investing · Personal Finance

The In-SECURE Act

I have a general rule for life in the United States: anything which saves you money is eventually removed.

A few of you may know about the passage and signing of the SECURE Act in December 2019. This drama-free legislation made some interesting reforms to retirement plan rules, allowing Americans to make certain penalty-free (but not tax-exempt) withdrawals for qualifying reasons, and also lengthened the timeline under which required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken by retirees.

That all sounds good, but there is something else to the story. A separate shift in distribution laws could leave you seriously screwed down the road where taxes are concerned.

Under previous rules, people who inherited an IRA from their parents had the liberty of “stretching” RMDs over the course of their own lifetimes, thus reducing the taxes paid on that money and building inter-generational wealth. Not anymore.

The SECURE Act upends this tradition by placing a 10-year distribution requirement on such inheritance IRAs. So if your parent dies and hands over an account with $500,000, you would need to withdraw something like $50,000 annually to spread it out over that period, or take the lump sum. In either case, taxes will be high.

Perhaps the rule won’t be so horrible for folks who inherit at the age of eighteen, but for others it is bad news. Imagine pulling in a six-figure salary at age 45 and having to stack $50,000 on top of that. Your taxes will giggle with delight.

A broader issue relates to how America prevents people from building wealth if they are not extremely rich. Under current tax laws you can even be penalized for making too much while also maxing out a Roth IRA, and few lucrative deductions are available for middle class people. The SECURE Act is just a garnish on that system.

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