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Vanguard - Retirement FAQs - RMDs

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Retirement FAQs—RMDs

What's a required minimum distribution (RMD)?

What's the deadline for taking an RMD?

How do I calculate my RMD? Can Vanguard help?

What can I expect when I enroll online?

What if I inherited my IRA?

What if my inherited IRA was established via a rollover from an employer-sponsored plan?

How do I know if I inherited my account from the "original owner"?

Why do I need to update my beneficary designations?

What if I have other IRAs outside Vanguard?

Which funds should I take my RMD from?

What are my options for reinvesting my RMD? How can I set up reinvestments?

Can I withdraw more than my RMD from my IRA?

Can I use my RMD to make a charitable contribution?

How will my RMDs be taxed?

What if I don't take my RMD or don't distribute enough to satisfy the requirement?

What's a required minimum distribution (RMD)?

Once you reach age 70½, you must withdraw at least a minimum amount—your required minimum distribution—each year from your tax-deferred retirement savings accounts. This includes your IRAs (with the exception of Roth IRAs) and any qualified retirement accounts you hold with a former employer.

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What's the deadline for taking an RMD?

Generally, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the calendar year following the year you turn 70½. (Participants in employer plans who are still working at age 70½ may be permitted to wait until April 1 of the calendar year following the year they retire.) For each subsequent year, you'll need to take your annual RMD by December 31.

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How do I calculate my RMD? Can Vanguard help?

If you're age 70 1/2 or older Vanguard will automatically calculate the RMD amount each year for your tax-deferred IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement accounts held at Vanguard. Once enrolled, you can view your RMD service online. In addition to calculating your RMD amount, Vanguard's RMD Distribution Service, a free service, allows you to set up your RMD to be automatically distributed each year.

To perform the calculations yourself, use our Required Minimum Distributions kit. Each year's RMD is equal to your retirement account balance as of December 31 of the previous year (adjusted for any outstanding rollovers, asset transfers, or conversions completed during the prior year that are recharacterized in the current one) divided by your life expectancy factor according to the Uniform Lifetime Table. (If your spouse is your sole beneficiary and is more than ten years younger than you, use the Joint Life and Last Survivor Table. It's available at www.irs.gov.)

The IRS.gov link will open in a new browser window. Vanguard accepts no responsibility for content on third-party websites.

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What can I expect when I enroll online?

Allow 10 to 15 minutes to enroll in Vanguard's RMD Service online. Leave more time if you are taking RMDs from an IRA that you inherited or from a small business retirement plan, because you will have more options to consider or more information to provide.

  1. Account selection. Identify the retirement plans for which you would like us to calculate your RMD.
  2. Review calculation results and select service type. After verifying certain information, review your calculated RMD amount for accuracy and decide if you want Vanguard to distribute your RMD for you each year.
  3. Option details. If you decide to set up automatic distributions, tell us how often you'd like to receive payments and from which funds we should take your RMD.
  4. Verify and confirm. As a last step, review your RMD information and edit it, if necessary. After you sign up, we'll mail you a confirmation. You'll receive your newly calculated RMD by mail every January.

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What if I inherited my IRA?

If you are an IRA beneficiary, the online enrollment process is more complex because you have more decisions to make. If you're enrolling in our RMD Service, allow about 30 minutes for the enrollment process.

When a beneficiary becomes entitled to an IRA from an account owner who died before he or she was required to begin taking RMDs (April 1st of the year following the year in which the owner turned 70½), the beneficiary can choose one of two methods of distribution: over his or her lifetime or within five years (the "five-year rule").

Lifetime distribution

  • Spouse as sole primary beneficiary. If the owner's spouse chooses to take the IRA as a beneficiary rather than assume the account, he or she can choose when to begin taking RMDs on the basis of his or her own life expectancy. The spouse must begin taking RMDs by the later of December 31 of the year after the owner's death or December 31 of the year the owner would have turned 70½. The spousal beneficiary should not enroll in our RMD Service until the year he or she intends to begin taking RMDs. If the owner’s spouse chooses to assume the IRA, he or she must begin taking RMDs by the later of December 31 of the year after the owner's death or April 1 of the year after the spouse turns 70½.
  • Nonspouse and when spouse is not sole primary beneficiary. An individual nonspouse beneficiary must begin taking RMDs on the basis of his or her own life expectancy by December 31 of the year after the owner's death. Multiple beneficiaries can take RMDs on the basis of their own life expectancies if all of the beneficiaries have established separate accounts by December 31 of the year after the owner's death and starting in that year. If all multiple beneficiaries have not established separate accounts by that December 31 date, all beneficiaries must take RMDs on the basis of the oldest beneficiary's life expectancy starting in the year after the owner's death.

Five-year rule

Any individual beneficiary may elect to distribute the inherited IRA assets over the five years following the owner's death. The distribution must be completed by the end of the year containing the fifth anniversary of the owner's death. Any non-individual beneficiary (except for a qualified trust) must use the five-year rule if the owner died before beginning to take RMDs.

Note: Vanguard's RMD Service doesn’t accommodate accounts that are being distributed according to the five-year rule. If you've elected, or are required, to use the five-year rule for your inherited account, you should consult a tax advisor to calculate your required minimum distribution.

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What if my inherited IRA was established via a rollover from an employer-sponsored plan?

If you are a nonspouse beneficiary of a deceased plan participant and rolled a distribution of plan assets into an inherited IRA by December 31 of the year following the participant's death, you can take RMDs from the inherited IRA following the rules applicable to IRAs. If the rollover took place after December 31 of the year following the participant's death, the distribution rules under the employer plan carry over to the IRA. You should contact the plan sponsor or a tax advisor to determine the rules applicable to your situation. 

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How do I know if I inherited my account from the "original owner"?

If you inherited your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement account from:

  • The person who originally opened the account, or
  • That person's surviving spouse and sole primary beneficiary who "assumed" the IRA (or rolled over the retirement account into an IRA) and re-registered it in his or her own name,

then you inherited your account from the original owner.

In all other cases, you did not inherit your account from the original owner. If the account of the individual you inherited the IRA from was registered in that person's name as beneficiary of ("BENE OF") the original owner, you did not inherit your IRA from the original owner. If you are not certain whether or not the original owner's surviving spouse "assumed" the account and became its new owner, contact us.

Examples

Situations where you inherit the retirement account from the original owner:

  • Your parent established an IRA and named you as beneficiary. When that parent dies, you inherit the IRA from the original owner.
  • Your father established an IRA and named your mother as beneficiary. At his death, she assumed the IRA and became, in effect, the original owner because she re-registered the account in her name. She named you as her beneficiary. At her death, you will inherit the IRA from the original owner.

A situation where you do not inherit the retirement account from the original owner:

  • Your father established an IRA and named your mother as beneficiary. At his death, she inherited (did not assume because she did not re-register the account in her name) the IRA and named you as her beneficiary. At her death, you will not inherit the IRA from the original owner.

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Why do I need to update my beneficiary designations?

Several years may have passed since you first named IRA beneficiaries, and your designations may be obsolete due to marriage, divorce, births, or deaths. Your designations must be accurate because they can affect the amount of your required minimum distribution.

For example, if your sole primary beneficiary is your spouse, and your spouse is more than ten years younger than you, you'll use a different life expectancy table and probably make a smaller distribution. (See How do I calculate my RMD?) You can review and update your beneficiary designations for your Vanguard accounts online.

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What if I have other IRAs outside Vanguard?

Consider moving them to Vanguard. All of your retirement accounts will then be eligible for our RMD Service. If you are over age 70½, remember to take the current year's RMD before transferring or rolling over each account. We can even help you with the transfers. Learn more about moving your IRAs to Vanguard.

Once you determine your RMD, you can satisfy it with withdrawals from any combination of IRAs. For instance, if you have three IRAs with a combined RMD of $4,500, you can take that amount from any of the IRAs.

If you have employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k), 403(b), money purchase pension, or profit-sharing plans, you'll need to calculate each RMD separately and withdraw the appropriate distribution from each plan.

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Which funds should I take my RMD from?

You can tap any of the funds in your retirement account. Generally, you have three options. You can withdraw a specific amount from each fund, withdraw a certain percentage of your RMD from each of several funds, or withdraw from each fund according to its share of the IRA assets.

Your main consideration when making withdrawals should be to maintain or achieve a desired asset allocation—the balance between stocks, bonds, and cash investments in your portfolio. To learn more about the components of the funds in your account, visit Funds, Stocks & ETFs. To consult with a licensed financial advisor, consider our guidance and advice services.

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What are my options for reinvesting my RMD? How can I set up reinvestments?

If you don't need your RMD for current living expenses, you can keep it working for you by immediately reinvesting it in a Vanguard nonretirement account. (If you do not already have such an account, you'll need to create one.) You can purchase any Vanguard fund with your RMD, as long as you meet the fund's minimum investment requirement. If your nonretirement portfolio needs rebalancing, you can use the RMD to purchase more of your underweighted asset class. Our RMD Service can automatically transfer your distribution to a Vanguard nonretirement account if you wish.

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Can I withdraw more than my RMD from my IRA?

Yes, but not through Vanguard's RMD Service. You can arrange single distributions from your IRA at any time online through your Vanguard.com account or by completing and submitting an IRA Distribution Request form.

Alternately, you can sign up for our Automatic Exchange Service and schedule transfers from your IRA to a nonretirement Vanguard account. You can also use our Automatic Withdrawal Service to schedule regular withdrawals from your IRA to your bank or credit union account.

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Can I use my RMD to make a charitable contribution?

Yes. Distributions for charitable purposes can be used to satisfy your RMD requirement. For tax year 2013, you can make a tax-free distribution to charity of up to $100,000 per taxpayer.

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How will my RMDs be taxed?

Distributions from a traditional, deductible IRA are fully taxable as ordinary income. If you are taking distributions from an IRA which was partially or fully funded with nondeductible contributions, some or all of your RMD will be exempt from further tax. (Use IRS Form 8606 to calculate and report the exempt portion.)

RMDs from an inherited Roth IRA are not taxed unless they represent a return of earnings and then only if the earnings are distributed within five years after the Roth IRA was established.

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What if I don't take my RMD or don't distribute enough to satisfy the requirement?

Then you may be liable for a federal penalty equal to 50% of the shortfall. For example, if your RMD is $20,000 and you distribute $15,000, you may be assessed a $2,500 penalty.

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