Weekend Reading: How to Plan Your Retirement When Tax Law is in Flux

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

We continually hear of tax proposals on the horizon, but the thing about proposals is that they often change, especially in Washington. When it comes to retirement planning, this can be especially challenging because the decisions you make today will affect your lifelong savings far into the future. How do you maintain a solid plan when tax law is in flux?


The tax traffic light: Previous Retire With Purpose podcast guest, Steve Parrish, advises taking your approach to handling tax changes in the form of a traffic light. Here’s how it works:

📌Go – If a tax law has already passed, you have the green light to plan accordingly. At present, that means taking into consideration tax repercussions from the passing of the SECURE Act (elimination of the “Stretch IRA”), as well as a nearly 50 percent drop in the federal estate tax exemption beginning in 2026.

📌Stop – When it comes to laws that have a slim chance of passing through congress, pump the brakes. Be aware of these proposals, but don’t factor them into your retirement plan if they’re unlikely to move forward.

📌Caution – These consist of tax issues that warrant your concern and planning. We’ve seen a great deal of focus this year on increased tax proposals to help fund the deficit as well as infrastructure improvements, and they’re largely targeting the wealthy. While these proposals could fluctuate, they are looming, and should be given careful consideration if you find they could impact your personal tax situation.

My perspective: You should avoid panicking about legislation that has little possibility of passing. However, it seems there is one key piece of tax planning that remains at all lights, and that is implementing a strategy to systematically exit your tax-deferred retirement accounts in the most efficient way possible.