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  • April Busby, CPA, CFP®

Milestone Birthdays for Retirement-Planning Purposes

Birthdays may seem less important as you grow older. They may not offer the impact of watershed moments such as getting a driver's license at 16 and voting at 18. But beginning at age 50, there are several key birthdays that can affect your tax situation, health-care eligibility, and retirement benefits.



50 — Taxable distributions from IRAs and qualified employer retirement plans before age 59½ are generally subject to a 10% early distribution penalty (25% for certain SIMPLE IRA plan distributions) on top of any federal income taxes due. But if you are a qualified public safety employee you can take penalty-free withdrawals from your qualified retirement plan after leaving your job at age 50 or after 25 years of service, whichever comes first.


55 — If you're not a qualified public safety employee, you can take penalty-free withdrawals from your qualified retirement plan after leaving your job if your employment ends during or after the year you reach age 55.


59½ — All withdrawals from qualified retirement plans and IRAs are penalty-free after you reach age 59½, whether or not you're still employed.


62 — You are eligible to start collecting Social Security benefits, although your benefit will be reduced by up to 30%. To receive full benefits, you must wait until "full retirement age," which ranges from 66 to 67 depending on the year you were born.


65 — You are eligible to enroll in Medicare. Medicare Part A hospital insurance benefits are automatic for those eligible for Social Security. Part B medical insurance benefits are voluntary and have a monthly premium. To obtain coverage at the earliest possible date, you should generally enroll about two to three months before turning 65.


73 — You must start taking minimum distributions from most tax-deferred retirement plans after reaching age 73 (75 for those who reach age 73 after December 31, 2032) or face a 25% penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn (the penalty may be reduced to 10% if corrected in a timely manner). Annual required minimum distributions are calculated according to life expectancies determined by the federal government. See chart below for applicable RMD Age.


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