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"Our mission is to empower people to make smart financial decisions. The right financial advisor can help you achieve your financial goals and prepare for retirement."

Michael Carvin, CEO

Withdrawing from your retirement accounts in the wrong order could be a mistake worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you're worried about the most efficient way to start making withdrawals, consider that a 2019 Northwestern Mutual study found that U.S. adults who work with a financial advisor report “substantially greater financial security, confidence and clarity than those who go it alone.”

The value of working with a financial advisor varies by person and advisors are legally prohibited from promising returns, but research suggests average additional investment returns can range from 1.5% to 4% more each year. 

SmartAsset’s new tool makes it easy to find the right financial advisor near you in just a few minutes. This exclusive, no-cost tool matches you with up to three local fiduciary financial advisors that have passed a rigorous screening process. We confirm each is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the appropriate state regulator, possess the proper licenses and have no pending or valid regulatory disclosures within the past 10 years.

Being aware of these four withdrawal mistakes when prepping for retirement can help you find peace of mind, and avoid years of stress.


The Worst Way to Withdraw From Your Retirement Accounts

1. Not Starting With Your Investment Income

Withdrawing from your investments first gives your retirement accounts more time to compound interest. If you dive straight into your 401(k) or IRA, you could cost yourself years worth of income in retirement savings.

Whether you have mutual funds, a brokerage account, ETFs, stocks or bonds, they’re all taxable, so you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes on withdrawals. Some investments also require you to pay taxes on distributions each year, like some mutual funds. Check with a fiduciary financial advisor to see if this is the case for your accounts.

All of the financial advisors on SmartAsset’s matching platform are registered fiduciaries, who are legally bound to act in your best interest. If your advisor is not a fiduciary and constantly pushes investment products on you, use this no-cost tool to find an advisor who has your best interest in mind.

2. Claiming Social Security Benefits at 62

If you want your maximum Social Security benefits, you’ll need to work until your “full retirement” age.

But benefits at age 62, 66 or 67 are not your maximum benefits. The maximum Social Security retirement benefit kicks in at age 70. If you claim before, you're not getting your full entitlement.

Each year after full retirement, your payout increases by a certain percentage based on specific criteria. To maximize on this strategy, we recommend holding off until you are 70 — payments will be the highest possible, increasing by 8% each year you wait. 

While this strategy will help you collect the highest Social Security benefit, every situation is different. Consult a financial advisor to figure out how and when Social Security benefits should factor into your unique retirement plan.

3. Withdrawing From Your 401(k) and IRA Before RMDs Kick In

You can start withdrawing money from your 401(k) when you turn 59 1/2, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The law doesn't require you to start taking Required Minimum Distributions until you turn 70, so this is time your money can keep growing with compound interest.

4. Tapping into Your Roth Before Exhausting Other Options

Put off withdrawing money from your Roth IRA as long as possible.

You paid taxes up front so you can take money out of your Roth IRA and it won’t count as taxable income.

Your Roth IRA also will continue to grow tax-free as you tap into your other accounts. Since a Roth IRA holds after-tax funds and the IRS doesn’t need to tax it again, you also don’t need to take Required Minimum Distributions. This account can keep growing for as long as you don't touch it.


5. The Best Way to Plan Your Withdrawals

Determining the optimal sequence to withdraw money from your retirement accounts is different for everyone, so we recommend speaking with a financial advisor.

Voya Financial found that 79% of people who use an advisor said they “know how to pursue achieving their retirement goals.” The study also found that 59% of those who use an advisor have calculated how much they need to retire, while 52% established a formal retirement investment plan.

Chances are, there are several highly qualified financial advisors in your town. However, it can seem daunting to choose one. 

Our no-cost tool makes it easy to find the right financial advisor for you. Now you can get matched with up to three local fiduciary investment advisors that have been rigorously screened for regulatory disclosures and to confirm their licenses. The entire matching process takes just a few minutes.

Follow These Steps to Get Matched With the Right Advisor for You

1. Simply enter your ZIP code below.

2. After you enter your ZIP code and answer questions about your financial goals, you can compare up to three top advisors local to you and decide which to work with.

3. Enjoy a better financial future!

Get Smart with Your Assets

Investing involves risk and no situation is the same. This is in no way intended as a personal recommendation and investment decisions are solely those of the reader.

The Worst Way to Withdraw From Your Retirement Accounts

SmartAsset is a personal finance technology company that features a financial advisor matching service. Financial Advisors who appear on SmartAsset are from companies with which SmartAsset receives compensation. SmartAsset takes into consideration wealth and location to determine how to match users with advisors. SmartAsset doesn't include the entire universe of Financial Advisors.

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