Roth IRA Withdrawals: Rules You Need to Know

You can withdraw contributions any time, but often you can't withdraw earnings without penalty for five years.

Arielle O'SheaMar 17, 2021
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For the most part, Roth IRA withdrawal rules are more flexible than those for a 401(k) or even a traditional IRA.

Because you already paid taxes on the money you’ve contributed to a Roth IRA, you can withdraw your contributions any time, without penalty.

The key word there is contributions — the money you put into the account. Different rules apply to your investment earnings.

To withdraw investment earnings without owing income taxes and a 10% penalty, you’ll have to follow specific distribution rules, based on your age and how long you’ve owned the account.

» Read more on how to open a Roth IRA

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 an 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, there are many exceptions.

The 5-year rule for Roth IRAs requires you to hold your account for at least five years in order to avoid paying taxes or even penalties on the earnings in your Roth IRA.

Roth IRA withdrawal rules if you're younger than 59½

And you’ve owned a Roth IRA for less than five years ...

Generally you’ll owe income taxes and a 10% penalty if you withdraw earnings from your account. 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 you’ve owned a Roth IRA for five years or more ...

You can avoid taxes and penalties on earnings you withdraw from your account if 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.

Roth IRA withdrawal rules if you’re 59½ or older

And 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 you’ve owned a Roth IRA for five years or more ...

You can withdraw earnings with no tax or penalty.

What's next?

» Check out all of our picks for best Roth IRA accounts

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