Can I withdraw money from my IRA before retirement?
October 9, 2023

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are powerful tools for building a secure financial future in retirement.  However, life is unpredictable, and there may be situations where you need to access your IRA funds before reaching retirement age.  While IRAs are designed primarily for retirement savings, there are circumstances under which early withdrawals, also known as early distributions, are allowed.  


In this article, we will explore the rules and considerations surrounding early withdrawals from your IRA.


1.  Age-Related Rules


IRAs come in two main types: Traditional and Roth, each with its own set of rules for early withdrawals:


Traditional IRA:


You can start taking penalty-free withdrawals from a Traditional IRA at age 59½.

If you withdraw funds before age 59½, you may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to regular income taxes unless you qualify for an exception.

Roth IRA:


You can withdraw your contributions (but not earnings) from a Roth IRA at any time without penalty since you've already paid taxes on those contributions.

To avoid penalties on earnings, you generally need to wait until you are 59½ and have held the Roth IRA for at least five years.


2.  Exceptions to the Penalty


While early withdrawals from IRAs typically incur penalties, there are exceptions that may allow you to avoid the 10% penalty, though income tax may still apply.  Some common exceptions include:


First-time home purchase (up to $10,000).

Higher education expenses for yourself or a family member.

Unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding a certain percentage of your income.

Certain qualified military reservist distributions.

Substantially equal periodic payments under IRS rule 72(t).

Permanent disability.

Qualified birth or adoption expenses (up to $5,000 per individual).


3.  Weighing the Pros and Cons


Before deciding to take an early withdrawal from your IRA, carefully consider the implications:



Access to funds for emergencies or important life events.

Potential avoidance of penalties if you meet exceptions.

Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn tax-free at any time.



Reduces your retirement savings and potential growth.

May trigger income taxes.

Early withdrawal penalties can be steep.


4.  Alternatives to Early Withdrawals


In many cases, it's wise to explore alternatives to early IRA withdrawals, such as:


Building an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses.

Utilizing other sources of funds, like non-retirement investments.

Seeking low-interest loans instead of tapping into your retirement savings.


While it is possible to withdraw money from your IRA before retirement, it's important to understand the rules, potential penalties, and tax implications.  Early withdrawals should generally be a last resort due to the impact on your long-term retirement savings.  If you're facing financial challenges or have specific needs, consider consulting a financial advisor to explore alternatives and make informed decisions regarding your IRA.  Remember, the primary purpose of your IRA is to secure your financial future in retirement.


RetireBetter is your trusted partner in retirement planning.  Whether you're looking to start an IRA or have questions about managing your existing retirement accounts, our team of experts is here to help.  We offer a wide range of retirement solutions and personalized guidance to ensure you make the most of your retirement journey.  Contact RetireBetter today to secure your financial future.