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Piggy bank with word RMD. Retirement concept.

9 Smart Strategies for Handling RMDs

Re-posted from Kiplinger.Com

After decades of squirreling away money in tax-advantaged retirement accounts, investors entering their seventies have to flip the script. Starting at age 70½, Uncle Sam requires taxpayers to draw down their retirement account savings through annual required minimum distributions. Not only do you need to calculate how much must be withdrawn each year, you must figure and pay the tax on the distributions.

There’s no time like the present to get up to speed on the RMD rules. Once you know the basic rules, graduate to smart strategies that can whittle down these taxable distributions and make the most of the money that you must withdraw. Uncle Sam may not give you a choice on taking these distributions, but you do have options for handling the money. “Retirement income planning is as much about managing distributions as investment income,” says Rob Williams, vice president of financial planning for the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

First, let’s start with the basics. Original owners of traditional IRAs are subject to required minimum distributions when they turn 70½. The RMD is taxed as ordinary income, with a top tax rate of 37% for 2019.

RMD Basics No. 1: When Is Your First RMD Due?

You must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. The second and all subsequent RMDs must be taken by December 31.

An account owner who delays the first RMD will have to take two distributions in one year. For instance, a taxpayer who turns 70½ in March 2019 has until April 1, 2020, to take his first RMD. But he’ll have to take his second RMD by December 31, 2020.

To determine the best time to take your first RMD, compare your tax bills under two scenarios: taking the first RMD in the year you hit 70½, and delaying until the following year and doubling up RMDs. “It’s important to look at whether [doubling up] will push you into a higher tax bracket,” says Christine Russell, senior manager of retirement and annuities for TD Ameritrade, and whether it will subject you to higher income-related Medicare premiums. Doubling up could be the right strategy, however, if you’re retiring in the year you turn 70½ and your wages plus the first RMD would push you into a higher tax bracket.

RMD Basics No. 2: How to Calculate RMDs

To calculate your RMD, divide your year-end account balance from the previous year by the IRS life-expectancy factor based on your birthday in the current year. For most people, the appropriate factor is found in Table III toward the end of IRS Publication 590-B. Let’s say an IRA owner with an account balance of $750,000 as of December 31, 2018, turns 72 in 2019. The RMD for 2019 will be about $29,297. (Calculate your 2019 RMD right now.)

If you own multiple IRAs, you need to calculate the RMD for each account, but you can take the total RMD from just one IRA or any combination of IRAs. For instance, if you have an IRA that’s smaller than your total RMD, you can empty out the small IRA and take the remainder of the RMD from a larger IRA.

A retiree who still owns 401(k)s at age 70½ is subject to RMDs on those accounts, too. But unlike IRAs, if you own multiple 401(k)s, you must calculate and take each 401(k)’s RMD separately. A retired Roth 401(k) owner is also subject to RMDs from that account at age 70½, though the distributions would be tax-free.

You can take your annual RMD in a lump sum or piecemeal, perhaps in monthly or quarterly payments. Delaying the RMD until year-end, however, gives your money more time to grow tax-deferred. Either way, be sure to withdraw the total amount by the deadline.

RMD Basics No. 3: Penalties for Missing RMD Deadlines

What happens if you miss the deadline? You could get hit with one of Uncle Sam’s harshest penalties—50% of the shortfall. If you were supposed to take out $15,000 but only took $11,000, for example, you’d owe a $2,000 penalty plus income tax on the shortfall. “Fifty percent is a hefty price to pay,” says Williams.

But this harshest of penalties may be forgiven—if you ask for relief. “Fortunately, the IRS is relatively lenient, as long as once you realized you missed it, you take your RMD,” says Tim Steffen, director of advanced planning at Robert W. Baird & Co. You can request relief by filing Form 5329, with a letter of explanation including the action you took to fix the mistake.

One way to avoid forgetting: Ask your IRA custodian to automatically withdraw RMDs. At Fidelity Investments, “about 50% have chosen to automate” RMDs, says Joe Gaynor, Fidelity’s director of retirement and income solutions.

RMD Strategy No. 1: Work Waiver

Now that we’ve covered the basic RMD rules, it’s time to look at all the options for minimizing those required distributions.

First, check to see if you have an RMD escape route. Every rule has an exception, and the RMD rules are no different. There are a number of instances where you can reduce RMDs—or avoid them altogether.

If you are still working beyond age 70½ and don’t own 5% or more of the company, you can avoid taking RMDs from your current employer’s 401(k) until you retire. You must still take RMDs from old 401(k)s you own and from your traditional IRAs.

But there’s a workaround for that: If your current employer’s 401(k) allows money to be rolled into the plan, says Kelly Famiglietta, vice president and partner of retirement plan services at financial-services firm Charles Stephen, “you could roll in the other accounts to postpone all RMDs.” And, voila!, you won’t have to take any RMDs until you actually retire.

RMD Strategy No. 2: Roth Rollovers

For those who own Roth 401(k)s, there’s a no-brainer RMD solution: Roll the money into a Roth IRA, which has no RMDs for the original owner. Assuming you are 59½ or older and have owned at least one Roth IRA for at least five years, the money rolled to the Roth IRA can be tapped tax-free.

Another Roth solution to say goodbye to RMDs: Convert traditional IRA money to a Roth IRA. You will owe tax on the conversion at your ordinary income tax rate. But lowering your traditional IRA balance reduces its future RMDs, and the money in the Roth IRA can stay put as long as you like. “It’s something to consider, particularly now that tax rates are lower,” says Scott Thoma, principal at Edward Jones.

Converting IRA money to a Roth is a great strategy to start early, but you can do conversions even after you turn 70½. You must take your RMD first. Then you can convert all or part of the remaining balance to a Roth IRA. You can smooth out the conversion tax bill by converting smaller amounts over a number of years.

“Roth conversions are a hedge against future increases in taxes, and they provide flexibility,” says Williams. For instance, while traditional IRA distributions count when calculating taxation of Social Security benefits and Medicare premium surcharges for high-income taxpayers, Roth IRA distributions do not. And if you need extra income unexpectedly, tapping your Roth won’t increase your taxable income.

RMD Strategy No. 3: Carve Outs

About five years ago, a new option known as the qualified longevity annuity contract, or QLAC, arrived. You can carve out up to $130,000 or 25% of your retirement account balance, whichever is less, and invest that money in this special type of deferred income annuity. Compared with an immediate annuity, a QLAC requires a smaller upfront investment for larger payouts that start years later. The money invested in the QLAC is no longer included in the IRA balance and thus is not subject to RMDs. Payments from the QLAC will be taxable, but because it is longevity insurance, those payments won’t kick in until about age 85.

 

Another carve-out strategy applies to 401(k)s. If your 401(k) holds company stock, you could take advantage of a tax-saving opportunity known as net unrealized appreciation, says Russell. You roll all the money out of the 401(k) to a traditional IRA, but split off the employer stock and move it to a taxable account, paying ordinary income tax on the cost basis of the employer stock. You’ll still have RMDs from the traditional IRA, but they will be lower since you removed the company stock from the mix. And any profit from selling the shares in the taxable account now qualifies for lower long-term capital-gains tax rates.

RMD Strategy No. 4: Younger Spouse

In the beginning of this story, we gave you the standard RMD calculation that most original owners will use—but original owners with younger spouses can trim their RMDs. If you are married to someone who is more than ten years younger, divide your year-end account balance by the factor listed at the intersection of your age and your spouse’s age in Table II of IRS Publication 590-B—rather than Table III—to calculate your RMD. Table II factors in the younger spouse’s longer life expectancy, reducing your required distribution.

For instance, if you are 72 and married to a 59-year-old, Table II tells you to use a factor of 27.7. If your IRA was worth $500,000 at year-end 2018, you’d take out about $18,051 in 2019. That’s about $1,480 less than if you used the calculation that didn’t take into account your younger spouse’s life expectancy.

RMD Strategy No. 5: Pro Rata Payout

If you can’t reduce your RMD, you may be able to reduce the tax bill on the RMD—that is, if you have made and kept records of nondeductible contributions to your traditional IRA, says Steffen. In that case, a portion of the RMD can be considered as coming from those nondeductible contributions—and will therefore be tax-free.

Figure the ratio of your nondeductible contributions to your entire IRA balance. For example, if your IRA holds $200,000 with $20,000 of nondeductible contributions, 10% of a distribution from the IRA will be tax-free. Each time you take a distribution, you’ll need to recalculate the tax-free portion until all the nondeductible contributions have been accounted for.

RMD Strategy No. 6: Re-invest

If you can’t reduce or avoid your RMD, look for ways to make the most of that required distribution. You can build the RMD into your cash flow as an income source. But if your expenses are covered with other sources, such as Social Security benefits and pension payouts, put those distributions to work for you. After all, “the IRS isn’t telling you to spend the money,” Williams says. “It just wants the tax dollars from you.”

While you can’t reinvest the RMD in a tax-advantaged retirement account, you can stash it in a deposit account or reinvest it in a taxable brokerage account. If your liquid cash cushion is sufficient, consider tax-efficient investing options, such as municipal bonds. Index funds don’t throw off a lot of capital gains and can help keep your future tax bills in check.

If you’re selling investments to satisfy your RMD, review your portfolio’s allocation. “You could use the RMD to reallocate,” says Gaynor. Meet the RMD by selling off investments in overweighted categories, and you’ll rebalance your portfolio back to your target allocations at the same time.

RMD Strategy No. 7: Transfer In-Kind

Remember that the RMD doesn’t have to be in cash. You can ask your IRA custodian to transfer shares to a taxable brokerage account. So you could move $10,000 worth of shares over to a brokerage account to satisfy a $10,000 RMD. Be sure the value of the shares on the date of the transfer covers the RMD amount. The date of transfer value serves as the shares’ cost basis in the taxable account.

The in-kind transfer strategy is particularly useful when the market is down. You avoid locking in a loss on an investment that may be suffering a temporary price decline. But the strategy is also useful when the market is in positive territory if you feel the investment will continue to grow in value in the future, or if it’s an investment that you just can’t bear to sell. In any case, if the investment falls in value while in the taxable account, you could harvest a tax loss.

RMD Strategy No. 8: Give to Charity

If you are charitably inclined, consider a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD. This move allows IRA owners age 70½ or older to transfer up to $100,000 directly to charity each year. The QCD can count as some or all of the owner’s RMD, and the QCD amount won’t show up in adjusted gross income.

The QCD is a particularly smart move for those who take the standard deduction and would miss out on writing off charitable contributions. But even itemizers can benefit from a QCD. Lower adjusted gross income makes it easier to take advantage of certain deductions, such as the write-off for medical expenses that exceed 10% of AGI in 2019. Because the QCD’s taxable amount is zero, the move can help any taxpayer mitigate tax on Social Security or surcharges on Medicare premiums.

Say your RMD is $20,000. You could transfer the whole $20,000 to charity and satisfy your RMD while adding $0 to your AGI. Or you could do a nontaxable QCD of $15,000 and then take a taxable $5,000 distribution to satisfy the RMD.

The first dollars out of an IRA are considered to be the RMD until that amount is met. If you want to do a QCD of $10,000 that will count toward a $20,000 RMD, be sure to make the QCD move before taking the full RMD out.

Of course, you can do QCDs in excess of your RMD up to that $100,000 limit per year. “A QCD can be your RMD, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Steffen.

RMD Strategy No. 9: RMD Solution

You can also use your RMD to simplify tax payments. With the “RMD solution,” you can ask your IRA custodian to withhold enough money from your RMD to pay your entire tax bill on all your income sources for the year. That saves you the hassle of making quarterly estimated tax payments and can help you avoid underpayment penalties.

Because withholding is considered to be evenly paid throughout the year, this strategy works even if you wait to take your RMD in December. By waiting until later in the year to take the RMD, you’ll have a better estimate of your actual tax bill and can fine-tune how much to withhold to cover that bill.

 

Hand with marker writing the word Social Security

Social Security: Why Claiming Early Could be…..

Despite a permanently reduced monthly benefit, here’s why more workers could opt to take their payout as early as age 62.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably going to be reliant on Social Security for a portion of your retirement income. According to data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), 62% of current retirees lean on the program for at least half of their income, with just over a third reliant on Social Security for virtually all (90%-plus) of their income.

This more or less corroborates surveys conducted by Gallup of retired and non-retired individuals. Of the retirees, just 1 in 10 aren’t reliant on their Social Security income in any way. Meanwhile, more than 4 out of 5 non-retirees expect to lean on their retirement benefit as a major (30%) or minor (54%) income source.

All of this data leads to one conclusion: Your claiming age is extremely important.

A Social Security card standing up on a counter, with the name and number blurred out.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Your claiming age can have a huge impact on your monthly benefit check

As a refresher, there are four factors that have a high bearing on what you’ll be paid by Social Security during retirement, assuming you’ve earned the required 40 lifetime work credits to receive a benefit. The first two factors are intertwined: your work history and earnings history.

When calculating your retirement benefit, the SSA will take into account your 35 highest-earning, inflation-adjusted years. If you have any hope of maximizing what you’ll receive from the program, you’ll want to work at least 35 years to avoid any zeros being averaged in for each year you didn’t work.

The third factor, which we have absolutely no control over, is your birth year. The year you’re born determines your full retirement age, or the age at which you become eligible to receive 100% of your retirement benefit. Put simply, claiming benefits prior to your full retirement age will result in a permanent reduction to your monthly benefit of as much as 30%, whereas claiming after your full retirement age can boost your payout by as much as 32%, all depending on your birth year.

The final factor is your claiming age. Retirement benefits can be claimed as early as age 62, but the SSA gives people incentives to wait by increasing their payouts by 8% per year, up until age 70. Assuming you were looking at two identical individuals (i.e., same work history, earnings history, and birth year), the one claiming at age 70 could receive a monthly payout that’s up to 76% per month higher than the individual claiming as early as possible at age 62.

So, everyone obviously waits then, right? Well, not exactly.

A hand filling out a Social Security benefits application form, which sits under a pair of glasses and a calculator.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Expect a claiming-age trend reversal next decade

Historically, a majority of Americans claim benefits prior to reaching their full retirement ages. Whether that’s because they need the money or simply don’t understand their options isn’t clear. What is clear is the data, which showed that 60% of retired workers in 2013 took their benefits between ages 62 and 64, with another 30% claiming at ages 65 or 66 (age 66 was the full retirement age in 2013). Comparatively, just 1 in 10 retirees took their benefits after their full retirement age.

However, there has been a modest reversal of this trend in recent years. Data from the SSA finds that more people are waiting to take Social Security, albeit very few are still waiting until after their full retirement age. At last check, 57% were claiming prior to their full retirement age, with 34.3% signing up at age 62. Of course, this data also includes those folks receiving a disability payout and is therefore not an apples-to-apples comparison to the 2013 data.

This push to a later claiming age is certainly preferable, especially with the average American living longer than their parents or grandparents and potentially needing more income for a longer period of time. But as time passes, my suspicion is we’ll again see this trend reverse, with more retirees choosing to claim earlier rather than waiting.

The reason? A forecasted cut to Social Security benefits, as highlighted in the 2018 Trustees report.

Scissors cutting through a hundred dollar bill.

Benefit cuts could be coming, and retirees will want to stay ahead of the curve

According to the Trustees report, Social Security will face an inflection point this year. In other words, it’ll expend more than it collects in revenue for the first time since 1982. This might not seem like a big deal, but this net cash outflow is expected to rapidly grow in size beginning in 2020 and beyond.

By the time 2034 rolls around, the program’s $2.89 trillion in asset reserves is expected to be completely gone. Should this happen and Congress fails to generate additional revenue and/or institute expenditure cuts, a projected across-the-board cut to benefits of 21% would be needed to sustain payouts through 2092.

There are two considerations to make here. First, there are a lot of Americans who incorrectly believe that Social Security running out of its excess cash means the program is insolvent. In fact, more than half of all millennials surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2014 believed they wouldn’t receive a red cent from Social Security by the time they retire. This fear of Social Security going bankrupt (which actually can’t happen) is probably one driving force for early claimants.

The other consideration here is the notion that benefits could be slashed by more than a fifth come 2034. Workers who come of claiming age in the next five to 15 years are probably going to give serious consideration to taking their benefits sooner rather than later and reaping the rewards of a check that isn’t reduced by up to 21% (even if claiming early will itself result in a permanent monthly reduction).

A man holding up a large sign in front of his head with multiple question marks drawn on it.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Is this the right move?

But is it the right move? The honest answer is, no one knows. Congress could allay these concerns by passing a bipartisan fix to the program that doesn’t result in a huge benefit cut in less than two decades’ time, which would make early claimants none-too-pleased.

We also (thankfully) don’t know our expiration date, which means that we can never be certain that we’re making the best possible claiming decision. And by “best possible,” I mean the decision that results in the highest amount of lifetime benefits being received.

What I do believe is that the longer Congress waits to act and the larger Social Security’s cash shortfall becomes, the more likely it is that we’ll see aged beneficiaries making earlier claims.

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7.. Blunders that can Ruin Your Retirement

7 Social Security Blunders that can Ruin Your Retirement

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/retirement/7-social-security-blunders-that-can-ruin-your-retirement/ar-BBP4ReU?ocid=spartandhp

Even a minor Social Security misstep can rob your nest egg of tens of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits.

So, it pays to understand how the system works and how to maximize your Social Security checks.

The following are some of the biggest and most costly mistakes you could make when navigating Social Security — and how to avoid making them.

1. Taking Social Security early

It’s tempting to start taking Social Security before you reach what the federal government calls your “full retirement age.” But you’ll wind up with a smaller check each month.

Technically, you should receive the same total amount of benefits over the span of your retirement no matter the age at which you claimed benefits. The Social Security system is designed to be neutral in this regard.

Still, claiming early can be risky because once you claim benefits, you will be stuck with the same size check for life. The amount of a person’s monthly benefit typically will never increase except for inflation adjustments.

If you’re the main breadwinner in your family, you may want to think twice about starting your Social Security benefit early since your spouse may receive that smaller benefit amount one day.

Jeffrey A. Drayton of Jeffrey A. Drayton Financial Planning and Wealth Management in Maple Grove, Minnesota, tells Money Talks News:

“When one of you dies, the surviving spouse will get to keep whichever benefit is larger. If yours is the larger benefit, do you really want to reduce it? Doing so means that you might be reducing this lifelong annuity that gets adjusted for inflation permanently not just for yourself but also your spouse.”

 

2. Claiming benefits and continuing to work

If you claim Social Security before reaching full retirement age and continue working, you might have to pay penalties against your Social Security benefit. It depends on how much money you earn, as we detail in “The Danger of Working While Collecting Social Security.”

One solution is to wait until full retirement age to claim Social Security. There is no penalty for working while taking benefits after your full retirement age, regardless of how much income you earn.

3. Not checking your earnings record

The amount of your retirement benefit is based on your top 35 years of earnings. So, if there’s an error in your Social Security earnings record, the amount of your monthly check could suffer for it.

For example, if an employer fails to correctly report your earnings for even one year, your monthly benefit upon retiring could be around $100 less, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). That amounts to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your retirement.

While employers are responsible for reporting your earnings, you are responsible for checking your earnings record, as only you can confirm the information is accurate.

To review your earnings record, log into your mySocialSecurity account, or first create an account if you have yet to do so.

You’ll want to check each year. The SSA explains:

“Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have past tax documents and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information.”

4. Making an isolated decision

A Social Security decision is just one piece of a retirement income puzzle, says Charlie Bolognino, a certified financial planner at Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minnesota.

It can impact how you draw down other retirement income sources — such as a pension, 401(k) or cash savings. It can also impact the amount of retirement income you lose to federal or state taxes.

Failing to consider these other retirement funding factors when making Social Security decisions — as well as rushing to those decisions — can therefore cost you a big chunk of your nest egg.

“This is a big decision with potentially thousands of dollars at stake, so don’t short-cut it,” Bolognino tells Money Talks News. “Find a reputable benefit option comparison tool or work with a financial planner who can help you evaluate options in the context of your broader financial picture.”

5. Failing to understand what qualifies you for Social Security

Social Security retirement benefits are not a guarantee. You must qualify for them by paying Social Security taxes during your working years, or be married to someone who qualifies for benefits, Drayton says.

He continues:

“The qualification rules are complicated. The short answer most people give is that you need to work for at least 10 years. However, it is based on a system of credits and quarters, and there are different types of qualifications for different types of benefits.”

The bottom line? Know your qualification status and, if you’re ineligible, how to qualify for benefits.

To find out whether you’re eligible for retirement benefits or any other benefits administered by SSA, check out the SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). You can also use the tool to find out how to qualify and apply for benefits.

6. Not knowing the Social Security rules regarding divorce

You may be eligible to claim a spousal benefit based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record after a divorce. So, failing to realize this can cost you a lot.

Generally, the person entitled to the smaller benefit amount may be eligible for this type of spousal benefit — provided they were married for at least 10 years, haven’t remarried and meet a few other requirements.

7. Not accounting for dependent benefits

If you still have dependent children when you claim Social Security retirement benefits, they may be eligible to receive benefits, too. An eligible child can receive up to 50 percent of your full retirement benefit amount each month, according to the SSA.

Your family would receive that amount on top of your own benefit amount. Payments to your dependents would not decrease your benefit. So, understanding the benefits that your dependents might be eligible for can help you maximize your family’s collective benefit amount.

 

Happy, rich and young people investing in BitCoin on the bitmarket

The huge money mistake most millennials make

Re-posted from MSN.com

A majority of millennials treat their retirement accounts like a piggybank.

According to ETrade, more than a third of millennials make withdrawals from their 401(k) plans – and they use the money for a purchase, vacation or other personal expense.

“That’s a very high percentage,” said Gregg Murset, a certified financial planner and CEO of BusyKid, a savings app for kids and families. These early withdrawals point to an inability to set priorities, he says.

Young workers who do this clearly lack a full understanding of why they’re setting that money aside in the first place. Murset says three things are responsible for this gap.

The first is the lack of financial literacy. Only 17 states have a required personal finance course for high school students. This can set kids up for financial problems later in life, including lower credit scores.

Parents and schools blame each other, Murset says. “Parents say the schools should be teaching it,” he said. “And the schools say these lessons should be learned at home.”

We all make financial decisions all day, every day, according to Murset, making it more important than many school subjects.

Whether kids should learn about personal finance at school or at home, though, they are the ones who are left clueless about how to manage money.

Kids need to know what you have to do to earn money and, once you get it, what you can do with it.

The “three S’s” — saving, spending and sharing — are things adults do every day. “We go to work, we earn money,” Murset said. “We save some, we share some with charity and we spend the rest.”

Typical Americans spend and share, according to Murset. “Americans are generous people,” he said. Americans are also known for enthusiastic spending. But savings always gets short shrift.

Next is the issue of money that’s becoming more abstract. Increasingly, fewer people carry cash. “It’s getting to be a bigger problem,” Murset said. “Money is invisible to kids; to them, it’s numbers on a screen.”

That disconnect with the value of money can push millennials to make irresponsible financial decisions, such as taking money out of a retirement plan since it doesn’t seem as concrete as cash.

Last is millennials’ own lack of understanding how investing works.

Without some financial education and experience, it’s easy to see why someone would tap their 401(k) for some vacation money.

But this is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding. When it comes to saving for retirement, kids who have learned how money grows over time with compound interest will understand that $5,000, for instance, will grow over the decades to a sum far beyond its original amount.

Kids who successfully learn how to manage their money in a balanced way will eventually have the lightbulb moment that comes with saving money: “This small number turns into a big number over time,” Murset said.

Open Wallet

Amount you need to retire early depends on 2 factors

Re-posted from MSN.COM

You’ve seen the stories, touting the the hard-won feat of early retirement: “Self-made millionaire retires early in his 30s,” “Millennial retires early after seven years of work.”

Many can’t help but wonder: How did they do it? And more importantly, can that nest egg really last a whole lifetime?

Saving enough money to retire early involves diligence, planning, strategy, and usually a few lifestyle changes. After all, $1 million isn’t what it used to be – or what it will become. In 2016, Time magazine estimated that with a 3% inflation rate, $1 million in savings in 40 years would have the same spending power as $306,000 today.

How much money you need to retire early depends on two things.

Your cost of living

It makes sense that location will play a role in determining early retirement savings. The cost of living in a place like New York City or Los Angeles is a lot higher than somewhere in the midwest, like Wichita, Kansas, or in the south, like Birmingham, Alabama.

Living in a place with a lower cost of living means that it’s easier to live below your means. Chris Reining, a self-made millionaire who retired at age 37, draws only 2% from his investment accounts a year (half of the recommended 4% one should expect to draw when financially independent) – but that’s because he’s able to live frugally in Madison, Wisconsin. Location also plays a role in taxes, depending on what kind of accounts you have money in.

“If all your money is in IRAs and 401(k)s, not only will you pay state and federal income tax when you take it out to pay your bills – after all , it has never been taxed – but you may also pay a 10% penalty for premature withdrawals (under age 59 and a half),” Mari Adam, a certified financial planner based in Florida who founded Adam Financial Associates, told Business Insider.

Keep in mind, nine states don’t have state income taxes.

Adam recommends keeping an even balance between savings in retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s, tax-free growth accounts like Roths, and already-been-taxed accounts like individual brokerage accounts.

The potential for investment growth and passive income

Just because you’ve retired early doesn’t mean you’ll never see cash flow again. You can save enough knowing there’s still room for your savings to grow through investments and lucrative hobbies.

Justin McCurry, who retired early at 33 with an investment portfolio $1.3 million, brings in some monthly income through his blog, Root of Good. Coupled with strategic investments, his portfolio has since grown to more than $1.7 million over five years.

McCurry is not the only early retiree to earn money from a blog after leaving the corporate world. J.P. Livingston, who retired early at age 28 with a nest egg of more than $2 million, was surprised to learn she could still bring in income after retiring early.

She runs the personal-finance blog The Money Habit; after its first year, it made more than $62,000 in passive income through affiliate commissions and ads.

“I ended up getting active again with different hobbies and projects,” she previously told Business Insider. “Eventually, one or more of those projects yielded income. It’s hard to be awake for 60-plus hours a week and not find a single enjoyable way to earn some money.”