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How Do I Get My Retirement Money?

Author Bio
Steven Neeley, CFP®

is a retirement planning expert and financial advisor with Fortress Capital Advisors, a fee-only, fiduciary registered investment advisor offering retirement planning and wealth management services in the State of Indiana and other jurisdictions where registered or exempted. Main office: 418 Oak Dr., Carmel, IN 46032. Tel: (317) 210-3727.

Steven Neeley, CFP®

is a retirement planning expert and financial advisor with Fortress Capital Advisors, a fee-only, fiduciary registered investment advisor offering retirement planning and wealth management services in the State of Indiana and other jurisdictions where registered or exempted. Main office: 418 Oak Dr., Carmel, IN 46032. Tel: (317) 210-3727.

Table of Contents

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Retirement marks a significant milestone in one’s life, bringing with it a shift from years of earning and saving to a period of spending and enjoying the fruits of your labor. However, navigating the process of accessing your retirement money can be complex and confusing. This article aims to guide you through the different options available, the rules governing withdrawals, and strategies to optimize your financial stability in retirement.

Which Accounts Should I Withdraw from First in Retirement?

For many retirees, determining the order in which to withdraw funds from various accounts is a crucial decision that can have long-term implications on financial stability and tax liability. When considering which accounts to withdraw from first in retirement, it’s important to take factors such as tax efficiency, required minimum distributions (RMDs), and the preservation of capital into account.

1. Understanding Your Account Types

Before deciding on a withdrawal strategy, it’s important to understand the different types of accounts most retirees have:

– Taxable Accounts: These include standard brokerage accounts where investments are subject to capital gains tax. Withdrawals from these accounts do not incur additional taxes beyond what has already been applied to the earnings.

– Tax-Deferred Accounts: This category encompasses accounts such as Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, where contributions are made pre-tax, and taxes are deferred until withdrawal.

– Tax-Free Accounts: Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s fall into this category. Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, and qualified withdrawals (typically after age 59½ and a five-year holding period) are tax-free.

2. Tax Efficiency: A Key Consideration

One of the main considerations in deciding the order of withdrawals is tax efficiency. A common strategy is to minimize tax liability in the short term while also considering long-term tax implications.

– Start with Taxable Accounts: Withdrawals from taxable accounts come with a lower tax hit, especially if most of the account consists of long-term capital gains. By using funds from these accounts first, you allow your tax-advantaged accounts more time to grow.

– Next, Turn to Tax-Deferred Accounts: Once taxable accounts are depleted, or when you reach age 72 and must take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), shift to tax-deferred accounts. The goal is to withdraw these funds in years when you are in a lower tax bracket to minimize the tax impact.

– Preserve Tax-Free Accounts for Last: Given that Roth accounts grow tax-free, it often makes sense to preserve these funds for as long as possible. Additionally, Roth IRAs do not have RMDs, providing more flexibility in how you use these funds.

3. Considerations for Required Minimum Distributions

RMDs from tax-deferred accounts must start at age 72, and failing to take these mandatory withdrawals can result in hefty penalties. Therefore, it’s crucial to incorporate RMDs into your withdrawal strategy to ensure compliance and minimize the tax impact.

4. Flexibility and Market Conditions

Market conditions can also play a role in deciding which accounts to withdraw from first. In a down market, it might be more advantageous to withdraw from a tax-free account to avoid selling investments at a loss in a taxable or tax-deferred account.

5. Health and Estate Planning

Consider your health and longevity, as well as your estate planning goals. If you aim to leave a substantial inheritance, preserving tax-advantaged accounts might be more beneficial for your heirs.

Is It Better to Withdraw Monthly or Annually From a 401(k)

When it comes to withdrawals, retirees are often faced with the dilemma: is it better to withdraw monthly or annually from a 401(k)? Below, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of both options to help you make an informed decision.

Monthly Withdrawals: Pros and Cons

1. Consistent Cash Flow: Monthly withdrawals provide a steady stream of income, similar to a paycheck, which can help in budgeting and managing monthly expenses.
2. Dollar-Cost Averaging: By withdrawing monthly, you are essentially practicing dollar-cost averaging on the withdrawal side, which could potentially reduce the impact of market volatility on your retirement savings.
3. Flexibility: Monthly withdrawals offer more flexibility as you can adjust the amount you withdraw based on your current financial needs.

1. Potential for Higher Fees: Some 401(k) plans may have transaction fees for withdrawals, which means frequent withdrawals could result in higher fees over time.
2. May Deplete Savings Faster: Without careful planning, there is a risk of depleting your savings faster than anticipated, especially if your withdrawals are not aligned with the growth of your investments.

Annual Withdrawals: Pros and Cons

1. Tax Planning Opportunities: Withdrawing annually allows for better tax planning, as you can align your withdrawals with your taxable income for the year, potentially resulting in lower taxes.
2. Reduced Transaction Fees: Less frequent withdrawals could mean lower transaction fees, depending on the terms of your 401(k) plan.
3. Potential for Investment Growth: Leaving your money invested for a longer period gives your investments more time to grow, potentially leading to a larger retirement nest egg.

1. Lack of Regular Income: Annual withdrawals do not provide a consistent cash flow, which could make budgeting and managing monthly expenses more challenging.
2. Market Timing Risk: Withdrawing a large sum at once exposes you to market timing risk, as the value of your investments could be lower at the time of withdrawal, resulting in a smaller payout.

Ultimately, the decision between monthly and annual 401(k) withdrawals depends on your individual financial situation, goals, and preferences. Monthly withdrawals provide a consistent cash flow and flexibility but may come with higher fees and the risk of depleting savings faster. Annual withdrawals offer tax planning opportunities and the potential for investment growth but lack regular income and pose market timing risks.

What is the Best Way to Withdraw Money from 401k?

Navigating the financial landscape of retirement can be a complex task. Central to this process is the question of how to efficiently withdraw funds from your 401(k) plan.

Though there are several ways to tap into these funds, understanding the nuances of each can save you from unnecessary taxes and penalties. Here’s a look at some of the best strategies:

1. Age Considerations
The age at which you decide to withdraw funds plays a pivotal role in the kind of taxes and penalties you might incur.

– Before Age 59½: Generally, withdrawing funds from a 401(k) before you reach age 59½ results in a 10% early withdrawal penalty, in addition to the regular income tax you’d owe.

– After Age 59½: The 10% penalty no longer applies, but withdrawals are still subject to regular income tax.

-Age 72: By this age, the IRS requires that you start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Failing to take these distributions can lead to hefty penalties.

2. Rollover to an IRA

One popular strategy to access 401(k) funds is to rollover the balance into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This move can provide more flexibility in terms of investment choices and withdrawal options. Furthermore, with a traditional IRA, you can still defer taxes until you make withdrawals.

3. Consider the Roth Conversion Ladder

If you’re considering early retirement, the Roth Conversion Ladder can be a strategic move. This involves converting a portion of your traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA. You’ll pay income tax on the amount you convert, but after a 5-year waiting period, you can withdraw the converted amount from the Roth IRA penalty-free.

4. Annuities

Some individuals opt for annuities, which can provide a guaranteed stream of income. Before going this route, it’s crucial to understand the fees involved and whether it aligns with your financial goals.

5. Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP)

If you need to access your funds before age 59½, one way to avoid the 10% penalty (but not the income tax) is through SEPP. The IRS allows for this exception, but it requires withdrawals at least annually and for the payments to last for 5 years or until you reach age 59½, whichever comes later.

6. Take out a 401(k) Loan

While not technically a “withdrawal”, some plans allow participants to take out a loan against their 401(k). This can be a way to access funds without incurring penalties or taxes. However, the loan must be repaid with interest, and failing to do so can result in it being treated as a taxable distribution.

7. Factor in Life Events

Certain life events, like disability, medical emergencies, or the purchase of a first home, may qualify you for a penalty-free withdrawal. It’s essential to check with your plan administrator and consult a tax professional to understand the implications.

The best way to withdraw from your 401(k) largely depends on individual circumstances. Your age, financial goals, and current life situation can all influence the right strategy for you. Remember, the primary goal is to maximize the benefit of these funds throughout retirement, so strategic planning is key.

In What Order Should I Withdraw Retirement Funds?

Before deciding the order of withdrawal, it is crucial to understand the different types of retirement accounts and their tax implications:

1. Taxable Accounts: These include regular brokerage accounts where taxes have already been paid on the principal amount. However, you may owe taxes on any capital gains or dividends.

2. Tax-Deferred Accounts: These accounts include traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s, where contributions are made pre-tax. Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income.

3. Roth Accounts: Contributions to Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are made with after-tax dollars, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free.

The Traditional Strategy: Tax-Deferred Accounts First

Historically, the common approach has been to withdraw from tax-deferred accounts first, followed by taxable accounts, and leaving Roth accounts for last. The rationale behind this strategy is to allow tax-free accounts more time to grow, while depleting the tax-deferred accounts that would be subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) at age 72.

The Roth-First Strategy: A Tax-Efficient Approach

With the rising popularity of Roth accounts, some financial advisors now recommend tapping into Roth accounts earlier in retirement, particularly if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket later on. By strategically withdrawing from Roth accounts during years when your income is lower, you can potentially minimize your lifetime tax liability.

Blending Your Withdrawals: A Balanced Approach

A more nuanced strategy involves blending withdrawals from different account types each year to optimize for taxes. This may involve taking just enough from tax-deferred accounts to fill up the lower tax brackets, and then supplementing with withdrawals from Roth or taxable accounts. This approach requires careful planning and a good understanding of the tax code.

Considering Social Security and Medicare

Your withdrawal strategy can also impact your Social Security benefits and Medicare premiums. Higher taxable income can lead to taxes on your Social Security benefits and higher Medicare Part B premiums. Thus, it’s important to consider these factors in your withdrawal strategy.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for withdrawing retirement funds, as individual circumstances vary widely. Factors such as your tax bracket, expected longevity, legacy goals, and market conditions can all influence the optimal order of withdrawals. By understanding the different types of accounts and their tax implications, and by considering your personal circumstances and goals, you can develop a withdrawal strategy that ensures financial stability and minimizes tax liability in retirement.

Can I Close My IRA and Take the Money?

The short answer, is “Yes, you can close your IRA and take the money.” That said, there are serious implications to closing your IRA that you should be aware of:

1. Taxes: Withdrawing funds from a Traditional IRA before the age of 59½ generally results in a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to regular income tax. Roth IRAs offer more flexibility with contributions being withdrawn tax and penalty-free, but earnings are subject to taxes and penalties if withdrawn early.

2. Loss of Compounding: IRAs are designed to benefit from compounding over time. Closing your account and withdrawing funds means losing out on potential future growth, which can significantly impact your retirement savings.

3. Future Contributions: Once you withdraw the funds and close your IRA, you may miss out on future tax-advantaged contributions. The annual limit for IRA contributions is $6,000 in 2023 (or $7,000 if you are 50 or older), and it does not carry over from year to year if you do not make the maximum contribution.

Alternatives to Closing Your IRA:
Before deciding to close your IRA, consider the following alternatives:

1. Partial Withdrawals: Instead of closing the entire account, you might opt for a partial withdrawal to cover immediate needs, preserving the remaining balance for future growth.

2. IRA Loans: While direct loans are not allowed from IRAs, you might consider other loan options such as a 60-day rollover, where you withdraw funds with the intention of depositing them back into an IRA within 60 days to avoid taxes and penalties.

3. Hardship Distributions: In some cases, you may qualify for a hardship distribution, which allows for early withdrawal without penalties under specific circumstances such as medical emergencies or purchasing a first home.

Closing your IRA and withdrawing funds is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It comes with significant financial implications, including taxes, penalties, and the loss of future growth potential. Before proceeding, carefully weigh the alternatives.

How Many Times a Year Can I Withdraw from My IRA?

The IRS does not limit the number of withdrawals you can make from your IRA each year, however, financial institutions might have their own policies and fees associated with IRA distributions. It is essential to consult with your IRA custodian to understand any potential restrictions or charges.

While there is no specific limit on the number of times you can withdraw from your IRA each year, it is vital to understand the rules, taxes, and potential penalties associated with these withdrawals. Consulting with a financial advisor can provide personalized guidance based on your individual circumstances, helping you make informed decisions about your retirement savings. Remember, the primary purpose of an IRA is to provide financial security in retirement, so careful consideration and planning are key to maximizing the benefits of this investment vehicle.

How Can I Withdraw Money From My Retirement Account Without Penalty?

While withdrawing money from your retirement account before the age of 59½ typically results in penalties, there are several strategies and exceptions that can help you avoid these fees. This article explores various ways you can withdraw money from your retirement account without incurring penalties.

1. Utilize the Rule of 55

If you leave your job in the year you turn 55 or later (or 50 for public safety employees), you can take distributions from your current 401(k) or 403(b) without incurring the 10% early withdrawal penalty. This is known as the Rule of 55. It’s important to note that this rule does not apply to IRAs or plans from previous employers.

2. Consider Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP)

SEPP allows you to take early withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k) without penalties through substantially equal periodic payments over a period of five years or until you turn 59½, whichever is longer. The amount must be calculated using one of the IRS-approved methods: the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) method, the Fixed Amortization method, or the Fixed Annuitization method.

3. Utilize a Roth IRA Conversion Ladder

With a Roth IRA Conversion Ladder, you convert a portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. You must wait five years to access the converted amount without penalties. This strategy requires careful planning and consideration of tax implications.

4. Withdraw Contributions from a Roth IRA

You can withdraw contributions (but not earnings) from a Roth IRA at any time without penalties or taxes, as you’ve already paid taxes on these contributions. However, withdrawing earnings before age 59½ and before the account has been open for five years may result in taxes and penalties.

5. Explore Exceptions for Specific Circumstances

The IRS allows penalty-free withdrawals under specific circumstances, such as:

– Disability: If you become permanently disabled, you can withdraw from your retirement account without penalties.
– Medical Expenses: You can withdraw funds penalty-free if your unreimbursed medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
– First-Time Home Purchase: You can withdraw up to $10,000 from an IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring penalties.
– Higher Education Expenses: You can use retirement funds to pay for qualified higher education expenses without penalties.

6. Take Advantage of the Rule of 72(t)

The Rule of 72(t) allows for penalty-free early withdrawals from an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified retirement account through a series of substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP), similar to the strategy mentioned earlier. These payments must occur at least annually and the amount must be calculated using one of the IRS approved methods.

How Do I Access My Retirement Account?

Accessing retirement funds can sometimes be confusing, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the processes involved. Following these steps when accessing your retirement account will ensure a smooth and stress-free experience.

Step 1: Understanding Your Retirement Account Type

Before you can access your retirement account, it’s essential to know what type of account you have. The most common types include 401(k), IRA (Individual Retirement Account), and pension plans. Each account type has different rules for access, withdrawals, and taxes.

– 401(k): A retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out.
– IRA: A type of personal savings plan that offers tax advantages to set aside money for retirement.
– Pension Plan: A type of retirement plan where an employer makes contributions toward a pool of funds set aside for an employee’s future benefit.

Step 2: Checking the Account Balance and Investment Options

Once you’ve identified your account type, the next step is to check your account balance and review your investment options. You can usually do this online through the financial institution’s website that manages your retirement account. Log in to your account using your credentials, and you should be able to view your balance, investment options, and other relevant details.

Step 3: Understanding Withdrawal Rules and Penalties

Retirement accounts have specific rules regarding when and how you can withdraw funds. For example, 401(k) and IRA accounts typically have a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you take money out before the age of 59½, with some exceptions. It’s crucial to understand these rules to avoid unnecessary penalties and taxes.

Step 4: Deciding on Withdrawal or Loan Options

Depending on your financial needs and the type of retirement account you have, you might opt to withdraw funds or take out a loan against your retirement savings. Withdrawals are permanent and can impact your future financial security, while loans need to be repaid over time. Consider consulting with a financial advisor to help make the best decision for your situation.

Step 5: Initiating the Withdrawal or Loan Process

To initiate a withdrawal or loan, you’ll need to contact the financial institution that manages your retirement account. This can usually be done online, over the phone, or in person. Be prepared to provide identification and other necessary documentation to complete the process.

Step 6: Paying Taxes and Possible Penalties

When you withdraw funds from your retirement account, you may be subject to taxes and possible penalties. The amount will depend on your account type, age, and the amount you withdraw. Ensure you understand the tax implications before proceeding with the withdrawal.


Navigating the landscape of retirement withdrawals requires a nuanced understanding of your financial situation, tax implications, and long-term goals. While the best strategy will vary depending on individual circumstances, a thoughtful approach to withdrawing from your accounts can ensure a more secure and comfortable retirement. Remember to consider the order in which you withdraw funds, as this can significantly impact your tax burden and account longevity. Additionally, be mindful of the rules and penalties associated with early withdrawals from accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s. Consulting with a financial advisor can provide personalized guidance and help you make the most of your retirement savings.

Request an appointment at Fortress Capital Advisors today if you have questions or need further guidance on planning for retirement. Our professional team can streamline your retirement planning and help you avoid common obstacles.


Generally, withdrawals from a 401(k) before age 59½ are subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to regular income tax. However, there are certain exceptions, such as the Rule of 55 or substantially equal periodic payments (SEPPs), that may allow you to access funds without penalties.
Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts like traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are taxed as regular income, while withdrawals from Roth accounts are tax-free if certain conditions are met. The order in which you withdraw from these accounts can impact your overall tax liability in retirement.
RMDs are mandatory minimum amounts that must be withdrawn from certain retirement accounts starting at age 72. Failing to take the RMD can result in a 50% penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn.
Yes, there are exceptions that allow for penalty-free withdrawals from IRAs for qualifying expenses, such as first-time home purchases, higher education expenses, and certain medical costs.
Yes, consulting with a financial advisor is highly recommended. They can provide personalized advice based on your financial situation, goals, and tax implications to help optimize your retirement withdrawals.
While it is technically possible to withdraw all of your retirement savings at once, doing so may result in significant tax liabilities and could jeopardize your financial security in retirement.
Failing to withdraw the required minimum distributions (RMDs) can result in hefty penalties. Additionally, not withdrawing enough could mean missing out on potential tax-planning opportunities.
Creating a sustainable withdrawal strategy, investing wisely, and regularly reviewing and adjusting your plan can help ensure that your retirement savings last throughout your lifetime.

Important Information

Investment advisory services are offered through Fortress Capital Advisors LLC, a fee-only, fiduciary registered investment advisor. This communication is not to be directly or indirectly interpreted as a solicitation of investment advisory services.

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