Q&A: New rules for required distributions

Dear Liz: I cannot find when the SECURE Act takes effect. My wife, who turns 69 this summer, has a traditional Roth IRA worth about $150,000, all in a single large-company growth mutual fund. Obviously we don’t want to see it depreciate during a certain-to-come down market and then have to begin withdrawals before the market recovers. Would it be wise to move from the mutual fund into certificates of deposit or bonds, within the same IRA?

Answer: There’s really no such thing as a “traditional Roth IRA.” Since you’re asking about the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, which pushed back the age at which required minimum distributions have to begin from 70½ to 72, we’ll assume she has a traditional IRA subject to those RMD rules. (Roth IRAs are not subject to required minimum distributions.)

According to the IRS, people who reached 70½ in 2019 are subject to the prior rule and must take their first RMD by April 1 of this year. Those who reach 70½ this year or later must take their first RMD by April 1 of the year they turn 72.

That means your wife has some time to find an asset allocation that protects her somewhat from market drops while still allowing some growth. A fee-only financial planner could help her customize a portfolio, or she could consider a target date retirement fund (with a target date of 2015 or 2020, to benefit from a more conservative asset allocation). Moving everything to CDs or bonds would be trying to time the market, which rarely works, but having at least a portion of her money in safer investments could be smart.

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