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Retirement Distributions When Your Spouse Is Much Younger

If you’re married to someone more than 10 years younger than you, you have to use a special life-expectancy table to calculate your RMDs.

My wife is 17 years younger than I am. I recall reading that I need to take special steps when I calculate my required minimum distributions from my IRA. Is that true?

Yes. Most people use life-expectancy table III, the Uniform Lifetime Table, in Appendix B of IRS Publication 590-B to calculate their required minimum distributions. But if your sole beneficiary is a spouse who is more than 10 years younger than you, then you need to use life-expectancy table II, the Joint Life and Last Survivor Expectancy, to determine your RMD. You won’t be required to withdraw as much money each year as you would if your spouse were older.

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For example, if you are 70½ in 2015 and need to take your first RMD, you would divide your account balance as of the end of 2014 by 27.4. If you had $100,000 in your account, you’d need to withdraw $3,649.64. But if your sole beneficiary is your spouse and she is age 53, you’d divide your account balance by 32.6 and would need to withdraw only $3,067.48.

In life-expectancy table II, look for your age on the left-hand side of the table, then find where that line intersects your spouse’s age on the top. Some RMD calculators, such as T. Rowe Price’s RMD Calculator, let you input your spouse’s birthdate to determine your RMD, even if you need to use the different life-expectancy table.

Make sure your IRA administrator knows your spouse’s birthdate, so it will use the correct table when calculating your RMDs, especially if you’ve signed up for automatic RMD withdrawals.

This is also a good time to make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date, says Judith Ward, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price. “If this is a second marriage, make sure the ex-spouse is no longer the beneficiary on your accounts,” she says. The beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance supersede the information in your will. Even if you have updated your will, your IRA will go to your designated beneficiary; that’s true even if you have been divorced, married or wanted to change your beneficiary for any reason since you set it but neglected to make the change.

For more information about RMDs, see our Required Minimum Distributions Special Report. If you don’t need the money you must withdraw, see 3 Money-Smart Ways to Use Your RMDs for investing ideas.

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