Can You Withdraw Money From Retirement Accounts at Will?

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Most financial literature related to 401(k) accounts or IRAs focuses on contributions.

But what about when you retire? Yes, there are withdrawal rules for 401(k) accounts and IRAs. Generally, you must reach 59½ years old before you can withdraw from a retirement account penalty-free.

Assuming you’re of age, can you withdraw as much as you want, whenever you want?

That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

Can You Withdraw From Retirement Accounts At Will Once You’re 59½?

Let’s assume you’re at least 59½ years old. Can you withdraw from a retirement account at any time and in any amount?

That’s what a listener wanted to know.

Asked Art in Wyoming: “Clark, you tell us day in and day out how important it is to save in 401(k) and Roth [IRA] accounts. But you’ve never explained how we’ll be able to withdraw money in retirement. Are we allowed to withdraw funds at will like a checking account? Or are we obligated to establish a withdrawal schedule? I plan to start using my nest egg at the earliest date possible age (59½).”

It’s a dream for many people to be able to retire before 60 years old. But it takes planning, including an understanding of how much money you can take out of your accounts and at what time.

“Congratulations to you that you’ve been saving money at such a rapid clip that you’re going to be financially independent and be able to bag work in your 50s,” Clark says.

“The answer to your question is there are no requirements once you reach eligible age to withdraw from retirement accounts [on] how much or how little you withdraw in a year. … So you can pull out tiny amounts, large amounts and in between.”

Clark clarified that Art eventually will face Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). However, the law recently changed. Art won’t face RMDs until he turns 73 years old. That’s unless he’s still younger than 75 as of Dec. 31, 2032. In 2033, RMDs won’t be required until someone turns 75.

Withdrawing From Retirement Accounts: Don’t Overspend Too Early

The money expert also issued a warning of sorts. One of the financial pitfalls that’s becoming more common is outliving your money due to longevity. It’s one of the reasons that Clark recommends that people consider longevity insurance.

“Don’t spend too much money in your 60s. When you live into your 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond, [be] prepared for that by having enough money still on hand,” Clark says.


“When you hit that retirement point it would be great for you to do a checkup with a fee-only financial planner to look at what you’ve got and come up with that next phase of life plan so that you don’t outlive your money.”

Final Thoughts

You can withdraw from your retirement accounts as much as you want, whenever you want — as long as you are taking at least the required minimum distributions by the time you are 73.

If you’re at least 59½, you won’t face any tax penalties either.

However, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. Many people underestimate just how much money you need to account for a full retirement. That’s especially true if you stop earning and start spending in your 50s.

Make sure that you’re set to handle inflation, a potential gap before your Social Security payments kick in and more.

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