Pay Less Tax on Your Investments

12-29-15 investing-2-1239031-639x1034

It’s great to accumulate wealth by investing and saving you money, but did you know that taxes can take a large bite from your investments? Every investor, including those with 401(k)’s, IRA’s, and traditional brokerage accounts need to be aware of the impact of taxes. Here are a few tips and items to watch out for:

401(k)’s: A 401(k) can be a great way to save money for retirement as it is automatically deducted from your paycheck every time you get paid. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, every $1,000 you contribute saves $250 in taxes, plus savings for state taxes as well. You want to contribute as much as possible to reduce your taxes and save for retirement, especially if your employer has a matching contribution.

There is one common mistake that I do see often with 401(k) accounts and that is withdrawing money before retiring. It could be because you really need the money or you switched jobs and cashed out your account. You must resist the temptation to do this! Generally, there is a 10% early withdrawal penalty plus you will owe income taxes on the money withdrawn. This can easily add up to a third or even half of the money lost to taxes that you have withdrawn!

IRA’s: An IRA (individual retirement account) has similar tax characteristics of a 401(k). A strategy to maximize the tax-efficiency of your IRA may be to convert some or all to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA has more favorable tax aspects as there are no taxes when you make a qualified withdrawal. Before making this decision, a thorough analysis should be done to make certain this strategy is beneficial for your situation.

Traditional Brokerage Account: A regular taxable investment account needs to be monitored closely to make sure you are not unnecessarily paying taxes. There are three straightforward ways to do this:

  • Invest in tax-efficient mutual funds, ETF’s, and reduce the number of times you trade in your account. Every time stocks or bonds are sold, it may result in additional taxes
  • Hold your investments for longer than one year to pay lower capital gains tax rates. This strategy compliments the first point.
  • Compare the returns of tax-free municipal bonds to regular bonds to see which produces the higher overall rate of return.