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Calculating Your Required Minimum Distributions

The RMD math for IRAs is different than it is for 401(k) accounts.

I have three IRAs and two 401(k)s from former employers. Do I need to take required minimum distributions from each account, or can I just pick one account to take the money from?

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The rules are different for IRAs than they are for 401(k)s. To calculate the amount you must withdraw from your traditional IRAs by the end of the year (Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs), you take the balance in each of your IRAs as of December 31, 2012, then divide by the IRS’s life expectancy number for someone your age at the end of 2013. You can get this number from Appendix C of IRS Publication 590; use Table 3, the Uniform Lifetime Table. Or you can use our Required Minimum Distribution calculator.

You can generally just add up the balance in all of your traditional IRA accounts and divide that by the life expectancy figure; however, you must do the calculation separately for any accounts in which your sole beneficiary is a spouse who is more than ten years younger than you (use the life expectancy figure for Appendix C, Table 2 of IRS Publication 590 for those accounts). You can take the required distribution entirely from one IRA or from a combination of IRAs;, but you don’t need to tap each account separately.

The rules are different for 401(k)s. The required minimum distribution is still based on your account value as of December 31, 2012, and your age as of December 31, 2013, but you’ll need to calculate the required distribution for each 401(k) account individually, and you must withdraw the required amount separately from each account. If you’re still working past age 70 ½, you don’t need to withdraw money from your current employer’s 401(k) until after you leave that job.

For more information about RMDs, see our Required Minimum Distributions Special Report.

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