Neglecting to withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD) from an IRA by the due date brings about a painful tax code penalty: 50%. Yes, you read that right. If you are supposed to withdraw at least $4,000 and (uh oh!) did not do as such, you have to write the IRS a check for $2,000.
Like many investors, you're likely aiming to build a comfortable nest egg to ensure a comfortable retirement. Among retirement financial planners, this is called the "accumulation phase." In this phase, your goal is to invest wisely by choosing stocks with long-term potential for your retirement portfolio, such as Duke Realty (DRE), 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.
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 these aspects, it is important to consider the required minimum distribution (RMD) that applies to most retirement accounts. Essentially, the IRS requires you to withdraw a specific sum from your qualified retirement accounts once you hit age 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
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 72 (for most accounts).
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 will happen if I neglect to take my RMD? If you don't take an RMD, or don't take a large enough distribution, you are liable for a 50% tax on the amount that was 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 72. 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 72.
Learning about the "distribution phase" is just one aspect of preparing for your nest egg years.
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