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Retirees Should Know These 3 Facts About Required Minimum Distributions - July 17, 2020

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. Keep in mind that on January 1, 2020, the RMD rules were modified.

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 Colgate-Palmolive (CL), which is a current top ranked dividend stock.

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.

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 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.

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 71 and will take her first RMD in the year following 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 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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