Will retirement distributions be based on my age or my wife’s?

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Q. I have a retirement account at the company I worked at before retiring. My wife is a 100% beneficiary and is a year older than me. Will Required Minimum Distributions start based on my age or my wife’s age?
— Retired

A. Congratulations on your retirement.

The rules governing Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) have changed in recent years, but they had nothing to do with your specific question.

The age at which you must begin to take RMDs from your retirement account at work is not based on the age of your beneficiary, said Howard Hook, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with EKS Associates in Princeton.

Instead, it is based on two factors – your age and whether you are still working at the company, Hook said.

“If you are age 72, you must begin to take distributions from the retirement plan at work unless you are still working there and do not own more than 5% of the company,” he said. “If that is the case, you can defer taking the RMD until you stop working at the company.”

However, your wife’s age is important in calculating the amount of the RMD, Hook said.

“Because your wife is a year older than you, the calculation of the RMD is based on a life expectancy factor which you can look up on the Uniform Lifetime Table,” he said. “You would use the Joint Life Expectancy Table if she were more than 10 years younger than you.”

For inherited IRAs, a spouse can treat the inherited IRA as if it were their own and use the Uniform Lifetime Table, or if they remarry a spouse greater than 10 years younger, they can use the Joint Life Expectancy table, Hook said.

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This story was originally published on Aug. 19, 2022.

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