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Know These 3 Facts to Avoid Paying Half Your Retirement Income to the IRS - January 13, 2020

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If you do not make a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your own or an inherited IRA by the specified deadline, the IRS could hit you with a big penalty - 50%! For example, if you were required to withdraw a minimum of $4,000 and you did not, you would be obliged to pay $2,000. Plus, beginning January 1, 2020, the rules concerning RMDs were updated.

In case you're like most investors, you're probably trying to build a financial portfolio that is solid enough to guarantee a comfortable retirement. Among retirement financial planners, this is known as the "accumulation phase." In this stage, your objective is to carefully invest by selecting stocks with long-term potential for your retirement nest egg. For example, you might choose Amgen (AMGN - Free Report) , which is a current top ranked dividend stock.

There is also a second phase of retirement planning that gets less focus - despite the fact that it's the more interesting part. It's the "distribution phase," which essentially means spending the wealth you've worked hard to amass.

Planning for the distribution phase is the time where you may make decisions about where you'll want to live in retirement, whether you'll want to travel, hobbies you may pursue, and other decisions that will affect your retirement spending.

Along with those choices, you need to be mindful of the RMD, because it applies to the majority of retirement accounts. This IRS rule requires you to withdraw a specific minimum amount from any qualified accounts you have when you reach a certain age--previously it was 70 1/2, but beginning in 2020, it is 72.

Why does the IRS require these distributions? It's straightforward - they need to ensure they get their tax. In the event that this standard didn't exist, individuals could live off other pay and never pay tax on their retirement investment returns. So, that cash could be left to family or companions as an inheritance without the IRS getting any taxes from you.

The Most Important Things to Know About RMDs

What types of retirement accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts such as 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 do I need to begin withdrawals? For most accounts, you should take your first distribution by April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which you turn 72. If you retire after 72, you must withdraw your first RMD from your 401(k), profit-sharing, 403(b), or other defined contribution plan by April 1 of the year following the calendar year that you retire.

Every year after your start date, you are required to take your RMD by December 31. Remember, for Roth IRAs you do not have to take an RMD because you paid taxes before contributing. However, other types of Roth accounts do require RMDs, but you may be able to avoid them (for instance, by rolling your Roth 401(k) into your Roth IRA).

What happens if I don't take my RMD? The penalty for not taking a required minimum distribution, or not taking a large enough distribution, 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.

Example: Ann is 71 and must take her first RMD in the year that she reaches age 72. Her year-end IRA balance the prior year was $100,000. Her "distribution period" factor is 27.4. The result of dividing $100,000 by 27.4 is $3,649.63 - the amount of the RMD that Ann must withdraw for the calendar year in which she turns 72.

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.


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