Roth IRA balance missing


Running reports and noticed that I have no balance data (all 0) in the Roth IRA column of the retirement accounts detail report. What can be wrong?


dan royer's picture

That report is showing "contributions" not running balance for the ROTH. So if you are not contributing, you should see 0's there. The balance of that ROTH is part of the total balance you see for either partner in a married report.

I see that it is part of the total, but I do not see any report that shows the Roth balances over time. I would suggest that this is a weakness in the report that I cannot separate my Roth withdrawals from other Retirement accounts. I would seem to me that in a marriage that taking all(both parties) non-Roth retirement withdrawals first and only then take the Roth withdrawals could be a better strategy.

dan royer's picture

You can indicate the order of withdrawals--ROTH vs the other qualified assets--in an area at the bottom of the screen Smooth Withdrawals in the Retirement Assets area. You can reorder or those accounts. And, yes, typically it does help to move the ROTH to last in that order (the default order). However, the reports do not actually show the separate pools of money. They are all under Retirement Assets. There's only so many columns I guess.

In our case my wife if much younger (10yrs) than I and has the larger retirement account. I have already retired and we are trying to smooth out our living std through the transition period until she she turns 59.5. The way the software is currently working it is consuming all of my retirement assets including my Roth in this early period as I cannot shut it off, only change the number of years it is paying out.

The work around I came up with is to put all of my Roth dollars in her Roth account, simulating my ending distributions when my IRA is depleted. Then all Roth distributions occur at the end. Now the only issue I see now is that the algorithm is not smoothing the dollars between the IRA distributions and the Roth distributions. She has about 5 to 10 years of increased discretionary spending (~17%)at the end that seems to be the result of no income tax. Is that an issue that should be addressed?

Not sure this would help or if you have tried this, but do you realize that you can separate Roth IRA withdrawals from Traditional IRA withdrawals for each individual using the Special Withdrawals tab in the Retirement Accounts section?

Yes, I saw that but that assumes I would have some idea how much to withdraw. That is something I could fool around with to try and smooth the final years but since they are WAY out there much can change. It does seem that the software should keep the discretionary spending constant over the period from my demise to my wife's unless special withdrawals (or some other special) is specified. I'm surprised no one else has seen or mentioned this feature.

dan royer's picture

It's a little hard to follow here, so I'm sorry if I am not understanding completely. But it sounds like you have the order of withdrawal set to use up your IRA or 401K before your ROTH. That's fine. But you also say that "the software is consuming all of your retirement assets, including your ROTH, in this early period." OK, really, "all"? If smooth withdrawals are set then it will distribute all withdrawals across the rest of your life. But you can override this with special withdrawals. If you want to "turn it off" as you say, indicate 0 withdrawals for the period you want to not withdraw. This will only work if there are not RMD requirements set by tax laws (which the program will enforce). The program will always smooth discretionary spending when it can. But if you run out of regular assets--or have some windfall in the future such as Social Security--it may not have the current available assets to smooth the discretionary spending.

Sorry if I'm not being clear, it took me awhile to understand the issue. My wife and I have 2 separate tax differed IRAs, 2 seperate Roth IRAs. I am 65 and she is only 55 and still working. She "Plans" to retire next year but will be to young to use her retirement accounts. Prior runs suggested that we use my IRA (+Roth) to bridge the gap until I can collect max SS at 70 and she can begin taking distributions and then SS.

Current main events are
1 my IRA distributions start next year (her retirement)and complete 2020
2 start taking SS 2020 at 70
3 Wife takes dist'ns at 60 thru EOL
4 Takes Spousal benefit at 2027 and full SS at 2080 at 70.
5 In my Smooth distributions model regular IRA is exhausted 2047. Roth kicks in and pays smooth (same amount as IRA) till EOL.

But the Roth is smoothed and provides a constant INCOME but taxes take a big bite between the when the IRA is still distributing and the Roth kicks in tax free.
( 60K vs 77k ). The smoothing does not seem to be smoothing the discretionary spending, only the withdrawals from the accounts. Does that make sense. I could send a screen shot if you like.

dan royer's picture

It is really hard to discuss in the abstract since so many factors can influence the discretionary spending. Look at your Regular Assets report. I suspect you are seeing that balance zero out at one or more spots before SS at 70 kicks in? This is the liquidity constraint that is keeping your discretionary spending from being smooth. Have you looked at using Special Withdrawals from either your regular or ROTH accounts? You can override the smooth withdrawals with numbers in special withdrawals.

To use special withdrawals, first look and see what the smooth withdraw amount is, and then enter a series of amounts that are higher than that amount--making a guess. You can also try making the age of last withdraw closer to the present. This will also, of course, raise the amount of each withdrawal.

I checked the asset report and no, it does not go to zero anywhere near the event. This event is occurring just after I die and the standard of living changes from the 1.6 to 1.0.
I tried defining a special withdrawal for these two years but nothing happened for regular IRA and only one distribution was made for the Roth. I'm probably doing something wrong there so I reset it as before.
I checked the tax reports and it raises a question. The Tax report in suggestions shows $0 tax on my wife's earnings at 2 yrs after I die until she dies. That seems incorrect as she would be still receiving SS benefits during that period. The taxes paid in the 2 years after I die are aproximately the amount that would smooth that period out. What is this report supposed to be showing? Real total FED-State or just taxes on retirement withdrawals? This seems to be related to the problem.

dan royer's picture

OK, I think your question is: why is my discretionary spending not smooth? This could be because of borrowing constraint as I said before. Or it could be that you have changed the standard of living curve with the standard of living setting in Assumptions (set it to go from 100% to say 85% at some specific year for example).

Or perhaps if I read this right, you are simply seeing the discretionary spending change to match "per adult living standard" after you die. That is what it's supposed to do. The discretionary spending is "household" spending--it accounts for both adults (and children if applicable) in the household. So when one person dies, less money is needed in the household in order for the surviving adult to have the same living standard. So the survivor's living standard doesn't go down--it's just that he or she needs less to live on with only one person to sustain.

OK, yes the discretionary spending is not smooth for 2 years after I "die" and my wife is receiving smooth distributions and SS.
I did a test and took a special distribution from the Roth IRA the year before I "die" to make sure there was no zero asset constraint. The result surprised me in that I increase discretionary spending in that year but did nothing to aid smoothing after.

Reset and do another test. I moved the Roth IRA money to a regular IRA account and suddenly a big effect. The smooth discretionary spending dropped (due to taxes as expected) but at the end (last 3 years) the smaller Roth kicked in and again discretionary spending jumped up due to no taxes.

So, the problem seems to be that the smooth discretionary spending is calculated pre-tax for Roth IRA distributions. I'm guessing here but could the algorithm be combining all tax deferred assets before calculating tax rate? Or just a Roth issue. Anyway I think I understand now what the issue is and can manually adjust for it in the future.

dan royer's picture

Again, just to be clear: the discretionary spending after you die is not supposed to be the same as it was before you die. This is because it doesn't take as much discretionary spending for one person as it does for two. typically you see the new discretionary spending equal what you saw in "per adult living standard" in the far right column. I would not try to override that. This is by design.

I'm a new user and a bit late to join this conversation.
My husband and I are recently retired and are new to the ESPlanner software.
We're at the stage of doing trade-offs to increase our smooth discretionary spending. As a secondary goal, we would like to leave some assets to our adult children. To understand what we might be leaving them, we need to know the composition of our final retirement assets (Roth compared to deductible IRA/401k). As of fall 2017, is there a way to get this info from the reports short of creating a spreadsheet to compute the separate balances for each profile that we run? A Roth is much better than an equal dollar traditional IRA. Thanks to anyone who can help!!

dan royer's picture


I'd just enter a special expenditure or series or set of special expenditures in the amount you want to give the children in the years you want to give it. IF those amounts create a $0 balance in regular assets, you might need to take some special withdrawals from retirement assets. Remember too that the value of the house is left on the table at death.

Dan, Thanks for the special expenditure idea.
I'm still interested in knowing the composition of our retirement accounts- Roth and deductible IRA over time.That should help to understand the true value of our net worth.
Is there a way to get the individual Roth and transitional IRA balances from the software?
Thanks again for your help.

dan royer's picture

Not at this point there's not. There's been some thought about separating them out in the reports in the MaxiFi program.

Dan, I too would like to see a running balance of my traditional and roth ira accounts. Is there any progress on this issue?

dan royer's picture

No, sorry if I wasn't clear. The only future changes possible would be in MaxiFi reports, not ESPlanner.

Dan, can you tell me if the reports in MaxiFi show roth and traditional IRA's separately? With regards to Esplanner, I know as a former programmer these values are already calculated and combined for the reports. It would be easy to separate and display them on the excel report without worrying about column space.

dan royer's picture

No, the Roth withdraws are not shown separately yet in MaxiFi, but I do believe that's in the plan for 2019 feature in MaxiFi.

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