The Basic Rules of Calculating, Withdrawing RMDs From Retirement Plans

The rules for required minimum distributions can vary for different types of accounts.

I know you have to calculate your required minimum distribution from each traditional IRA separately and that you can take the money from any of your IRAs. But can you take the money from your spouse’s accounts? Are the rules different for other types of retirement plans?

IRAs, 401(k)s, 457s and 403(b)s are all owned individually, so even if you file a joint tax return, you must calculate the required amounts based on your accounts and withdraw the money from your accounts, too.

RMD Rules for IRAs

The calculations for traditional IRAs are slightly different than they are for employer plans. As you’ve pointed out, required minimum distributions must be calculated separately for each traditional IRA, but you can withdraw the money from any of your traditional IRAs. If your wife is also over age 70½, she must calculate the RMDs for each of her traditional IRAs separately, and she can take the money from any of her traditional IRAs.

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RMD Rules for 401(k)s and 457 Accounts

With 401(k) and 457 accounts, you must calculate the withdrawal and take the required amount from each plan separately. However, you generally do not have to take RMDs from your current employer’s plan as long as you’re still working for that employer, unless you own 5% or more of the company. See RMD Rules for Older Workers for more information.

RMD Rules for 403(b) Plans

The rules are slightly different for 403(b) plans. An employer may give you the option to invest with several financial institutions within one 403(b) plan. You must calculate your RMD across all of your accounts within that employer’s 403(b) plan, but you can take the money from any of your accounts in that employer’s plan. Maura Cassidy, director of retirement products for Fidelity, gives this example: “If you work for one university and have part of your 403(b) with vendor A and part with vendor B, you could withdraw the money from either or both to make the full required amount.”

For more information about RMDs for all kinds of accounts, see our Required Minimum Distributions special report.

Use Our Tool: What Is My IRA Required Minimum Distribution?

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.