Failing to withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your own or an inherited IRA by the deadline results in a big tax code penalty: 50%. That's right. If you were supposed to take out a minimum of $4,000 and (oops!) did not do so, you have the privilege of writing the IRS a check for $2,000.
Like the majority of investors, you're most likely working on a retirement portfolio that will provide a large enough nest egg to give you a comfortable retirement. Retirement financial planners refer to this as the "accumulation phase." Your goal in this phase is to choose investments with long-term growth potential - for example, a current top ranked dividend stock like AbbVie ((ABBV - Free Report) ).
But that's just half of retirement planning. The second part, the "distribution phase," sometimes gets overlooked even though it can be more fun to think about. That's because the distribution phase is where you determine how to spend your hard-earned assets.
Preparing for the distribution stage is where you may settle on choices about where you'll live in retirement, whether you'll wish to travel, interests you may seek after, and different choices that will influence your retirement spending.
In addition to these considerations, it is essential to take into account the required minimum distribution (RMD) that applies to most retirement accounts. Basically, this is an IRS requirement that you withdraw a certain amount from your qualified retirement accounts once you reach age 70 1/2.
What is the point of this mandatory withdrawal by the IRS? Not surprisingly, it's to be sure that the government gets their tax money. Without the RMD requirement, individuals could live off other income and never pay tax on retirement account gains. That cash could be left to family or friends as an inheritance and the IRS would not receive taxes from it.
The Most Important Things to Know About RMDs
Which types of retirement accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts like IRA accounts, 401(k)s, 457 plans and other tax-deferred retirement savings plans like a TSP, 403(b), TSA, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA plan require withdrawals in retirement.
When does it become necessary to begin taking distributions? Your first distribution must be taken by April 1 of the year following the calendar year that you turn 70 1/2 (for most accounts). Also, if you retire after 70 1/2, you must take your first RMD from your 401(k), profit-sharing, 403(b), or other defined contribution plan by April 1 of the year after the calendar year in which you retire.
For each year after your required starting date, you must take your RMD by December 31. Note that you don't need to take an RMD on a Roth IRA since you covered taxes before contributing. Other varieties of Roth accounts require RMDs. But, there are approaches to avoid them - for instance, you can roll your Roth 401(k) into your Roth IRA.
What happens if don't take my RMD? The penalty for not taking a required minimum distribution, or if the distribution is not large enough, is a 50% tax on the amount not withdrawn in time.
How much money do I have to withdraw? To calculate a specific RMD, you must divide your prior year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor based on your age.
Here's an example to give you an idea of the math: Ann is 70 and will take her first RMD in the year she turns 70 1/2. Her IRA balance toward the end of the preceding year was $100,000. Her "distribution period" factor is 27.4. Dividing $100,000 by 27.4 equals $3,649.63. This is the amount Ann is required to withdraw for the calendar year in which she turns 70 1/2.
Learning about the "distribution phase" is just one aspect of preparing for your nest egg years.
To learn more about the tax implications of retirement spending - and much more about retirement planning - download our free guide: Retirement Made Easy.
(We are reissuing this article to correct a mistake. The original article, issued on December 11, 2019, should no longer be relied upon.)