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Retirement Savings

Looking For Quick Cash? Try To Avoid Retirement Savings

Tapping into your retirement savings might seem like a quick solution to a temporary financial hurdle. But before you raid your IRA or 401(k), be aware of the potential tax pitfalls. Uncle Sam imposes a 10% early-withdrawal penalty on withdrawals made before you reach age 59½. That’s on top of regular income taxes you’ll owe on the withdrawn amount. This penalty can significantly reduce your retirement nest egg.

There’s good news though! Several exceptions can help you avoid the 10% penalty. Let’s explore your options and some smart strategies to minimize taxes when accessing your retirement funds.

The Early Withdrawal Penalty: A Double Whammy

Here’s a breakdown of the financial blow an early withdrawal can inflict:

  • 10% Penalty: The IRS slaps you with a 10% penalty on any amount you withdraw from a traditional IRA or qualified retirement plan before age 59½. This applies to untaxed contributions and any earnings that haven’t been taxed yet.
  • Income Tax: Remember, contributions to traditional IRAs are made with pre-tax dollars, meaning you haven’t paid taxes on them yet. When you withdraw, you’ll owe income tax on the entire amount withdrawn, including both contributions and earnings.

Example: Let’s say you withdraw $10,000 from your traditional IRA before age 59½. $8,000 of that was from your original contributions, and $2,000 represents earnings. You’ll owe income tax on the entire $10,000, plus a $1,000 penalty (10% of $10,000). So, instead of getting $10,000, you’ll end up with significantly less after taxes and penalties.

Exceptions to the Early Withdrawal Penalty: Not All Hope is Lost!

The good news is there are exceptions to the 10% penalty. Here are some situations where you can access your retirement savings early without facing the penalty:

1. The SECURE 2.0 Act (2022): This act introduced new exceptions, including:
  • Terminal Illness: If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can withdraw funds penalty-free.
  • Domestic Abuse: Survivors of domestic abuse can access a limited amount from their retirement accounts to escape an unsafe situation.
2. Traditional Exceptions: These longstanding exceptions include:
  • 60-Day Rollover: If you roll over a distribution from a qualified plan to another eligible plan within 60 days, you avoid taxes and penalties. However, be mindful of the once-a-year rollover limit and the 20% mandatory withholding rule that can complicate this strategy.
  • Medical Expenses: Withdrawals used to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of your adjusted gross income are exempt from the penalty.
  • Disability: If you are considered permanently disabled, you can withdraw funds penalty-free.
  • Unemployed Individuals and Health Insurance: Unemployed individuals who received unemployment benefits for at least 12 weeks can withdraw funds to pay for health insurance premiums without penalty.
  • Qualified Birth or Adoption Expenses: For withdrawals made after 2019, distributions up to $5,000 per spouse used for qualified birth or adoption expenses are exempt from the penalty.
  • Higher Education Expenses: If you use your IRA funds to pay for qualified higher education expenses for yourself, your spouse, or your children or grandchildren, you can avoid the penalty.
  • First-Time Home Purchase: First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 penalty-free from their IRAs to help with the purchase of a home.
  • IRA Withdrawals Annuitized Over Your Lifetime: Distributions made as part of an IRA withdrawal plan spread over your lifetime can qualify for an exemption.
  • Separation from Service: If you separate from service at age 55 or older (or 50 for qualified public service employees), you can access your retirement funds penalty-free under certain conditions.
  • Emergency Expenses (Coming Soon): Starting in 2024, a new exception allows for penalty-free withdrawals for emergency expenses. However, limitations apply, including a one-time annual limit and a three-year repayment option.

Important Note: This list provides a general overview. Specific conditions may apply to each exception. Consult with a financial advisor to determine if you qualify for a penalty-free withdrawal.

Plan Consult with a financial advisor to determine if you qualify for a penalty-free withdrawal, and explore all your options for accessing your retirement savings in a tax-efficient manner. Remember, your retirement savings are meant for your golden years. Carefully consider the long-term consequences before tapping into these funds. We at JS Morlu LLC are here to help you make informed decisions about your financial future. Contact us today to discuss your retirement planning needs.

JS Morlu LLC is a top-tier accounting firm based in Woodbridge, Virginia, with a team of highly experienced and qualified CPAs and business advisors. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive accounting, tax, and business advisory services to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. Metro Area and the surrounding regions. With over a decade of experience, we have cultivated a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and aspirations. We recognize that our clients seek more than just value-added accounting services; they seek a trusted partner who can guide them towards achieving their business goals and personal financial well-being.
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