Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today




Contests and

Free Fun!

AARP Games - Play Now!

PROGRAMS & resources

Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Check out the winners list and latest news about this AARP recognition program.

Employer Resource Center

Attract and retain top talent in a changing workforce.

Your Own Business

Information for business owners, entrepreneurs and the self-employed.


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session. 

Most Popular


Rules on Retirement Account Withdrawals

Avoid penalties by tapping the right funds at the right ages.

Q: Please explain the 59 1/2 age rule that pertains to retirement account withdrawals. Does it mean that a qualified withdrawal is penalty-free if you are 59 1/2 or older? Also, can someone who reaches 59 1/2 take money out of a 401(k) plan for no reason at all? —Joan, Connecticut

A: The Internal Revenue Service uses two ages that apply to withdrawals from any retirement account. While there are some exceptions to the rules, those who are 59 1/2 or older can begin making withdrawals from retirement accounts without penalty. Those 70 1/2 and older "must" begin making at least the required minimum withdrawals from retirement accounts or otherwise suffer a penalty. While conforming to these age rules avoids incurring a penalty, with few exceptions you still have to pay income taxes on the withdrawn money.

With your 401(k), you can make withdrawals when you’re 59 1/2 or older if you are no longer employed by the company. If you are still employed, most but not all plans allow for distributions of 401(k) funds over age 59 1/2. Some plans require that you've worked there a certain number of years. Others only allow withdrawals of what you've personally put in, not earnings or matching contributions by your employer. Some don't allow for in-service withdrawals at all.

Since each plan is different, you'll need to check with your human resources department or the 401(k) plan administrator. If withdrawals are permitted, then taxes will still be due, which can take a big bite out of your plan balance. So consider what the tax implications might be before accessing those assets.

All the information presented on is for educational and resource purposes only. We suggest that you consult with your financial or tax adviser about your individual situation. Use of the information contained in this website is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.Back to Article

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Jobs You Might Like

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits AT&T Wireless Cell Phone

Members save 10% on monthly usage charges on qualified AT&T wireless plans.

membership adt

Small business owners save 20% on new installation of any new ADT security system.

UPS Store membership discount aarp benefits

Members save 15% on eligible products/services and 5% on UPS shipping at The UPS Store®.

Member Benefits

Renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.