Attention, Seniors: You Have Less Than 1 Month to Avoid This Costly Mistake

There’s a reason workers are often encouraged to sock money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged savings plan, like an IRA or 401(k). If you’re going to make the effort to build yourself a nest egg, you might as well enjoy some nice tax breaks along the way.

But while saving in an IRA or 401(k) plan makes a lot of sense, these accounts come with certain drawbacks. For one thing, you’ll face penalties if you remove funds from one of these plans prior to age 59 1/2 (though some limited exceptions do apply). And while it can be argued that that’s a good thing, since it encourages savers to leave their money alone until retirement, it also leaves workers who opt to end their careers in their 50s in a tough spot.

Another disadvantage of keeping your retirement savings in an IRA or 401(k) is that your money can’t just sit in your account enjoying tax-advantaged growth forever. Rather, the IRS requires you to start taking withdrawals from your savings starting at age 72. And if you don’t follow that rule, you could face enormous penalties.

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Don’t ignore your RMD

If you have a traditional IRA, a traditional 401(k), or a Roth 401(k), you’re forced to start taking annual withdrawals once you turn 72. These are known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), and they’re calculated based on your account balance and life expectancy.

Now your first RMD is due by April 1 after the year you turn 72. So if you turned 72 this past October, you have a number of months to get that money out of your IRA or 401(k).

But all subsequent RMDs need to be taken by Dec. 31 each year. So if you’re in your mid-70s, for example, and you haven’t yet taken your RMD for 2022, you have less than a month to withdraw that money.

What happens if you don’t take your RMD? You face a penalty equal to 50% of the sum you were supposed to remove but didn’t. So if you’re on the hook for a $10,000 RMD, not taking that withdrawal will cost you $5,000 off the bat.

Avoiding RMDs

For some seniors, RMDs aren’t a problem. That’s because they need to take withdrawals from their savings to supplement their Social Security benefits. But other seniors find RMDs to be a burden.

Now the good news is that RMDs taken from a Roth 401(k) don’t create a tax liability, since Roth 401(k) withdrawals in general aren’t subject to taxes. But in that scenario, you still lose the option to keep your money invested in your Roth 401(k), where it can grow tax-free.

If you don’t like the idea of being forced to remove money from your savings during retirement, you may want to keep your money in a Roth IRA. In addition to tax-free withdrawals, Roth IRAs offer the benefit of not imposing RMDs. As such, they’re a good place for your money if you want to leave some wealth behind to your heirs.

Don’t let that deadline pass you by

Throwing money away is something you’d probably rather not do. But if you don’t take your 2022 RMD by Dec. 31, that’s what’ll happen. Rather than wait until the last minute, go ahead and withdraw that money from your account sooner rather than later so you can check that task off your list.

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