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Roth IRA Withdrawals: What You Need to Know

You can withdraw contributions any time, but you can't withdraw earnings without penalty for five years — unless you have a qualified exception, such as a first-time home purchase.
May 14, 2020
Investing, Retirement Income, Roth IRA
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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

New rules in the wake of COVID-19

Relief efforts loosened the rules for retirement distributions in 2020. Read our guide to those updates.

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.

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.

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.

If you want to open an account

These are some of our top picks for best Roth IRA accounts:

Account provider
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You Invest


$0 trade fees

$0 annual or inactivity fees



Up to $725 cash bonus when you open and fund a new account with $25,000 or more in new money.


$0 account minimum
Betterment

0.25% per year



Up to 1 year of free management with qualifying deposit


$0 account minimum

Ellevest




0.25% per year




Up to $750 cash bonus with qualifying deposit


$0 account minimum

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