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Retirement PlanningIRAsRoth IRA Five Year Rule - Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules

Roth IRA Five Year Rule – Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules

Are you looking to take advantage of the benefits of a Roth IRA, but unsure of the rules and regulations? Look no further! 

In this article, we will explore the Roth IRA five year rule, and provide you with important information to help you make the most of your investment. 

Keep reading to learn more and get started on your path to financial success.

I will start by saying this article was prompted when a reader reached out to me with questions about his personal situation.  I asked if it was okay for me to post his questions, with an article that will not only help him, but you the reader as well.

In summary, Jacob has three Roth IRA accounts and is 60 years old now. (Can I Have Multiple Roth IRA Accounts?) Jacob is retired and never made any Roth IRA withdrawals.  He then gave me details about his accounts and situation.

Jacob then had several questions on when he can start taking withdrawals from each of his three accounts.  His specific scenario, and a summary of some guidance can be found at the end of this article.  If you would like to, feel free and click that section in the below table of contents to go directly there.

FURTHER READING

The Roth IRA Five Year Rule

KEY FACT

The Roth IRA five-year rule states that qualified withdrawals from a Roth IRA are income tax-free if the account has been held for at least five years and the distribution occurs on or after the age of 59 1/2. 

Non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to income tax. 

However there are exceptions to this rule including

  • death
  • disability
  • unreimbursed medical expenses
  • education expenses and
  • up to $10,000 for first-time homebuyers. 

To ensure that your Roth IRA withdrawal is qualified and tax-free, it’s important to understand and comply with the five-year rule.

A Complex Set of Rules: Individual Retirement Accounts, Penalties, & Income

KEY FACT

The five-year rule for Roth IRAs is a complex set of rules that can be confusing, even for tax experts and financial advisors. Essentially, there are two different five-year rules for Roth IRAs: one for contributions and one for earnings.

Five Year Rule For Roth IRA Contributions 

The five-year rule for contributions states that you must hold a Roth IRA for at least five years before you can take tax-free withdrawals of your contributions. This means that if you withdraw your contributions before the five-year holding period is up, the withdrawal may be subject to income tax and potentially a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Meeting The Five Year Rule For Roth IRA Earnings

The five-year rule for earnings states that you must hold a Roth IRA for at least five years before you can take tax and penalty-free withdrawals of earnings. 

This means that if you cannot withdraw earnings tax free from your Roth IRA before the five-year holding period is up. In this case, withdrawing money from a Roth IRA may be subject to income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty, unless an exception applies.

It’s important to understand both of these five-year rules in order to avoid any potential tax consequences when taking withdrawals from your Roth IRA. If you’re unsure about how the five-year rule applies to your situation, it may be a good idea to consult a tax professional or financial advisor for guidance.

  • The Roth IRA five year rule for contributions always applies, regardless of your age.  This rule begins with when the Roth IRA is established, and never resets.
  • The 5 year rule for Roth IRA conversions states that you must hold converted funds for at least five years or until age 59 ½.  If you are not over 59.5 then there is a 5 year holding period for the conversion’s taxable portion.
  • Once you have held the Roth IRA for 5 years and are over 59.5, earning can come out income tax free, and penalty free as well.

Five-Year Clock For Roth IRA Contributions

Key Fact

The 5 year rule apply to Roth IRA contributions as a requirement that individuals must meet in order to make tax-free withdrawals from their Roth IRA. 

In order to satisfy this rule, an individual must have had their Roth IRA account open for at least 5 years, and they must be over the age of 59 1/2.

Depending on the Roth IRA five year rule clock – and when it starts depends on when the Roth IRA is first funded. it also depends on whether through a contribution or a conversion. 

For example, if an individual opens a Roth IRA on January 1, 2018, the five year rule will be satisfied after January 1, 2023.

It is important to note that the Roth IRA five year rule does not restart with each new contribution or account. All of an individual’s Roth IRA accounts are aggregated for the purpose of the Roth IRA five year rule, and the clock does not restart unless the individual inherits a Roth IRA or 401k.

While individuals can access their Roth IRA contributions income tax-free at any time, in order to make tax-free withdrawals from the earnings on their Roth IRA, they must meet the Roth IRA five year rule and be over the age of 59 1/2. 

It is always a good idea to consult with a tax advisor or before making any withdrawals from a Roth IRA to ensure that they qualify as tax-free.

five year on a corkboard

Traditional IRA to Roth IRA Conversions: Roth IRA 5-Year Rule

Roth IRA Five Year Rule: Penalty Free Distributions of Roth IRA Conversions

  • When you convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, the pre-tax funds are taxable to you in the year of conversion.  There is no 10% penalty for anything converted.
  • Distributions from the new ROTH Conversion IRA will come out income tax free, since you have paid the tax when you converted the IRA.
  • But if that distribution comes out prior to age 59 ½ and/or within five years of the conversion – you will be subject to the 10% early distribution penalty.
  • When does the five year period clock start?  January 1st of the year that you make the Roth IRA conversion, regardless of the actual date you converted.
  • The five year clock applies to each separate Roth IRA conversion that you do.

Keep in mind, one huge advantage of a Roth IRA over a Traditional Ira is the fact that you do not have to take required minimum distributions after age 72.

Roth Conversion Calculator

Roth IRA 5-Year Rule On Roth Conversions

Key Fact

The five-year rule for Roth IRA conversions states that you must wait at least five years from the date of the conversion before making a withdrawal in order to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. 

This rule applies to Roth IRA conversions and is separate from the five-year rule for qualified distributions. 

If you make a withdrawal before satisfying the five-year rule, you will be subject to the 10% recapture tax, also known as the early withdrawal penalty. 

For example, if you converted money into your only Roth IRA and then made a withdrawal two years later, you would be subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty because you did not satisfy the five-year rule.

Each Roth Conversion Will Start Their Own 5 Year Clock

This means that if you have multiple conversions, each conversion will have its own separate five-year waiting period. 

For example, if you made your first conversion two years ago and then made a second conversion this year, your first conversion would still have three years remaining on its clock and your recent conversion would have a new five-year clock starting from the date of the conversion. 

  • Before the 5 year period is up, you will be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty or recapture tax. 
  • Multiple conversions also have their own 5 year clock, where each conversion will start the five year period from the date of conversion. 

Roth IRA Earnings – Roth IRA Five Year Rule

The five-year rule for Roth IRA earnings states that in order for your distributions to be income tax-free, they must be considered a qualified distribution. This means that you must be over 59 ½ and the five-year rule must have been satisfied. 

The five-year period for a Roth contribution begins on January 1st of the year that you made the contribution, so five years may actually be less than five years. 

To avoid any potential tax penalties, it’s important to keep track of the five-year rule and make sure you satisfy it before making any withdrawals from your Roth IRA.

What About a Roth 401(k) Rollover to Another Roth 401(k)?

Key Facts

Rolling over a Roth 401(k) plan to another Roth 401(k) plan does not necessarily affect the five-year rule for qualified distributions. This is because the money in the plan was already Roth funds, so the existing holding period can be attributed to the new Roth 401(k) plan. 

However, each employee Roth plan account that you maintain will have its own separate five-year clock, so it’s important to keep track of the holding periods for each account.

To preserve the existing holding period when rolling over a Roth 401(k) plan, it’s best to do a trustee-to-trustee rollover directly to the new Roth 401(k) plan. If you choose not to do a direct rollover, the new Roth 401(k) plan will have its own five-year clock starting from the date of the rollover.

With careful planning, you can control your five-year windows and give yourself flexibility and choice in creating a cash flow for your retirement. 

The key lesson is to understand the five-year rule and make sure you satisfy it before making any withdrawals from your Roth 401(k) plan.

What About a Roth 401(k) Rollover to a Roth IRA?

When you roll over your retirement account from a Roth 401(k) to a Roth IRA, the five-year holding period for the Roth IRA will take precedence. This means that if you had established the Roth IRA before the rollover, the holding period for the Roth 401(k) will no longer be relevant. However, if you open a new Roth IRA after retiring and rolling over your Roth 401(k), the five-year holding period for the Roth IRA will start from the date of the rollover.

To avoid losing the satisfied holding period for your Roth 401(k), it’s important to plan ahead. 

  • One option is to keep your Roth 401(k) plan after retiring, which will allow you to continue satisfying the five-year rule. 
  • Another option is to establish a Roth IRA at least five years before retiring, which will make the account eligible for qualified withdrawals when you need them.

The key lesson is to establish a Roth IRA as soon as possible to give yourself maximum flexibility and choice in creating a retirement income. If you are not elegible, you can always do an IRA recharacterization and reverse the contribution if you have to.

With careful tax planning, you can avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you satisfy the five-year rule for qualified distributions from your Roth IRA.

I cannot stress the next point strongly enough.

sign that says Know the Rules
Know The Five Year Rule For Roth IRAs

The five-year Roth holding rule is complex and can be confusing, which is why it’s so important to work with a financial advisor and tax professional or other licensed professional before making any decisions about your Roth IRA. 

Although this blog may provide helpful information, it cannot replace personalized and professional advice. Make sure to consult with experts to ensure that you understand the five-year rule and make the best decisions for your financial situation.

The Five Year Roth Conversion is So Complicated

Key Facts

The five-year rule for Roth IRA conversions is complex and can be difficult to understand. In some cases, the five-year clock may not actually be five years long. 

  • For example, if you opened a Roth IRA on January 1, 2018, you would have to wait until January 1, 2023 for qualified withdrawals. 
  • However, if you had done the conversion one week earlier, the five-year clock would have started on January 1, 2017, reducing the five-year period to almost four years.

The key lesson here is that the five-year clock for a Roth IRA conversion starts on the first day of the tax year in which the conversion occurred. By understanding this rule and planning accordingly, you can make the most of the five-year holding period and avoid any potential penalties. It’s important to work with a financial advisor and tax professional to make sure you understand the five-year rule and make the best decisions for your financial situation.

Can I Shorten The Wait Even Further?

If you want to shorten the wait time for accessing the funds in your Roth IRA, there are a few steps you can take. First, make sure to open and fund a Roth IRA as soon as possible. This will start the clock on the waiting period, and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to access your funds.

Another option is to make a “prior year” Roth IRA contribution. This can be done in April and will reset the clock on your waiting period, allowing you to access your funds even sooner.

Overall, the key to reducing the waiting period for your Roth IRA is to start early and take advantage of any opportunities to reset the clock. By doing so, you’ll be able to access your funds more quickly and begin enjoying the benefits of your Roth IRA.

Summary of a few key points

Earnings do not come out income tax free until the end of the Roth IRA five year rule.

The IRS considers earnings to come out after contributions and conversion.

In that earlier example of 1/1/2018, you could have easily shifted the expiration of the “five year rule “Roth IRA five year rule” to as short as three years and eight months

Inherited IRAs

In 2023, the five-year rule for inherited IRAs will still be in effect. This rule states that any individual beneficiary of an inherited IRA may choose to distribute the assets of the IRA over a period of five years following the owner’s death. The distribution must be completed by the end of the fifth year after the owner’s death.

For non-individual beneficiaries, such as trusts, the five-year rule is also applicable if the owner of the IRA died before starting to take required minimum distributions (RMDs). This means that the assets of the inherited IRA must be distributed within five years of the owner’s death.

It is important for beneficiaries to carefully consider their options when inheriting an IRA, as the distribution rules can be complex and can have significant tax implications. It may be advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to determine the best course of action.

Jacobs Situation & Scenario

Here is a question about the 5-year clock on Roth IRA conversions.   I am over 60 years old, retired, and have never made any Roth IRA withdrawals. This is my situation:

Jacobs 3 Roth IRAs

Account A: Established Roth IRA in 1998 and made contributions until 2012.  In 2019, did a 401K Roth rollover into this account. 

Account B: Established 2019. Did IRA to Roth IRA conversion with no other contributions.

Account C: Established 2021.  Did IRA to Roth IRA conversion with no other contributions. 

Questions

FAQ frequently asked questions
  1. Can I make a withdrawal from Account A, without tax or penalty since the 5 year clock expired in 2003?
  2. It is my understanding that a withdrawal above the conversion amount (i.e. including earnings) from account B or C would be taxed as ordinary income. Is this correct?
  3. Also, does the 5 year clock on accounts B and C have any effect on account A?

I will preface this the same way that I did to Jacob.  I am not a tax advisor, so do not take anything I say as a fact, accurate, or as advice.  I am writing this for a financial education to help empower people to make financial decisions.  

Guidance

Based on the information you provided, it is my understanding that you are asking about the rules governing withdrawals from Roth IRA accounts, specifically in relation to the five-year rule and the treatment of earnings on conversion amounts. Here is some information that may be helpful to you:

  1. Withdrawals from Account A: If you established your Roth IRA in 1998 and made contributions until 2012, then you may be able to make a withdrawal from this account without incurring income taxes or penalties, assuming you have met the requirements for qualified distributions. In general, a distribution from a Roth IRA is considered qualified if it meets the following criteria:
  • The distribution is taken after the five-year holding period has been satisfied (i.e., the account has been open for at least five tax years)
  • The distribution is taken on or after the date you turn 59½, become permanently disabled, or meet other specified conditions (such as a first-time home purchase)

If your Roth IRA satisfies these requirements, then you should be able to make a withdrawal from it without incurring income taxes or penalties. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to confirm your eligibility and to ensure that you are properly following all of the rules and regulations governing Roth IRA withdrawals.

  1. Withdrawals from Accounts B and C: If you established Accounts B and C in 2019 and 2021, respectively, and made only conversion contributions to these accounts, then any earnings on those conversion amounts will be subject to income taxes as ordinary income when withdrawn. In general, earnings on conversion amounts are considered taxable income unless the five-year holding period has been satisfied. This means that if you make a withdrawal from Accounts B or C before the five-year holding period has been satisfied, then you will be required to pay income taxes on the earnings portion of the withdrawal as ordinary income.
  2. Effect of the five-year rule on Account A: The five-year rule applies independently to each Roth IRA account you own, so the five-year clock on Accounts B and C will not affect the eligibility of Account A for qualified distributions. This means that if you established Account A in 1998 and made contributions until 2012, then you may be eligible to make qualified distributions from this account regardless of the status of the five-year clock on Accounts B and C.

Again, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to confirm your eligibility for qualified distributions and to ensure that you are properly following all of the rules and regulations governing Roth IRA withdrawals.

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Note: The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as financial or legal advice. Consult with a professional advisor or accountant for personalized guidance.

Five Year Rule

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryanhttps://michaelryanmoney.com/
Who Am I? I'm Michael Ryan, a retired financial planner turned personal financial coach. And author and found of blog. My advice is backed by decades of hands-on experience in finance and recognition in esteemed publications like US News & World Report, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. 'here'. Find answers to your financial questions, from budgeting to investing and retirement planning, on my blog michaelryanmoney.com. My mission is to democratize financial literacy for all.
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