TIP OF THE WEEK

Individuals who rushed to prepay property taxes after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have saved some money in 2018 — but that’s pennies compared to the long-term tax savings taxpayers should take advantage of before the TCJA’s individual tax provisions are expected to expire in 2026, according to Robert Fishbein, vice president and corporate counsel at Prudential Financial.

Also expected to expire in 2026? According to trustees for Social Security, that’s when Medicare’s main trust fund will run out of money. With the increasing likelihood that Social Security and Medicare benefits may be reduced in the future, it’s more important than ever to use every technique available to maximize your retirement savings.

Here are some outside-the-box strategies could make an enormous difference in your retirement readiness. The sooner you start, the more you may save.

Fund an HSA for retirement health care

Estimates suggest even a healthy 65-year-old couple will need at least $275,000 to cover retirement health care costs. A Health Savings Account, or HSA, provides a way to save that money without paying a dime in taxes. An HSA account is available to individuals enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan.

First, these individuals can fund their HSA through a tax-deductible contribution or pre-tax payroll deduction. Second, any interest and investment gains are tax-free. Finally, the funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses- a triple tax advantage over a traditional savings account.

The best part? There is no requirement to use HSA funds in the year of contribution, which means funds can grow on a tax-favored basis for future health care expense needs.

For 2018, family contribution limits are $6,900, or $7,900 if you are 55 or older, and those amounts are indexed for inflation in future years. If you start contributing the maximum even as late as age 55, and earn 3 percent per year, you could have more than $90,000 to pay for your retirement health care by age 65. If you start contributing the maximum as early as age 40, you could have saved almost $270,000. These funds will continue to grow tax-free in retirement until you need them.

Consider a Roth IRA conversion

The typical dogma says that converting an IRA or traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA does not make sense if you expect your tax rate in retirement to be lower than at the time of conversion. However, lesser known benefits of a Roth IRA may make it worthwhile to have at least part of your retirement assets in Roth IRA form.

Start with no required minimum distributions. With a Roth you aren’t forced to draw down your funds once you attain age 70½ and can continue to benefit from the tax-free growth, thereby maximizing the after-tax funds eventually available for you or your heirs.

Another significant benefit of a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) is tax diversification. For example, you may choose to take taxable distributions up to a certain amount and then tax-free distributions to avoid a higher income tax bracket.

If you are a high-income taxpayer, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining thresholds for increased Medicare premium charges or the 3.8 percent income tax surcharge on investment gain. If your income is more modest, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining whether you are subject to income tax on Social Security benefits.

— Brandpoint

THE LIST

According to Forbes, the highest-paid tennis players in 2018 are:

1. Roger Federer ($77.2 million)

2. Rafael Nadal ($41.4 million)

3. Kei Nishikori ($34.6 million)

4. Novak Djokovic ($23.5 million)

5. Serena Williams ($18.1 million)

6. Caroline Wozniacki ($13 million)

7. Grigor Dmitrov ($12.7 million)

8. Andy Murray ($11.5 million)

9. Sloane Stephens ($11.2 million)

10. Garbine Muguruza ($11 million)

NUMBER TO KNOW

40 percent: According to a recent survey by the Urban Institute, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one of their basic needs (food, health care, housing, utilities) in 2017.

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TECH TALK

Google helping veterans find jobs

Google has rolled out changes to its job search tools that will help military veterans and their families find similar civilian jobs. The changes let military service members and members of their family search “Jobs for Veterans” by entering specific military job codes (MOS, AFSC, NEC, etc.). Google then finds civilian jobs with skills similar to the ones they learned or used while in the military. Another added feature is the ability for job seekers to find if a business is veteran-owned by using the Google My Business feature.

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