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Retirees Should Know These 3 Facts About Required Minimum Distributions - February 26, 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.

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 Atmos Energy (ATO).

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.

Making plans for the distribution stage involves deciding where you'll live in retirement, whether you'll travel, your proposed leisure activities, and more decisions that will affect your spending during your golden years.

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 have to start taking distributions? For most accounts, you must take your first distribution by April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which you reach age 72. If you retire after that age, 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 following 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 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 cash do I need to withdraw? The RMD you are required to take is calculated by dividing your previous year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor dependent on your age.

Example: Ann is 71 and must take her first RMD in the year following the year 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 that Ann must withdraw for her first RMD.

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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