Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules: What You Need to Know

You can withdraw contributions any time, but often you can't withdraw earnings without penalty for five years.
Arielle O'Shea
By Arielle O'Shea 
Updated
Edited by Chris Hutchison

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For the most part, Roth IRA withdrawal rules are more flexible than a 401(k) or even a traditional IRA. Contributions, or money you’ve put into the account, can be taken out at any time without penalty because you’ve already paid taxes on them.

Investment earnings, on the other hand, have different rules. Here are just some of the ways you could trigger a 10% early withdrawal penalty:

  • If you withdraw investment earnings before 59 ½.

  • If you withdraw earnings before the five-year holding period is over.

  • If you withdraw earnings for reasons other than the specified exceptions, such as buying a home for the first time, college costs, and more.

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When can I withdraw money from my Roth IRA without penalty?

In general, you can withdraw your Roth IRA contributions at any time. But you can only pull the earnings out of a Roth IRA after age 59 1/2 and after owning the account for at least five years. Withdrawing that money earlier can trigger taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, there are exceptions.

Roth IRA withdrawal rules

If you're younger than 59½ and the account is less than 5 years old

Generally you’ll owe income taxes and a 10% penalty if you withdraw earnings from your account if you've owned it for less than five years. You can avoid the penalty, but not the income taxes, if you meet one of the following exceptions:

  • You're withdrawing up to $10,000 to buy your first home.

  • You're withdrawing up to $5,000 in the year after the birth or adoption of your child.

  • The withdrawal is for qualified education expenses.

  • The withdrawal is for unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year.

  • The withdrawal is for health insurance premiums while you're unemployed.

  • The withdrawal is due to disability.

  • The withdrawal is made to a beneficiary or your estate after your death.

  • You decide to take substantially equal payments, which basically locks you into taking at least one distribution per year for at least five years or until you turn 59½, whichever comes last.

  • The withdrawal is due to an IRS levy

  • You made the withdrawal when you were a reservist, as defined by the IRS.

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If you're younger than 59½ and the account is at least 5 years old

You can avoid taxes and penalties on earnings withdrawn from your Roth IRA if you've owned the account for five years or more and you meet one of the following exceptions.

  • You're withdrawing up to $10,000 to buy your first home.

  • The withdrawal is due to disability.

  • The withdrawal is made to a beneficiary or your estate after your death.

If you’re 59½ or older and the account is less than 5 years old

If you’ve owned a Roth IRA for less than five years, you’ll owe income tax but no penalty on earnings that you withdraw.

If you're 59½ or older and the account is at least 5 years old

You can withdraw both earnings and contributions with no tax or penalty.

What's next?

» Dive deeper: Learn how to open a Roth IRA

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