How should you pull your money in retirement?

How you withdraw your money in retirement can have a big impact on how long your money lasts (or how much you can withdraw each year).

The conventional wisdom espoused by Vanguard, Fidelity, etc. is to pull the money from your taxable account first, then from tax deferred accounts (Roth IRA, traditional IRA).

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. By withdrawing your money in a more tax-efficient manner, the money can last 4, 5, even 6 years longer (or last the same amount of time with higher withdrawals).

This issue has been highlighted by many, but in particular in a recent article in the Financial Analysts Journal (subscription required).

Instead of pulling all your money from your taxable account first and then moving on to tax-deferred accounts after the taxable account is depleted, the money will last longer if you withdraw money from a traditional IRA up to the 15% tax bracket limit, then pull the rest from you taxable account each year. 

Even more time can be gained by transferring dollars from your tax deferred account (traditional IRA) to your Roth IRA each year to generate not too much taxes while also maximizing  tax exempt benefits of the Roth IRA.

More time still can be gained by transferring dollars from your tax deferred account to two Roth accounts and then recharacterizing the one that has lower gains (or greater loses) each year back to the tax deferred account.

These strategies are too complex to explain here in detail (I’d be happy to send the article to anyone who requests it, but I must warn you it is a technical and dry academic paper). Also, some of these strategies may seem too complex or troublesome to implement, but that does not diminish their benefits.

It is vitally important to save enough for retirement, but it is also important to consider how you will withdraw your money in retirement to make sure the money serves you best.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

How should you pull your money in retirement?