8 key retirement dates you don't want to miss

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In the words of Forrest Gump, blind dates are like a box of chocolates -- "you never know what you're gonna get." While the uncertainty may be fine for a blind date, surprises are the last thing you want when it comes to retirement.

In fact, there are several dates that trigger important milestones for current and future retirees. Here are eight retirement dates you don't want to miss.

Age 50: At the half-century mark, future retirees get some extra help in saving for retirement. They can make what are called "catch-up" contributions to both 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. In 2014, the catch-up contribution limits are $5,500 for 401(k)s (increasing the total 401(k) limit to $23,000) and $1,000 for IRAs (increasing the total IRA contribution limit to $6,500).

Age 55: Early retirees can begin making withdrawals from their 401(k) plan penalty-free at age 55. This little-known exception to early withdrawals does have strict rules. For example, it only applies to ERISA-qualified, employer-established, defined-contribution plans such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans. It does not apply to IRAs. You also must have worked for your employer until you reached at least 55. You can't retire at, say, 53, wait two years, and then take advantage of this exception.

Age 59½: Just before you reach the big 6-0, you can begin making penalty-free withdrawals from 401(k) and IRA accounts. If you are still working and have a 401(k), you'll need to check with your plan administrator to see if it allows what's called an "in-service" withdrawal.

Age 62: This is the earliest age at which you can begin receiving Social Security benefits. Note that your benefits will be reduced if you begin receiving them early (that is, before your full retirement age as noted below). At age 62, the benefit is reduced by roughly 30 percent, although the exact reduction depends on your year of birth.

Age 65: Turning 65 is significant for several reasons. First, at age 65, you can sign up for Medicare. Second, those born before 1943 reach full retirement age for purposes of Social Security benefits (it varies by a few months, depending on your year of birth). And finally, those with a health savings account can make withdrawals for nonmedical reasons without paying a penalty.

Age 66-67: Those born in 1943 or later reach full retirement age for purposes of Social Security benefits during their 66 th year (if born between 1943 and 1959) or when they reach 67 (if born in 1960 or later).

Age 70: For those looking to maximize Social Security, benefit increases stop at age 70, even if you continue to delay taking Social Security. The rate of increase up to age 70 depends on your year of birth, as outlined in a chart provided by the Social Security Administration.

Age 70½: At this age, the required minimum distribution kicks in. The RMD sets the minimum amount you must withdrawal from pretax 401(k), IRA and other retirement accounts. The RMD requirement does not apply to Roth retirement accounts.

Rob Berger is an attorney and founder of the popular personal finance and investing blog, doughroller.net. He is also the editor of the Dough Roller Weekly Newsletter, a free newsletter covering all aspects of personal finance and investing, and the Dough Roller Money Podcast.

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