3 Ways to Score Tax-Free Retirement Income

While nobody likes paying taxes, they can be a particular burden for retirees. If you're looking for a way to generate some tax-free income in retirement, here are three ways to get started.

1. Open a Roth IRA

Roth IRAs offer a number of benefits, but the one that many savers find most appealing is the ability to collect tax-free income in retirement. Though Roth IRA contributions aren't tax-deductible (meaning, you won't get a tax break up front), once the time comes to take withdrawals, you won't owe the IRS a dime. Furthermore, while money placed in a traditional retirement savings account gets to grow on a tax-deferred basis, your Roth dollars get to grow completely tax-free. And, because Roth IRAs don't impose required minimum distributions, you'll get the option to leave that money in your account indefinitely, where it can continue to generate tax-free earnings.


While Roth IRAs do come with annual income limits (single filers earning $132,000 or more and joint filers earning $194,000 or more can't contribute directly), if you're a higher earner, you can get around these restrictions by funding a traditional IRA and then converting it to a Roth. Similarly, if you have a 401(k) plan through your employer, that, too, is eligible for a Roth conversion. Though you will need to pay taxes on the contributions you move over to a Roth once you shift those assets, doing so will buy you far more financial flexibility in retirement.

2. Invest in municipal bonds

Municipal bonds differ from corporate bonds in that the interest income they pay is always exempt at the federal level, and if you buy bonds issued by the state in which you reside, you'll avoid state and local taxes as well. If you're looking for a way to generate a steady stream of tax-free retirement income, municipal bonds are a good way to go. Not only are bonds are a reasonably safe investment to begin with (and thus suitable for seniors), but municipal bonds are 50 to 100 times less likely to default on their obligations than comparably rated corporate bonds. And even when municipal bonds do default, investors tend to recover more quickly than with troubled corporate bonds.

3. Rent out your home for 14 days or less

The IRS wants a piece of whatever income you come by, and that includes rental income. But there is an exception. If you rent out your home, or a portion of your home, for 14 days or less during a given calendar year, you can take in as much income as you'd like tax-free.

To qualify for this provision, you'll need to not only limit your rental period to 14 days or less, but also use the home yourself for more than 14 days during the year, or more than 10% of the total number of days you rent it out. Furthermore, the 14 days you rent out your home don't need to be consecutive, so if you live near the beach and rent out your property for a number of summer weekends, you can avoid taxes as long as you stay within that limit.

One thing to keep in mind about the 14-day rule is that if you incur any expenses related to renting out your home, you can't claim a deduction for them on your taxes. On the other hand, renting out your home for 14 days or less won't affect your ability to take deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes, both of which are standard for homeowners.

The less of your income you lose to taxes, the more financial freedom you'll have during your senior years. If you fund a Roth IRA, invest in municipal bonds, or become a short-term landlord, you can keep more of your money away from the IRS so it's there for you to use and enjoy.

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