Minimum Required Distributions- (Q & A)

Feb 2020


Dear Rick:
I have a couple of retirement questions that I hope you can help me with. A little bit about myself – I am a widower who is 71 years of age. I retired at the end of last year, and this year I’ve begun to collect my pension and Social Security. I have no debt, and my pension and Social Security more than covers all my needs and wants. My question deals with my minimum required distribution. I didn’t take it last year as I was waiting until April 1st of this year to take it. Since the law changed and raised the age of the minimum required distribution, my question is do I still need to take it, or can I delay it? My second question is, since I won’t need the money in my IRA, is there anything I can do to avoid having to take distributions out every year?

Thank you.

Dear Ben:
Congratulations on your retirement. You are one of the lucky few Americans who have more than enough in retirement. I hope you enjoy it.

With regard to your question about your required minimum distribution, unfortunately, you are not covered by the new law. The new law known as the Secure Act took effect at the beginning of this year, and one of the major changes in the law that impacts seniors is the fact that the age for required minimum distributions has been raised to 72 from 70½. However, since you were over 70½ at the beginning of this year, you are still governed by the old law; which calls for minimum required distribution at the age of 70½.

Since you elected to defer your distribution to April 1st of this year, it’s important to remember that in addition to the April 1st distribution, you also have to take an additional distribution this year. The April 1st distribution is technically your 2019 distribution.

Under the previous law and the current law, in the first year that you must take minimum required distributions, you can delay the initial distribution until April 1st of the next year. The benefit is you can defer taking distributions; the downside is you will have two distributions in one year, and that can have an adverse effect on your taxes.

With regard to your second question, there are two things that you can consider. The first is to begin to convert your IRA from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Once the money is in the Roth IRA, you no longer have to take any distributions. One of the benefits of Roth IRAs is that there are no required distributions.

Another option if you are charitable in nature is to consider donating your minimum required distribution to a charity. This strategy works particularly for those who are charitable in nature and are currently making charitable contributions, but because of changes in the tax law are no longer itemizing their deductions. By donating your minimum required distribution directly to a charity, you’re getting a tax break because by doing this transaction, you’re avoiding paying tax on your distribution. For those who choose to follow this strategy, you do not have to donate your entire distribution; you can donate any portion of it, and you can use multiple charities. In addition, if you do it one year, you’re not bound to do it in the next year.

For those who are thinking of converting traditional IRA money into a Roth IRA, you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to do it; the sooner the better. After all, the sooner you convert the money, the longer it can grow tax free.

Good luck!


Rick is a fee-only financial advisor.  If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at