Required minimum distributions – rules and other considerations

Published 3:47 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

If you’re already retired or have reached age 70 1\ 2, you probably know that for 2009 only, Congress suspended the rule mandating that holders of traditional individual retirement accounts—including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s—take an annual required minimum distribution.

These required minimum distribution (RMD) amounts are established in tables published by the Internal Revenue Service.

There was general concern retirees would be forced to remove funds when values of so many plans were at low levels because of slumping financial markets.

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The suspension for 2009 also applies to investors under age 70 1\ 2 who have inherited IRAs or other inherited plan accounts that would otherwise be subject to RMDs.

Keep in mind that if you were required to take an RMD for 2008, there was no relief.

RMDs were due to have been taken by Dec. 31, 2008, or, if you turned 701\ 2 in 2008, by April 1, 2009.

Even if you don’t need the money, not taking an RMD is a quick way to lose 50 percent (the standard IRS penalty) of what you were supposed to draw down, and that is likely to be far more than would be due in taxes.

None of this applies to Roth IRAs or employer-sponsored Roth plans, because they carry no minimum distribution requirements.

You may want to take all or part of your distribution for 2009 anyway, if you need the funds to meet your financial obligations. If this isn’t the case, you may want to consider alternatives.

Before you act, consider all the implications of taking, or not taking, a 2009 distribution. Is it wise to take a distribution, given your portfolio’s current balance?

Should you rebalance your portfolio in order to generate future income you think you’ll need to meet your goals?

Should your retirement goals themselves be modified?

Should you withdraw funds and invest elsewhere?

If you’re thinking about this idea, consider the risks and tax ramifications.

If you don’t need the money this year, you can simply leave it in place and wait until 2010 to make a withdrawal. If you’d like to discuss these alternatives, please don’t hesitate to call me.