Dear Liz: Can a brokerage firm drop a 26-year customer because their account falls below $200,000? I have been told that they don’t normally have accounts under that limit. Of course, my balance is lower because of the market slide. This policy doesn’t seem very ethical. Ten years ago, I had another account with them and it fell below $100,000 and nothing was said about that.
Answer: Your full-service brokerage may have just done you a favor. After charging you high fees for years, it has set you loose to find an alternative that will cost you much less.
Discount brokerages such as Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and T. Rowe Price will welcome your business. You also could explore robo-advisory options that manage your money for a fraction of what you’re paying now.
Retirement account distribution rules
Dear Liz: My husband is 71 and retired. We have started withdrawing from one of his retirement funds but I am unsure if there is a minimum amount that needs to be withdrawn per year. We have a few retirement funds in different places. Do we have to withdraw from each or just a minimum per year no matter where?
Answer: Required minimum distributions from most retirement accounts typically must begin when someone turns 72. The withdrawals must be made by Dec. 31 each year, but your first one can be delayed until April 1. If your husband turns 72 next year, for example, then the first withdrawal wouldn’t be due until April 1, 2024. Your husband would need to take a second distribution by Dec. 31, 2024.
Required minimum distributions are calculated using the tables in IRS Publication 590-B, Distributions From Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). IRA owners have to calculate the minimum withdrawal separately for each IRA they own, but they’re allowed to draw the total amount from one or more of the IRAs. People who have 403(b) accounts are also allowed to take the total amount from one or more 403(b) contracts after calculating the amount separately for each one.
The rules are different for other types of retirement plans. People who have 401(k) and 457(b) plans must calculate and take minimum withdrawals separately from each of those plan accounts. No distributions are required for Roth IRAs during the owner’s lifetime.
Your brokerage typically can help you calculate required minimum distributions, or you can talk to a tax pro. A tax pro or fee-only financial planner also could help you decide if it makes sense to consolidate your accounts. At your stage of life, you probably could benefit from simplifying your finances and having fewer accounts to monitor.
Leaving IRAs to charity
Dear Liz: In responding to the reader who asked how to plan around the tax consequences of leaving a traditional IRA to a family member, I wish you had mentioned the tax benefit of naming a charity as the beneficiary of a traditional IRA. There is no tax on the distribution of a traditional IRA to a charity. The consequence is that the income is never taxed (on the front end or back end) and a charity benefits from the IRA owner’s generosity.
Answer: The reader was primarily concerned with bequeathing assets to children and grandchildren after the Secure Act of 2019 did away with “stretch IRAs” for most non-spouse beneficiaries. One way to do that while also benefiting a charity is the charitable remainder trust that was mentioned in the column. These trusts require some expense to set up and aren’t a good option if the IRA owner isn’t charitably minded.
If someone’s primary goal is to benefit the charity, however, then qualified charitable distributions or outright bequests are certainly an option. Qualified charitable distributions, which can begin at age 70½, allow someone to donate required minimum distribution amounts directly to a charity; the distribution isn’t counted as taxable income to the donor.
Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.