What are Minimum Required Distributions?

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are the minimum amounts that retirees must withdraw annually from their retirement accounts after reaching a certain age. These withdrawals are mandated by the IRS to ensure that individuals do not just accumulate retirement savings tax-deferred but eventually begin drawing down on these accounts, contributing to their taxable income.

What Are RMDs?

RMDs apply to various tax-deferred retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, and most employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s and profit-sharing plans. The fundamental rule is that you must start taking withdrawals from your account when you reach age 72, adjusted to age 73 if you reach age 72 after December 31, 2022.

For those still working, there is an exception: if you do not own more than 5% of the business sponsoring your workplace retirement plan, you can delay taking RMDs from that plan until the year you retire.

Roth IRAs and Designated Roth Accounts

Roth IRAs stand out because they do not require withdrawals until after the owner’s death, allowing the funds to potentially grow tax-free throughout the owner’s lifetime. However, designated Roth accounts within 401(k) or 403(b) plans had been subject to RMD rules. Notably, starting from 2024, RMDs will no longer be required from designated Roth accounts, although they are still mandatory for 2023, including those due by April 1, 2024.

Calculating Your RMD

To calculate your RMD:

  1. Determine the account balance as of December 31 of the previous year.
  2. Use the IRS Uniform Lifetime Table to find your distribution period based on your age at the end of the year.
  3. Divide the December 31 account balance by the distribution period to find the RMD amount.

For example, if you were 74 at the end of 2023 and your account balance was $100,000, and your distribution period according to the IRS table is 23.8 years, your RMD would be approximately $4,202.

Tax Implications and Withdrawals

Withdrawals are included in your taxable income except for any part that was already taxed (such as after-tax contributions) or can be received tax-free (like qualified distributions from designated Roth accounts). Importantly, not taking your RMD can result in a significant penalty—specifically, a 50% excise tax on the amount not withdrawn as required.

Recent Legislative Changes

The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2023 raised the age to begin taking RMDs to 73. For instance, if you reached age 72 in 2023, your first RMD would be due by April 1, 2025, allowing a brief reprieve in 2023 as confirmed by Notice 2023-23. This shift aims to give retirees more flexibility in managing their retirement funds.

The 10-Year Rule

For defined contribution plan participants or IRA owners who die after December 31, 2019, the entire balance of the account must be distributed within ten years, except for eligible designated beneficiaries like a surviving spouse or a disabled individual.


RMDs are a critical aspect of retirement planning, impacting financial strategies and tax liabilities. Given the complexities and recent changes in RMD regulations, consulting with an independent Fee-Only financial adviser can provide clarity and personalized guidance. Such expertise is invaluable in navigating RMD calculations, understanding tax strategies, and ensuring compliance to optimize your retirement income effectively.

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