit card should have some security features. Cards with strong security could be available for consumers with credit ranging from poor to excellent. No matter what card you choose, you should know your credit score ahead of time to gauge your chances of approval. Before you apply, you can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Discover it, Blue Cash Everyday from American Express and Citi ThankYou Preferred credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: kali9

Source: credit.com

Renters Beware: These Hidden Costs May Be in Your Lease

Utilities, pets, parking, amenities — there may be more to your rent payment than you thought.

By Leigh Raper

The rental market is extremely competitive in many urban markets right now. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005.

This jump in the number of renters has put pressure on both tenants and landlords. Tenants are scrambling to find the right place, while landlords are trying to find the right price. And both parties are getting creative about how and when to spend their money.

Renters sometimes forget their landlord is running a business too — until they sign a new or renewed lease, that is. Renters may discover that while the rent seems reasonable, the landlord has included itemized charges for utilities or other amenities that add up to a sizable bottom-line difference.

Power play

Utilities are not exactly a hidden cost, but they’re often overlooked by tenants eager to move into a new apartment or renew their current lease.

Always factor utilities into the overall cost of the property. Landlord-tenant laws in each state govern how utilities can be billed, along with what recourse either party has in the case of missed payments or shutoffs.

Sometimes utilities are in the landlord’s name and included in the overall rent charge. Other times, tenants are required to place the electric or gas bills in their names. (Many municipalities require the water and/or sewer accounts to stay in the landlord’s name.)

Then there’s third-party billing: situations where master meters serve an entire building, in which case the landlord splits the charges among all the tenants and bills them individually. Third-party billing makes sense for the landlord, who can advertise a base rental price but charge the utilities as an add-on.

City ordinances

Certain cities have clamped down on third-party billing, which they view as deceptive. In Seattle, for example, the third-party billing ordinance covers all residents living in buildings with three or more units. The ordinance was written to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords who were fraudulently overcharging them.

The Tenants Union of Washington State, a nonprofit dedicated to education, organizing and advocacy for tenants, provides detailed information for renters about third-party billing and other important issues related to utility costs.

Many of the best practices they recommend apply to all tenants, regardless of location:

  • Ask questions about utility service before you sign a lease.
  • Set up your utility accounts quickly.
  • Pay utility bills promptly and keep documentation of all payments.
  • Take steps to protect yourself with the landlord.
  • Act immediately to resolve utility disputes.

Other “hidden” charges

There are other fees, besides utilities, that your landlord might charge. Some of these are optional add-ons determined by a certain tenant’s particular situation, but others apply to everyone. Landlords in a competitive rental market might even increase these fees based on supply and demand.

The add-ons can include pet fees or a separate charge for parking. Some properties charge an application fee — whether or not the prospective renter is approved.

Other properties, particularly condos or developments subject to homeowners associations (HOAs), charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units. Amenities, such as cable TV or internet access, which are not considered utilities under most ordinances, might also be billed through an HOA or the landlord.

Of course, this is all in addition to a security deposit and any rent you might have to prepay, like first and last month’s rent due upon move in.

Have questions? Need help?

Advocacy organizations, like the Tenants Union in Seattle, operate around the country. These nonprofits offer help and information to renters.

State agencies also provide information for both tenants and landlords. For example, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs publishes a Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook on its website. A quick internet search will yield similar results in most states.

Sometimes, though, problems and questions can’t be resolved with online information. That’s where consulting an expert can be a smart solution.

Lawyers who specialize in landlord-tenant law not only are familiar with the underlying law in a given geographic region, but also have experience with the systems and processes that can efficiently and economically resolve disputes. Often, spending money for expert advice early on can yield big savings in the long run.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published April 8, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

A Brief History of Cryptography

Who doesn’t love a good secret code? Cryptography is the science of secret codes—of creating a language or code that can’t be cracked unless one knows exactly how to decode it.

Today, cryptography is used for everything from internet cybersecurity to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency investing. It has evolved and advanced over time along with technology, but it got its start in ancient times, with hieroglyphs and cuneiforms.

Let’s look back at the history of cryptography and how it has evolved over the years to serve different functions with the same goal—securing information.

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is the process of securing information by changing it into a form that people can’t understand unless they know how it was encoded. The original information is known as plaintext, and the encoded version of the information is known as ciphertext. The calculation or code used to change plaintext into ciphertext is called an algorithm and the process is called encryption. The opposite of encryption is decryption—turning ciphertext back into plaintext, or another readable form.

In order for someone to decode the information, they need to know how to read it or change it back into its plaintext form. Usually decryption involves both the algorithm and a key. Generally this key is a number.

Ancient History of Cryptography

The history of encryption dates back thousands of years. The earliest known use of cryptography was over 5600 years ago in Sumeria and Egypt. Cuneiform and hieroglyphics were created to record transactions. These were not necessarily intended to be secret, but were forms of writing down information that someone wouldn’t know how to read unless they understood the language system. It took hundreds of years for these early forms of writing to be deciphered by other societies.

Early forms of encryption all used a key that had to be given to the recipient in order for them to be able to decipher it. This is known as symmetric encryption, because the same key is used for encryption and decryption. The following are several examples of ciphers that use symmetric encryption.

Caesar Box

Julius Caesar used cryptography around 100 BC to send messages to his military generals, encrypted to be protected from opponents who might intercept it. The “Caesar Box,” or “Caesar Cipher,” was easily decrypted by those who knew how, but it protected messages from unintended eyes.

The Caesar Cipher is what is known as a “substitution cipher” or “shift cipher.” It works by changing each letter within a message three letters, to the right. For example, an A in a message would become a D, and a B would be written as an E. The number of letter places that get shifted is called the key. In this case the key is three.

Since there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, shift ciphers like the Caesar Box are easy to figure out and not very secure forms of cryptography. Once mathematicians figured out that certain letters are more commonly used than others in a language, they understood that people trying to crack the code could start to recognize patterns and figure it out.

Scytale Cipher

The Spartans developed a different type of encryption known as the Scytale Cipher. It was made by wrapping parchment around a pole then writing on the pole length-wise. When the paper is removed from the pole, the message is encrypted. To decipher it, one needs to know the pole’s diameter. The Scytale is less easy to decipher using patterns like the Caesar Box, but it can be possible to read some of the words on the pole.

Vigenère Cipher

The Vigenère Cipher was created by an Italian named Giovan Battista Bellaso in the 16th century. It uses a key as part of the decryption process. The key can be any combination of letters or a word of the message writer’s choosing. The key is matched to the plaintext and used in the process of decrypting the secret message. It’s much more difficult than the Caesar Box because each letter of the message has its own shift value. Therefore, even solving one word in the message won’t reveal the entire message.

Using a key adds an extra layer of security to a cryptographic message. The cipher wasn’t solved until 1863, and became known as le chiffre indechiffrable, or “the indecipherable cipher.”

Vernam Cipher

The only cipher that has been mathematically proven to be unbreakable is the Vernam Cipher, otherwise known as a one-time pad (OTP). It’s similar to a Vigenere Cipher but the key changes with each use. The Vernam Cipher isn’t used widely today due to the challenges of distributing the keys, but it is useful for emergency situations in which there is no electronic option.

Enigma

The Enigma is a type of cryptography using rotary encryption, which was developed by Arthur Scherbius in Germany during WWII. Similar to other cryptography, it was created using disks that were put into a machine in a certain order. If they were inserted in the correct order, the machine would decode the message.

An early computer developed by British cryptanalyst Alan Turing and his colleagues helped to crack the Enigma code. It’s estimated that their work helped save as many as 21 million people.

Asymmetric Encryption and Modern Cryptography

The advent of computers made it essential to develop more advanced forms of cryptography in order to keep data and information safe. This was especially the case as financial transactions began to move to computer networks. Everything from email to ecommerce sites to phone apps use encryption today.

The world of cryptography is also getting more complex due to its use by terrorists and criminals, as well as legal structures which protect individuals’ data. The U.S. Government and tech companies like Apple have been in legal battles for years to determine the ethics around data and privacy.

Most modern cryptography uses asymmetric encryption, or public-key encryption, in which there is a separate lock and key. This allows people to share public keys openly while keeping the private keys secure.

Here are some examples of asymmetric encryption.

Morse Code

Samuel F. Morse developed the Morse Code to transmit messages through telegraph machines in 1835.

The Zimmerman Telegram

The U.S. entered WWII with the decryption of a message solved by the British Intelligence Agency. The Zimmerman Telegram was sent from the German Foreign Office in the U.S. to the German Ambassador to Mexico and proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico.

Lucifer/DES

IBM developed a system called Lucifer in the 1960s, which was ultimately adopted by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and is also known as the Data Encryption Standard (DES).

RSA

The RSA encryption system created in the 1970s was one of the first uses of asymmetric encryption.

Salt

One tactic used in encryption is called salting. This is where a random string of alphanumeric characters gets added to the end of the password before it’s encrypted. Salting adds extra security because even after the password gets decrypted, the “salt” has to be subtracted before it can be used. Even very obvious and common passwords can be difficult to figure out when they are salted.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Today’s default encryption mechanism used by the U.S. government is the Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES. It uses a 256-bit key and multiple rounds of encryption, known as substitution-permutation networking. AES has mostly replaced the formerly used Data Encryption Standard, or DES, which is now considered to be less secure.

Other Forms of Encryption

There are countless other forms of encryption. Some of the commonly used ones are:

•  Triple DES
•  Blowfish
•  Twofish
•  ElGamal
•  Hash Functions
•  Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange

Cryptocurrency and Cryptography

Cryptography is an integral part of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Transactions and balances are tracked on a ledger and encrypted using complicated algorithms. This helps with security, transparency, and tracking. Crypto wallets also rely on cryptography for security.

Each type of digital asset or cryptocurrency has its own form of cryptography, making some more secure or popular than others and providing different use cases. Before investing in cryptocurrencies, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of the way the technology works, especially the use of public and private keys. This will help decide which cryptocurrency to invest in and ensure that the transaction and digital asset storage is done securely.

The Future of Cryptography

As time goes on, it gets more and more challenging to maintain secure encryption of information. Computers and hackers get more sophisticated, and even the most impenetrable codes can be cracked using psychological tactics and social engineering.

Two tools that help increase security are two-factor authentication (2FA) and Honeypots. Each of them works slightly differently, though with the same goal.

•  With 2FA, the user must input a code retrieved from a text message or app on their phone in addition to their password. This means that an account can’t be accessed without access to the individual’s phone.
•  Honeypots trick attackers by creating false data that looks real and then alerting organizations when the attackers attempt to do a hack.

A newer form of cryptography is called homomorphic encryption. This attempts to solve one of today’s major cryptographic problems: the fact that data cannot be processed while it’s encrypted. This means that data has to be encrypted before it can be used for anything, making it vulnerable during that processing time. Homomorphic encryption allows users to process data while it’s encrypted, and then simply decrypt the final result.

The next wave of encryption will likely involve the use of quantum computers and post-quantum cryptography. These add layers of encryption beyond today’s capabilities. However, this technology is still in development.

The Takeaway

The history of cryptography is long and fascinating, and the technology has gotten more essential and complex over time. In today’s world, cryptography underpins everything from social media to financial transactions. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you keep your data and information safe using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and other tools.

If you’re starting to invest in cryptocurrencies, you’ll need a basic understanding of public and private keys. One way to get started investing in cryptocurrencies is with SoFi Invest®. The investing platform allows you to research, trade digital assets right from your phone, and view all of your financial information in one simple dashboard.

Find out how to invest in crypto with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOIN21087

Source: sofi.com

10 Questions Retirees Often Get Wrong About Taxes in Retirement

You worked hard for your retirement nest egg, so the idea of paying taxes on those savings isn’t exactly appealing. If you know what you’re doing, you can avoid overpaying Uncle Sam as you start collecting Social Security and making withdrawals (including RMDs) from IRAs and 401(k)s. Unfortunately, though, retirees don’t always know all the tax code ins and outs and, as a result, end up paying more in taxes than is necessary. For example, here are 10 questions retirees often get wrong about taxes in retirement. Take a look and see how much you really understand about your own tax situation.

(And check out our State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees to learn more about how you will be taxed by your state during retirement.)

1 of 10

Tax Rates in Retirement

picture of tax rate arrow chart showing upward trendpicture of tax rate arrow chart showing upward trend

Question: When you retire, is your tax rate going to be higher or lower than it was when you were working?

Answer: It depends. Many people make their retirement plans with the assumption that they’ll fall into a lower tax bracket once they retire. But that’s often not the case, for the following three reasons.

1. Retirees typically no longer have all the tax deductions they once did. Their homes are paid off or close to it, so there’s no mortgage interest deduction. There are also no kids to claim as dependents, or annual tax-deferred 401(k) contributions to reduce income. So, almost all your income will be taxable during retirement.

2. Retirees want to have fun—which costs money. If you’re like many newly retired folks, you might want to travel and engage in the hobbies you didn’t have time for before, and that doesn’t come cheap. So, the income you set aside for yourself in retirement may not be much lower than what you were making in your job.

3. Future tax rates may be higher than they are today. Let’s face it…tax rates now are low when viewed in a historical context. The top tax rate of 37% in 2021 is a bargain compared with the 94% of the 1940s and even the 70% range as recently as the 1970s. And considering today’s political climate and growing national debt, future tax rates could end up much higher than they are today.

2 of 10

Taxation of Social Security Benefits

picture of a Social Security card surrounded by stacks of coinspicture of a Social Security card surrounded by stacks of coins

Question: Are Social Security benefits taxable?

Answer: Yes. Depending on your “provisional income,” up to 85% of your Social Security benefits are subject to federal income taxes. To determine your provisional income, take your modified adjusted gross income, add half of your Social Security benefits and add all of your tax-exempt interest.

If you’re married and file taxes jointly, here’s what you’ll be looking at:

  • If your provisional income is less than $32,000 ($25,000 for singles), there’s no tax on your Social Security benefits.
  • If your income is between $32,000 and $44,000 ($25,000 to $34,000 for singles), then up to 50% of your Social Security benefits can be taxed.
  • If your income is more than $44,000 ($34,000 for singles), then up to 85% of your Social Security benefits are taxable.

The IRS has a handy calculator that can help you determine whether your benefits are taxable. You should also check out Calculating Taxes on Social Security Benefits.

And don’t forget state taxes. In most states (but not all!), Social Security benefits are tax-free.

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Withdrawals from Roth IRAs

picture of a jar labeled "Roth IRA" with money in itpicture of a jar labeled "Roth IRA" with money in it

Question: Are withdrawals from Roth IRAs tax-free once you retire?

Answer: Yes. Roth IRAs come with a big long-term tax advantage: Unlike their 401(k) and traditional IRA cousins—which are funded with pretax dollars—you pay the taxes on your contributions to Roths up front, so your withdrawals are tax-free once you retire. One important caveat is that you must have held your account for at least five years before you can take tax-free withdrawals. And while you can withdraw the amount you contributed at any time tax-free, you must be at least age 59½ to be able to withdraw the gains without facing a 10% early-withdrawal penalty.

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Taxation of Annuity Income

picture of an elderly couple discussing finances with an advisorpicture of an elderly couple discussing finances with an advisor

Question: Is the income you receive from an annuity you own taxable?

Answer: Probably (at least for some of it). If you purchased an annuity that provides income in retirement, the portion of the payment that represents your principal is tax-free; the rest is taxable. The insurance company that sold you the annuity is required to tell you what is taxable. Different rules apply if you bought the annuity with pretax funds (such as from a traditional IRA). In that case, 100% of your payment will be taxed as ordinary income. In addition, be aware that you’ll have to pay any taxes that you owe on the annuity at your ordinary income-tax rate, not the preferable capital gains rate.

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Age for Starting RMDs

picture of elderly man blowing out candles on a birthday cakepicture of elderly man blowing out candles on a birthday cake

Question: At what age must holders of traditional IRAs and 401(k)s start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs)?

Answer: Age 72. The SECURE Act raised the age for RMDs to 72, starting on January 1, 2020. It used to be 70½. (Note that, although the CARES Act waived RMDs for 2020, they’re back for 2021 and beyond.)

As for the amount that you are forced to withdraw: You’ll start out at about 3.65%, and that percentage goes up every year. At age 80, it’s 5.35%. At 90, it’s 8.77%. Figuring out the percentages might not be as hard as you think if you try our RMD calculator. (Note that, beginning in 2022, RMD calculations will be adjusted so that distributions are spread out over a longer period of time.)

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RMDs From Multiple IRAs and 401(k)s

picture of a spiral notebook with "Required Minimum Distributions" written on the front coverpicture of a spiral notebook with "Required Minimum Distributions" written on the front cover

Question: Are RMDs calculated the same way for distributions from multiple IRAs and multiple 401(k) plans?

Answer: No. There’s one important difference if you have multiple retirement accounts. If you have several traditional IRAs, the RMDs are calculated separately for each IRA but can be withdrawn from any of your accounts. On the other hand, if you have multiple 401(k) accounts, the amount must be calculated for each 401(k) and withdrawn separately from each account. For this reason, some 401(k) administrators calculate your required distribution and send it to you automatically if you haven’t withdrawn the money by a certain date, but IRA administrators may not automatically distribute the money from your IRAs.

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Due Date for Your First RMD

picture of a piggy bank with "RMD" written on the sidepicture of a piggy bank with "RMD" written on the side

Question: Do you have to take your first RMD by December 31 of the year you turn 72?

Answer: No. Normally, you have to take RMDs for each year after you turn age 72 by the end of the year. However, you don’t have to take your first RMD until April 1 of the year after you turn 72. But be careful—if you delay the first withdrawal, you’ll also have to take your second RMD by December 31 of the same year. Because you’ll have to pay taxes on both RMDs (minus any portion from nondeductible contributions), taking two RMDs in one year could bump you into a higher tax bracket.

It could also have other ripple effects, such as making you subject to the Medicare high-income surcharge if your adjusted gross income (plus tax-exempt interest income) rises above $88,000 if you’re single or $176,000 if married filing jointly. (Note: Those are the income thresholds for determining 2021 surcharges.)

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Taxation of Life Insurance Proceeds

picture of a life insurance contract with money laying on itpicture of a life insurance contract with money laying on it

Question: If your spouse dies and you get a big life insurance payout, will you have to pay tax on the money?

Answer: No. You have enough to deal with during such a difficult time, so it’s good to know that life insurance proceeds paid because of the insured person’s death are not taxable.

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Estate Tax Threshold

picture of the words "Estate Tax" next to a judge's gavel and moneypicture of the words "Estate Tax" next to a judge's gavel and money

Question: How valuable must an individual’s estate be at death to be hit by federal estate taxes in 2021?

Answer: $11.7 million ($23.4 million or more for a married couple). If the value of an estate is less than the threshold amount, then no federal estate tax is due. As a result, federal estate taxes aren’t a factor for very many people. However, that will change in the future. The 2017 tax reform law more than doubled the federal estate tax exemption threshold—but only temporarily. It’s schedule to drop back down to $5 million (plus adjustments for inflation) in 2026. Plus, during his 2020 campaign, President Biden called for a reduction of the exemption threshold sooner.

If your estate isn’t subject to federal taxes, it still might owe state taxes. Twelve states and the District of Columbia charge a state estate tax, and their exclusion limits can be much lower than the federal limit. In addition, six states impose inheritance taxes, which are paid by your heirs. (See 18 States With Scary Death Taxes for more details.)

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Standard Deduction Amounts

picture of a 1040 tax form with a pen laying on it next to the standard deduction linepicture of a 1040 tax form with a pen laying on it next to the standard deduction line

Question: If you’re over 65, can you take a higher standard deduction than other folks are allowed?

Answer: Yes. For 2021, to the standard deduction for most people is $12,550 if you’re single and $25,100 for married couples filing a joint tax return ($12,400 and $24,800, respectively, for 2020). However, those 65 and older get an extra $1,700 in 2021 if they’re filing as single or head of household ($1,650 for 2020). Married filing jointly? If one spouse is 65 or older and the other isn’t, the standard deduction increases by $1,350 ($1,300 for 2020). If both spouses are 65 or older, the increase for 2021 is $2,700 ($2,600 for 2020).

Source: kiplinger.com

Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability Insurance, Explained

Many of us rely on a job for our income. If that includes you and you find yourself unable to continue performing your job duties because of a physical ailment, disability insurance can be a godsend. It replaces a portion of the income you lose when you can’t work.

However, disability insurance comes in two distinct flavors: own-occupation (also called own-occ) and any-occupation (or any-occ) disability insurance policies. And although they may sound similar, there are some key differences in how much coverage these options offer.

What is Disability Insurance?

Let’s start with a review of what exactly disability insurance is and how it works. SoFi Money® members can benefit from our unique Vaults feature. Vaults allow you to set aside cash for specific purposes, including unplanned expenses; in fact, “Emergency Fund” is one of the first categories you’ll see listed when you create a Vault on the SoFi mobile app.

To make it even easier, you can set up a recurring transfer to move a set amount of money into your emergency fund Vault on a regular basis. It’s a lot easier to save when you don’t have to move the money yourself, and once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind until you need it for a rainy day.

Want to learn more about the unique benefits SoFi Money members get when they sign up for our cash management platform? Check out the full details.


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
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Source: sofi.com