Year-End Bonuses and Retirement Accounts

As the fourth quarter of 2022 is upon us, you may consider providing annual bonus payouts to your employees. It’s a great way to thank them for their hard work.

Once you settle on the bonus amounts, consider notifying each employee before you make the payments to provide them with a choice as to how they prefer to receive the funds. They could choose to take it as regular income or invest it in their retirement account.

If your company already has a 401(k) plan, depositing their year-end bonus will function like any other payroll deductions you make on their behalf.

If your employee has already maxed out their 401(k) contributions for the year, you may be able to send their bonus to their IRA.

Save Taxes on Retirement Plan Withdrawals

Tapping your retirement accounts before age 59½ usually comes with a 10% early distribution penalty, in addition to any income tax that’s due. But if you must make an early withdrawal, the IRS allows a few exceptions from the penalty.


If you have large medical expenses that your health insurance doesn’t cover, you can withdraw money from a 401(k) plan or traditional IRA to pay these bills. However, these medical costs must be greater than 10% of your adjusted gross income to avoid the 10% penalty.

Also, you can take withdrawals from a traditional IRA to cover health insurance premiums paid while unemployed. There are several conditions that need to be met to avoid the 10% penalty in this situation, so speak with your tax professional beforehand.


Becoming disabled and unable to work means you may be able to tap your tax-deferred retirement accounts without the 10% penalty to provide income that supplements your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. You’ll need your physician to document and substantiate your disability to avoid the penalty.


If you are buying or building your first home, you can withdraw up to $10,000 — if you’re single, or $20,000 — if you’re married and both have a traditional IRA, without paying the 10% penalty.


Pulling contributions out of a Roth IRA to pay for higher education expenses for you or your dependents is always penalty-free. But withdrawal of Roth IRA earnings will be subject to the penalty if you don’t meet the exception requirements.


Being fully prepared for retirement requires financial planning and leveraging tax savings and the time value of money. Consider other cash sources like taxable brokerage accounts.

Employee Retirement Plan Selection

Offering an employer-sponsored retirement plan is one of the most effective ways to help workers save for retirement. And most provide tax advantages for both employers and employees.


The 401(k) is one of the most common plans employers offer because they’re fairly easy to set up. They also offer higher contribution limits than individual retirement accounts (IRAs). But they require more administrative work. An annual report must be filed with the Department of Labor to disclose the plan’s financial condition, investments, and plan operations.

Smaller employers can consider a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) or SIMPLE retirement plan. Both are easier to maintain than a 401(k). The SIMPLE plan allows employees to contribute with pre-tax payroll deductions but is limited to companies with 100 or fewer employees. A SEP plan only permits employer contributions.


A federal tax credit of up to $5,000 for the first three years is available to eligible employers that start a new retirement plan. The credit is for ordinary and necessary costs to set up and administer the plan and educate employees.

To help workers save for retirement, an additional $500 credit is available for the first three years — if your plan has an automatic enrollment feature.

Remember, tax credits offset the amount of tax you owe dollar for dollar, but deductions only reduce your taxable income.


Offering to match employee plan contributions is a valuable perk you can use to attract and retain top talent. The good news is that your matching contributions are tax-deductible.

To start, you’ll need to determine when you’ll begin matching contributions (e.g., after the employee has worked for a year), when your contributions will vest, and how much your business can afford to contribute.

Meet with your financial professional for help deciding which plan is best for your company.

Retirement Plan Audits

If your company’s retirement plan has 100 or more eligible participants at the beginning of the plan year, you’ll generally need to have it audited by a qualified independent accountant each year.

A plan audit typically includes reviewing plan documents to verify they comply with IRS and Department of Labor rules, examining employee contributions to ensure money was remitted timely, confirming distributions and rollovers were paid out correctly, sampling specific participant’s transactions for plan compliance, and determining the accuracy of the information reported.

Keeping track of plan-related documents throughout the year—and for smaller companies experiencing steady growth, monitoring the number of active participants— are the simplest ways to prepare for an audit.

Are You Saving Enough For Retirement

Here are the average retirement account balances by ages, according to a Survey of Consumer Finances.* This chart clearly demonstrates that most Americans are not saving nearly enough for retirement. Fortunately, you do not have to be average. Working with your financial professional is your best chance of developing a realistic savings strategy that works for you.


  • Under 35: $13,000
  • 35-44: $60,000
  • 45-54: $100,000
  • 55-64: $134,000
  • 65-74: $164,000
  • 75 and up: $83,000

Getting FIRE’D

FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. It’s a financial movement growing in popularity as more and more people seek to eliminate debt and build savings so they can retire earlier than usual. Regardless of your target retirement date, this movement focuses on some smart financial strategies:


One of FIRE’s focus is on eliminating all debt and reducing expenses. Paying off debt is the first step with a focus on not accumulating new debt. Start by scrutinizing how you spend your money to identify unnecessary expenses.


FIRE followers also look for ways to increase their income. Things like switching jobs for a significant pay increase, working side gigs or generating passive income from owning rental property add money toward the early retirement goal.


The last tenement of FIRE involves sound investing strategies. Start by maxing out retirement plan contributions. And if your employer offers a matching contribution, be sure you’re saving at least the minimum amount to get the maximum contribution.

What to Know About 401(k)s

One of the common retirement plans offered by employers is a 401(k) plan. These plans make saving for retirement convenient. But make sure you understand the basics so you can capitalize on plan options and determine how your 401(k) fits into your overall retirement strategy.


Some employers allow new hires to enroll in the company 401(k) plan on day one, and some even offer automatic enrollment. But employers can have waiting periods of a few months to a year before you’re eligible to participate. To get the most from the plan, however, sign up as soon as you’re allowed.


Many companies offer a matching contribution to employees who participate in the company plan. While amounts vary, matching contributions are usually a fixed percentage on a predetermined portion of an employee’s annual salary. For example, an employer may contribute fifty cents for every dollar you contribute, up to 10% of your salary. So if you earn $60,000 per year, you could receive a $3,000 annual contribution from your employer, provided you contribute $6,000 each year.


The IRS places limits on the amount you can contribute to qualified retirement plans each year. For 2021, the limit is $19,500, but if you’re 50 or older you can contribute an additional $6,500. Any 401(k) plan can set its own contribution limits, which may be less than the IRS limits.


The money you contribute to a 401(k) is yours to keep from day one. But the contributions from your employer may come with a contingency, also known as a vesting schedule. That means you may need to work for the company for a year or more before you gain 100% ownership of the company’s contributions.


Although you may not plan on tapping your 401(k) account before retirement, sometimes life’s events require you to do so. Some plans will let you take a loan that you repay with interest over time. Or you may be able to take a hardship withdrawal that doesn’t require repayment. But you’ll have to pay income tax on the amount withdrawn and if you are under age 59½ there is an additional 10% federal tax penalty. Consider this option as your last resort, because that money will no longer be there to grow for retirement.

Managing Inflation Risk During Your Retirement

Longer retirements mean inflation can put a serious dent in the best-laid plans. Most people factor in inflation when planning how much they will need when they reach retirement. But inflation does not stop the day you retire. In fact, your budget on the day you retire could look very different five, 10, or 20 years into retirement.


It’s important to set realistic expectations for both how long you may be in retirement and how much income you’ll need. Designing a realistic budget that considers essential, discretionary and unexpected costs is a smart first step.

With that as a start, you can review the ways high inflation and low interest rates may affect total rates of return on your investments and your annual income.


Maybe you’ll try to address inflation risk on your own by withdrawing no more than 4% of an asset and then increasing the withdrawal by the rate of inflation each year. But as those withdrawals grow, they could represent a large piece of your retirement account over time. This can seriously erode funds.

Some fixed index annuities and index variable annuities offer potential income increases every year to help address the effects of inflation. These annual increases are available by purchasing optional riders for an additional charge.


If you can delay applying for Social Security benefits until you’re 70, consider doing so. Each year you put off collecting Social Security increases your annual payments 8%. This a cost-effective way to maximize your inflation-protected income.

As you think through your future expenses and how inflation may impact them, it’s essential to manage expectations, be realistic and focus on what you can control. Working with your financial professional can help address longevity, inflation risk and rising health care costs in retirement.

Simple retirement savings options for your small business

Are you thinking about setting up a retirement plan for yourself and your employees, but you’re worried about the financial commitment and administrative burdens involved in providing a traditional pension plan? Two options to consider are a “simplified employee pension” (SEP) or a “savings incentive match plan for employees” (SIMPLE).

SEPs are intended as an alternative to “qualified” retirement plans, particularly for small businesses. The relative ease of administration and the discretion that you, as the employer, are permitted in deciding whether or not to make annual contributions, are features that are appealing.

Uncomplicated paperwork

If you don’t already have a qualified retirement plan, you can set up a SEP simply by using the IRS model SEP, Form 5305-SEP. By adopting and implementing this model SEP, which doesn’t have to be filed with the IRS, you’ll have satisfied the SEP requirements. This means that as the employer, you’ll get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees won’t be taxed when the contributions are made but will be taxed later when distributions are made, usually at retirement. Depending on your needs, an individually-designed SEP — instead of the model SEP — may be appropriate for you.

When you set up a SEP for yourself and your employees, you’ll make deductible contributions to each employee’s IRA, called a SEP-IRA, which must be IRS-approved. The maximum amount of deductible contributions that you can make to an employee’s SEP-IRA, and that he or she can exclude from income, is the lesser of: 25% of compensation and $58,000 for 2021. The deduction for your contributions to employees’ SEP-IRAs isn’t limited by the deduction ceiling applicable to an individual’s own contribution to a regular IRA. Your employees control their individual IRAs and IRA investments, the earnings on which are tax-free.

There are other requirements you’ll have to meet to be eligible to set up a SEP. Essentially, all regular employees must elect to participate in the program, and contributions can’t discriminate in favor of the highly compensated employees. But these requirements are minor compared to the bookkeeping and other administrative burdens connected with traditional qualified pension and profit-sharing plans.

The detailed records that traditional plans must maintain to comply with the complex nondiscrimination regulations aren’t required for SEPs. And employers aren’t required to file annual reports with IRS, which, for a pension plan, could require the services of an actuary. The required recordkeeping can be done by a trustee of the SEP-IRAs — usually a bank or mutual fund. 


Another option for a business with 100 or fewer employees is a “savings incentive match plan for employees” (SIMPLE). Under these plans, a “SIMPLE IRA” is established for each eligible employee, with the employer making matching contributions based on contributions elected by participating employees under a qualified salary reduction arrangement. The SIMPLE plan is also subject to much less stringent requirements than traditional qualified retirement plans. Or, an employer can adopt a “simple” 401(k) plan, with similar features to a SIMPLE plan, and automatic passage of the otherwise complex nondiscrimination test for 401(k) plans.

For 2021, SIMPLE deferrals are up to $13,500 plus an additional $3,000 catch-up contributions for employees age 50 and older.

Contact us for more information or to discuss any other aspect of your retirement planning.

© 2021

Taxes in Retirement

Retirement is something almost all of us look forward to. But have you considered how your retirement income will be taxed? Not all retirement income is taxed the same, so it is important that you understand the details.


If your total income is more than $25,000 for an individual or $32,000 for a married couple filing jointly, you must pay federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits. The tax rate is based on your total income from all sources, maxing out at the rate of 85%. Some states also tax social security income.


Withdrawals from tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as a 401(k), are taxed as ordinary income. The taxability of a traditional IRA depends on how you treated your contributions before you retired. If you took a tax deduction in the years you contributed, your withdrawals are likely taxable.

Qualified withdrawals from a Roth IRA are non-taxable. Since your investment was made with after-tax dollars, you won’t be taxed again when you withdraw it. Although these accounts are long-term assets, they don’t enjoy capital gains treatment.


You’ll pay taxes on dividends, interest and capital gains just as you did before you retired. The length of time you held an asset before selling it will determine your capital gains tax rate. It can be as low as zero if your total income for the year isn’t high.


If you’ve downsized and sold your home, you may be able to avoid paying tax on the gain. If you lived in your home for two of the five years prior to the sale, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 in gain. The rules are a little more complex if you rented your home out, so consult with your tax professional to determine if you have taxable gains.