Once you reach the age of 70½, federal law requires that you take money out of your tax-deferred retirement accounts every year. These distributions are called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): annual minimum withdrawals that are mandated by the government.
Many different types of retirement accounts -- including IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457 plans, SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs -- are subject to RMDs. Roth accounts, however, are a little different: generally distributions must be taken from Roth 401(k) accounts as long as the original owner is alive, but not Roth IRAs.
The amount of your RMDs depends on a number of personal variables, including your age, the types of accounts you have, and how much you have in your accounts.
Your first RMDs for IRAs happen in the year in which you turn 70½, although it can be delayed until April 1 of the following year. From then on, all subsequent distributions need to be completed by December 31 every year.
If you are still working at the age of 70½, you may be able to delay taking your RMDs on 401(k) accounts further.