Required minimum distribution

Question: What exactly is involved in "distributing" your IRA'a by / at age 70 ½? Beverly, Flagstaff, AZ

Answer: In the calendar year following the year you turn 70½ you must start withdrawing a minimum sum of money from your tax-sheltered regular IRA. (You don't have to with a Roth-IRA; it doesn't require minimum distributions.) The jargon term is "RMD" for required minimum distribution. Of course, you can take out more money than the RMD if you want to or need to.

The basic formula is composed of two parts: The adjusted market value of your IRA as of December 31 of the prior year divided by your life expectancy taken from the Uniform Lifetime Table published by the IRS. But most major financial institutions that are in the IRA business offer calculators to figure out your RMD. If your IRA provider doesn't offer one you can turn to calculators at websites such as dinkytown.net.

The exact amount of your RMD does change from year to year.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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