Failing to withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your own or an inherited IRA by the deadline results in a big tax code penalty: 50%. That's right. If you were supposed to take out a minimum of $4,000 and (oops!) did not do so, you have the privilege of writing the IRS a check for $2,000.
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 Atmos Energy (ATO), 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.
Preparing for the distribution stage is where you may settle on choices about where you'll live in retirement, whether you'll wish to travel, interests you may seek after, and different choices that will influence your retirement spending.
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 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 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 70 1/2.
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 don't take my RMD? The penalty for not taking a required minimum distribution, or if the distribution is not large enough, 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.
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 70 1/2. 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 70 1/2.
Learning about the "distribution phase" is just one aspect of preparing for your nest egg years.
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