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Financial Learning Center

Distributions from Your Retirement Plan

Deciding on a Payout Option

The payout option you elect is probably one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. That's because your decision is irrevocable. Understanding your distribution options is crucial to your planning.

Retirement Plan Distribution Options

With a defined-benefit plan, your employer may give you a choice of a fixed monthly payout known as an annuity, a lump-sum distribution, or a combination of both. With a defined-contribution plan, you may be able to exercise these options:

  • Annuitize your total investment and receive a fixed monthly income.
  • Leave your money in the plan until you need it, or until the age that minimum distributions must begin (generally age 70½).
  • Take it as a lump sum distribution and report it as taxable income in the current year, or defer taxes by either rolling it over to a traditional IRA, or by rolling it over to a new employer's plan within 60 days. You may be able to postpone distributions from your current employer's retirement plans if you are still employed, even if you are older than 70½. (This doesn't apply if you are a 5% owner; i.e., you own more than 5% of the company.) Distributions from a Roth IRA can be postponed beyond age 70½, whether you are employed or not.

SUGGESTION: If you have both a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan and don't need all the income at once, consider taking an annuity payout from your defined benefit plan and letting your money grow tax-deferred in the defined contribution plan.

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