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Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)


Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) is a term used in the finance industry to refer to the minimum amount that an individual must withdraw from certain types of tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, each year once they reach a specific age set by law. This is mandated by the U.S. federal government to ensure taxes are paid on the money, which was able to grow tax-free. As of 2022, these distributions must be taken by April 1 after the individual turns 72.


Required: /rɪˈkwaɪərd/Minimum: /ˈmɪnɪməm/Distribution: /ˌdɪstrɪˈbjuːʃən/RMD: /ɑːr/ /ɛm/ /diː/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) is a rule that compels those with specific types of retirement accounts to withdraw a minimum amount of money each year after reaching a certain age. This age has been set to 72, according to the latest IRS guidelines.
  2. Tax Implications: One of the most significant aspects of RMDs is that the distributions are generally subject to income tax. The idea behind RMDs is to ensure that people do not simply accumulate retirement accounts without ever paying taxes on them.
  3. Withdrawal Rules: The exact amount that you must withdraw depends on a variety of factors including your age, account balance, and life expectancy. If the RMD is not taken in a given year, you may have to pay a 50% excise tax on the amount not distributed as required.


The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) is a crucial term in finance and business because it refers to the mandatory minimum amount that retirement account owners must start withdrawing from their accounts after reaching a certain age, typically 72, as stipulated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This rule prevents people from indefinitely deferring taxation on their retirement accounts. Understanding RMD is vital to effectively managing your retirement savings, and ensuring compliance with tax laws while minimizing the potential for penalties. Not withdrawing or withdrawal of less than the specified amount can attract significant penalties from the IRS – up to 50% of the amount that was not distributed. Therefore, RMD serves as a guide to retirement withdrawal strategies, tax liabilities, and overall personal financial planning for senior individuals.


The primary purpose of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) is to ensure that owners of tax-deferred retirement accounts do not defer taxes indefinitely by imposing mandatory withdrawals. Tax-deferred retirement accounts such as, a 401(k) or an IRA, enable investors to grow their investments tax-free until withdrawal. The government, however, wants to eventually tax this money. Yet without RMDs, account owners could potentially avoid taxation by not withdrawing money from these accounts.Therefore, once the account owner reaches a certain age, usually 72 as per the current rules, they are mandated to withdraw a minimum amount from their tax-deferred account every year- this is the RMD. The total amount of the RMD is calculated based on the value of the retirement account and the life expectancy of the account owner. By enforcing RMDs, the IRS ensures it can collect taxes on the money that has been sheltered from taxation during the account owner’s working years. Thus, the RMD serves a dual purpose – it provides a regular source of income for retirees, while also ensuring that the government receives its due share of tax revenue.


Example 1: Retirement SavingsJohn, a 72-year old retiree has a traditional IRA from which he has not yet started taking distributions. The IRS mandates that he must take his first Required Minimum Distribution. The RMD amount is determined by the IRS’ uniform lifetime table, which at age 72 gives a distribution period of 27.4 years. If John’s year-end IRA balance is $500,000, his RMD for the year is $18,248 (500,000 divided by 27.4).Example 2: Inherited IRASarah inherited an IRA from her late mother who has already begun taking RMDs due to her age. Sarah is required to continue taking these distributions each year based on her own life expectancy according to IRS guidelines, regardless of her own age. This allows the remaining balance to continue growing tax-deferred while meeting the RMD requirements, which aim to gradually distribute the entire account balance during Sarah’s lifetime.Example 3: Multiple Retirement AccountsMichael, a 75-year old retiree, has three separate traditional IRAs. Each of these accounts has a different balance, meaning each has a different RMD calculated based on the respective account balance and Michael’s age. It’s important to note that while Michael has to calculate the RMD for each IRA separately, he can choose to take the total RMD amount from one or any combination of those accounts. He just needs to ensure that he takes out the total required minimum amount between all the accounts to avoid any penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)?

Required Minimum Distribution refers to the minimum amount that a retirement plan account owner must withdraw annually, starting with the year that he or she reaches 72 years of age or, if later, the year in which he or she retires.

At what age are RMDs required?

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) commence when a retirement account owner hits the age of 72 or, if later, the year in which he or she retires.

Are there penalties for not taking RMDs?

Yes, if you fail to take out the full amount of your RMD, don’t take it on time, or don’t take any distribution, you may face a 50% excise tax on the amount not distributed as required.

Which retirement accounts are subject to RMDs?

RMD rules apply to all employer-sponsored retirement plans like profit-sharing plans, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, and traditional IRAs.

Can I withdraw more than the required minimum distribution?

Yes, there is no restriction on withdrawing more than the RMD from your retirement plan. Remember though, that such withdrawals could impact your tax situation and future retirement planning.

Are RMDs taxable?

Yes, Withdrawals from 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs, including required minimum distributions, are generally taxable as ordinary income.

How is the RMD calculated?

The RMD amount is calculated by dividing the retirement account balance as of December 31 of the previous year by a distribution period related to your life expectancy.

Can I re-invest my RMD?

Yes, you can re-invest your RMD. While you can’t roll it back into a tax-advantaged retirement account, you can put it into a taxable investment account for potential growth.

How often must I take an RMD?

RMDs must be taken annually. Most account holders must begin taking them by April 1 of the year following the year they turn 72.

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