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Retirees Should Know These 3 Facts About Required Minimum Distributions - December 13, 2019

Zacks Equity Research

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 AbbVie (ABBV), 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 required minimum distribution (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 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.

What You Need 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 arrive at age 70 1/2.

For each subsequent year after your required beginning date, you must take your RMD by December 31. Note that you do not have to take an RMD on a Roth IRA since you paid taxes prior to contributing. Other types of Roth accounts require RMDs. However, there are ways to avoid them. For example, 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? To figure out a particular RMD, you should divide your earlier year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor dependent on your age.

Example: Ann is 70 and must take her first RMD in the year she reaches age 70 1/2. 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 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.

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