3 Investing Facts About Required Minimum Distributions You Need to Know - September 24, 2020

Zacks Equity Research
·4-min read

If you do not make a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your own or an inherited IRA by the specified deadline, the IRS could hit you with a big penalty - 50%! For example, if you were required to withdraw a minimum of $4,000 and you did not, you would be obliged to pay $2,000. Plus, beginning January 1, 2020, the rules concerning RMDs were updated.

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 Lockheed Martin (LMT), a current top ranked dividend stock.

But there is a second phase of retirement planning that gets less attention, even though it's the more enjoyable part. It's the "distribution phase," which simply means spending the assets you've worked so hard to accumulate.

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.

In addition to these considerations, it is essential to take into account the RMD that applies to most retirement accounts. Basically, this is an IRS requirement that you withdraw a certain amount from your qualified retirement accounts once you reach age 72.

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

Which types of accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts such as IRAs, 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 turn 72. If you retire after 72, you must withdraw 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 that you retire.

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.

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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