It never ceases to amaze me when I meet with people who do not know that tax-deferred does not mean tax-free. You mean I have to pay taxes when I take this money!? This is not all mine!? These are common remarks I hear as we are looking at their most recent retirement account statement. Somehow this consideration was missed when they enrolled in the savings plan and each year when they postponed the tax when filing their tax return. I am not a tax professional but I can understand how an accountant or tax preparer wouldn’t think to make sure the client understands that they are postponing taxes and the tax calculation during their working years.
I met an accountant that expressed how difficult it is when he gets the client that believed they were ready to leave work only to find out that because of taxes they are coming up a little or a lot short. This happened to one of my relatives that worked at least 30 years as an x-ray technician and then supervisor at a very large hospital. While working, they always had the nice houses, the nice cars, and a nice upper-middle class lifestyle, nothing fancy. After he retired and even though his wife still worked as a school principal, he had to take a sales clerk job at a nearby liquor store so that his family could maintain their lifestyle. I will never forget other relatives joking and laughing about him miscalculating his retirement. I’m certain that his unsuccessful retirement and that of other relatives influenced my interest in retirement planning if for no one else but me.
With a limited amount of retirement income, most retirees would prefer to keep their dollars rather than give them to Uncle Sam. Even those with an unlimited source of funds don’t want to pay more taxes than necessary. Fortunately, there are some ways to decrease your tax burden once you’ve done the obvious work of ensuring you’ve taken all the deductions and credits to which you’re entitled when you file your taxes.