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Ask the Experts: When Are IRA Withdrawals Required?

Q. When must I start taking distributions from my IRA?

A. Required minimum distributions are required once you turn 70 1/2, though you get some leeway for your first required withdrawal. You have until April 1 of the year after you turn
70 1/2 to take those funds.

But 2009 is different. Because of the economic downturn, individuals 70 1/2 and older are allowed to skip a year of withdrawals without penalty in 2009, thanks to the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act passed by Congress last December. That means older adults can leave their money in retirement accounts this year and grow their nest eggs rather than further deplete dwindling savings.

The one-year moratorium on penalties for not taking required distributions applies to most types of retirement savings accounts, including IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at AARP Bulletin Today.