tax bracket

Retiring? Here’s How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

Retiring? Here's How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

So you’ve decided to hang ‘em up – congratulations! Retirement is an extremely personal decision made for a multitude of reasons.

Some of our clients have been able to afford to retire for several years and have reached a point where the weekly grind isn’t as enjoyable as it once was. Probably dozens of thoughts are running through your head. What will life look like without work? How will I spend my days? Where do I/we want to travel? Do I want to work part-time or volunteer?

With so many emotions and thoughts churning, you might easily miss potentially good opportunities to really maximize your final year of full-time work. In this blog, I’ll touch on planning concepts you should consider to get the most “bang for your buck” as you close out your full-time career:

Maximizing Employer Retirement Plans (401k, 403b, etc.)

If you aren’t already doing so, consider maximizing your company retirement plan. If you are retiring mid-year, if appropriate, adjust your payroll deduction to make sure you are contributing the maximum ($25,000 for those over the age of 50 in 2019) by the time you retire. If monthly cash flow won’t allow for it, consider using money in a checking/savings or taxable account to supplement your cash flow so you can max out the plan. Making pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan is something you should consider.  

“Front-Load” Charitable Contributions

If you are charitably inclined and plan to make charitable gifts even into retirement, you might consider “front-loading” your donations. Think of it this way: If you are currently in the 24% tax bracket, and you will drop into the 12% bracket once retired, when will making a donation give you the most tax savings? The year you are in the higher bracket, of course! So if you donate $5,000/year to charity, consider making a $25,000 contribution (ideally with appreciated securities and possibly utilizing a Donor Advised Fund) while you are in the 24% bracket.

This strategy has become even more impactful given recent tax law reform and the increase in the standard deduction. (Click here to read more.) This would satisfy five years’ worth of donations and save you more on your taxes. As I always tell clients, the more money you can save on your tax bill by being efficient with your gifts, the less money in the IRS’s pocket and more for the organizations you care about!

Health Care

This is typically a retiree's largest expense. How will you and your family go about obtaining medical coverage upon retirement? Will you continue to receive benefits on your employer plan? Will you use COBRA insurance? Will you be age 65 soon and enroll in Medicare? Are you retiring young and need to obtain an individual plan until Medicare kicks in?

No matter what your game plan, make sure you talk to the experts and have a firm grip on the cost and steps you need to take so that you don’t lose coverage and your insurance is as affordable as possible. We have trusted resources to help guide clients with their health care options.  

Those are just a few of many things you should be thinking about prior to retirement. With so many moving parts, it really makes sense to have someone in your corner to help you navigate through these difficult, and often confusing, topics and decisions. Ideally, seek out the help of a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) to give you the comprehensive guidance you need and deserve!

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and

Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Generally, if you take a distribution from a 401k prior to age 59 ½, you may be subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty on the amount that you withdraw, in addition to any relevant state income tax. Contributions to a Donor Advised Fund are irrevocable. Changes in tax laws or regulations may occur at any time and could substantially impact your situation. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Efficient Tax Planning is Year-Round Work

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

efficient tax planning

While many of us focus this time of year on getting our tax returns done, year-round tax planning excites us number geeks! We really can’t control taxes, right? Well, not exactly. 

Of course, we can’t change the tax rates set by our government, but we can work collaboratively on financial decisions throughout the year that help ensure the greatest possible level of tax efficiency. Let’s look at a few examples:


Say you have a stock position in Ford purchased at $3 a share when “the sky was falling”. Because its worth has greatly increased, your unrealized gain amounts to $20,000. The stock has done so well, you might not want to part with it. You also don’t want to pay tax on that nice $20,000 gain. 

So consider this: If your taxable income falls within the 12% marginal tax bracket, chances are you would pay very little or possibly ZERO tax on the $20,000 gain. You could lock in that nice profit and potentially improve the overall allocation of your portfolio. 

This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment.


Let’s take a look at another real-life example we often see. What if your income this year takes a significant drop, through a job loss, retirement, job change, or other move? Be sure to keep us in the loop, so that we can help you make pro-active tax planning decisions.

In this situation, a Roth IRA conversion could make a lot of sense if your income will fall into a lower tax bracket that you most likely will not see again. You would pay tax at a much lower rate, and moving Traditional IRA dollars into a Roth IRA for potential future, tax-free growth could create a monumental planning opportunity.   


These are just two examples of the many factors we examine in your financial plan to make sure your dollars are efficiently taxed. You can help us do this work. Sharing your tax return early gives us a much better chance throughout the year to uncover strategies that may make sense for you and your family. 

Many of our clients have now signed a disclosure form allowing us to directly contact their CPA or tax professional to obtain copies of returns and to discuss tax-planning ideas. This saves you, as the client, the hassle of making copies or e-mailing your return – and we are all about making your life easier! 

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He conducts financial planning analysis for clients and has a special interest in retirement income analysis.

While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Bond woes: “Why do we own bonds if we think they aren’t going to do well in a rising rate environment?”

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

Hoping for capital gains is not a good reason why you should own bonds. Actually, owning or  buying bonds in this low and rising interest rate environment with the hope that you'll be able to sell them later at a higher price may not work out. BUT…just because you can’t sell this investment at a profit later does not make the investment a bad idea.


A great real life comparison is a car. We own a car to get our family and us from one place to another, hopefully safely. Many components go into the makeup of a safe driving automobile. The engine is key in making the car go. Stocks act much like the engine of a car.  They make our portfolios go/grow. But, would you ever drive a car that wasn’t equipped with brakes or an airbag? Brakes and airbags are similar to the bonds in our portfolio. Bonds help you control some of the risk of owning stock. For most people, the reason to own bonds is to slow down our bottom-line losses experienced in our portfolio during major market declines. Without this moderation (and sometimes even with it), investors tend to panic when stock prices fall.

So in a nutshell, “Why own bonds?”

They make the scary times less so. When the stock market experiences an extended decline, investors look around for where to turn. Cash and Bonds are usually the place they turn to.A volatile stock market can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Waiting to add bonds until something happens means you are going to suffer much of the downside before you actually add them to the portfolio. You have to have already had them in the portfolio for them to help. Talk with your financial planner to make sure you have the proper amount of your portfolio invested in bonds so you can hang on to your investments through those difficult times. A portfolio makeup that allows you to stay the course over the long term is much more likely to get you to your destination! Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Webinar in Review: Year-End Tax and Planning Strategies

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

In November of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2018 passed with numerous changes to our tax code. This year we provided a refresher on some of those changes as well as some planning opportunities to think about as 2018 wraps up.

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, we encourage you to check out the recording below. 

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • (04:20): New 2018 Marginal Tax Brackets

  • (06:30): Highlights of the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) – comparing 2017 with 2018

  • (14:24): Planning charitable gifts under the new tax law

  • (19:15): Healthcare coverage overview – Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Medicare

  • (25:30): Roth IRA conversions as an attractive planning opportunity

  • (33:20): How to utilize your employer retirement plan most effectively

  • (36:30): How we help mitigate taxes & tax efficient investing

  • (41:30): Updates to gifting and intra-family gifting for 2018

Seven Summer Financial Planning Strategies


It is summer time! So, if you get a few minutes in between all of the outdoor activities here are 7 quick financial planning strategies to review.  As always, if we can help tailor any of these to your personal circumstances feel free to reach out.

By now you have heard there is a new tax law.  Because we will not experience the actual affects until next April, many of us are not sure how it applies to our specific circumstances.

  1. Do a quick tax projection with your tax preparer and check your tax withholding. Many of us will have an overall tax decrease – but withholdings from our paychecks also went down. Do not get caught off-guard. More importantly, some folks will see higher taxes due to the new limitations on certain itemized deductions. Combine this with lower withholding and you have a double whammy (read: you will be writing a bigger check to the IRS).

  2. Lump and clump itemized deductions. The standard deduction has increased to $24k for married couples filing jointly. In addition, miscellaneous itemized deductions have been removed completely. $10k cap. For some. Lumping charitable deductions in one year to take advantage of itemizing deductions and then taking the standard deduction for several years might be best.

  3. Utilize QCD’s. If you are over age 70.5 and making charitable contributions, you should consider utilizing QCD. Don’t know what QCD stands for? Call us now.

  4. Consider partial ROTH conversions to even out your tax liability. If you are retired, but not yet age 70.5 (when RMD’s start). Don’t know what an RMD is? Talk with us today! If you are in this group, multiyear tax planning may be beneficial.

  5. Most estates are no longer subject to the estate tax given the current exemption equivalent of $11.2M (times 2 for married couples). However, income taxes remain an issue to plan around. One of my favorites: Transfer low basis securities to aging parents and then receive it back with a step up in basis. If you think you might be able to take advantage of this let us know.

  6. Review your distribution scheme in your Will or Trust. Are you using the old A-B or marital/credit shelter trust format? Do you understand how the increased exemption affects this strategy?

  7. How should high-income folks prioritize their savings?
    Are you in the new 37% marginal bracket? If so, consider contributing to a Health Savings Account IF eligible. Next, consider making Pretax or traditional IRA/401k contributions. However, if you reasonably believe that you will be in the highest marginal tax bracket now AND in retirement – then the ROTH may be suggested. Know that for the great majority of us this will not be the case. Meaning, we will be in a lower bracket during our retirement years than our current bracket. Next, use Backdoor ROTH IRA contributions. If your employer offers an after tax option to your 401k plan, take advantage of it. You can then roll these funds directly into a ROTH. Next, consider a non-qualified annuity that provides tax deferral of earnings growth followed by taxable brokerage account.


If you have not received a copy of our 2018 Key Financial Data and would like a copy let us know

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and is a contributor to national media and publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), mentored many CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Tim Wyman and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Unless certain criteria are met, Roth IRA owners must be 591⁄2 or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. Additionally, each converted amount may be subject to its own five-year holding period. Converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA has tax implications. Investors should consult a tax advisor before deciding to do a conversion. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. A fixed annuity is a long-term, tax-deferred insurance contract designed for retirement. It allows you to create a fixed stream of income through a process called annuitization and also provides a fixed rate of return based on the terms of the contract. Fixed annuities have limitations. If you decide to take your money out early, you may face fees called surrender charges. Plus, if you're not yet 591⁄2, you may also have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty on top of ordinary income taxes. You should also know that a fixed annuity contains guarantees and protections that are subject to the issuing insurance company's ability to pay for them. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.