How to Approach Taxes in your 40s

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In your 40s there are a lot of competing financial priorities, but being proactive with your taxes throughout the year can help you now and in the future.

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By your 40s, you may have settled into your family life and career. You may be caring for a home and young children. It’s possible you have achieved some career milestones, too. If you are earning more, there may be a temptation to upgrade your lifestyle.

Long, busy days turn into weeks, months, and years. Before you know it, a lot of time has passed without progress on your family’s financial goals. College and retirement are a lot closer than you may expect — both of which need your full attention. Tax planning is one way to focus on these goals. These are a few ways to get your family’s plan on track.

Invest in your skills and expertise

Your 40s are the perfect time to invest in your skills and expertise. It’s especially important for women, who often reach their peak income at 39. Men don’t get there until 48, but that’s no excuse to let your skills get dusty. 

Boosting your income is the biggest advantage of improving your skills. By increasing your salary, it may be easier to save for big goals like college and retirement. But there are tax benefits, too. 

Start by asking if your company offers any type of education assistance. The government allows up to $5,250 per year, which won’t be taxed as part of your income. If you pay for classes yourself, you may be eligible for the lifetime learning credit — up to $2,000 per tax return. 

Double down on retirement savings

As you reach your peak earning years, saving for retirement is critical. The sooner you begin, the more time your money has to grow. Earning more money is a good thing. But taxes impact how much of it you get to keep. Consider these tax-friendly retirement savings tactics. 

  • Contribute to your company’s retirement plan. With a higher salary, there is no excuse not to boost your retirement plan contributions. 401(k) or 403(b) contributions are tax-deferred, which means you won’t pay taxes them now. You will be on the hook once you make withdrawals in retirement.
  • Consider a Solo 401(k) or SEP IRA. If you have a side business, consider opening another retirement account. It’s an opportunity to further increase your nest egg through tax-deferred savings.
  • Open an individual retirement account (IRA). If you don’t have a workplace plan, or you are looking for a way to save more, open an IRA. You contribute to a Roth IRA after-tax, your earnings grow tax-free, and you won’t pay taxes on the money in retirement. 

Make a plan for college funding

As your children inch closer to college, you may feel stressed about your savings or lack thereof. This may be a good opportunity to work with a financial advisor. Depending on how much time you have left, there may still be plenty of time to save.

You will need to consider the impact of your other financial goals, though. You could temporarily stop saving for retirement. But is potentially delaying your own retirement worth it? An advisor can help you weigh the pros and cons.

Regardless of how much you decide to save, consider using a 529 college savings plan. These accounts offer tax-free growth for qualified education expenses. If your child doesn’t need the money, you can always change the beneficiary to another family member. 

Don’t ignore tax planning

There are many competing financial priorities in your 40s. This can make it tough to focus on your most important goals. By being proactive, you will have a better chance of keeping more of your hard-earned dollars. This may improve your odds of reaching your family’s long-term goals.

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Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.