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Can You Withdraw From Your Retirement Accounts Early?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Jun 26, 2021 at 6:49AM

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If you're forced to stop working early, here's what you need to know about early access to retirement savings.

Retirement savings generally cannot be used penalty-free until you're 59 and 1/2 years old, but what if you need to access the money earlier? In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on June 16, contributor and certified financial planner Matt Frankel talks about the rules you need to know. 

Matt Frankel: Arnold says, "If an individual is not at retirement age but has health issues that prevent them from working full-time, are there are exceptions for health issues to access retirement funds like Roth IRAs and also security funds without penalties at my age with health issues?" The answer is yes and no. As far as Social Security, there is a Social Security disability program, assuming that you qualify for disability benefits, I can't offer personal advice to your situation. But if you think you would be considered disabled under Social Security's eyes, by all means, apply for that. With both 401(k)s and IRAs and all the other qualified plans like 403(b)s, things like that, there are early withdrawal exemptions for disability. But the way the IRS words it, it's as the total and permanent disability of the participant/IRA. You have to be considered totally and permanently disabled in order to qualify for that particular exemption. Now there are some others that might apply to you, I don't know your age, but 401(k)s and qualified plans have the separation from service exemption that says if you're no longer at your job, you can start taking money out at 55. There is the exemption, the substantially equal periodic payments, that allows you to take your money out as a series of payments according to some formula over the rest of your lifetime, I guess I would word it. But there are some exemptions, but to just have free rein to take money out of your account early, you would have to be totally and permanently disabled. Even with any of those exemptions, it's really important to keep in your mind that anything you take out of those plans are considered taxable income as long as it's not a Roth account. A lot of moving parts there. I don't know your personal situation, what your health issues are, nor do I want to ask them here. But there are a lot of exemptions available that you might be able to take advantage of, especially when it comes to things like 401(k)s and qualified plans.

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