Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



With the rising importance of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), which now total onequarter of US retirement assets, public policy has sharpened its focus on how individuals manage those accumulations through work and retirement years. Individuals are required to take distributions from their IRAs after age 70½, while distributions taken prior to age 59½ generally incur a 10 percent penalty. Previous research has found that IRA owners rarely tapped these assets prior to retirement; this chapter updates results and shows that these patterns continue. Several factors influence the probability of withdrawal (prior to 70½): being younger than 60 lowers the probability of a withdrawal, but being retired, in poor health, or having a home mortgage increases the likelihood of withdrawal.


The published version of this Working Paper may be found in the 2008 publication: Recalibrating Retirement Spending and Saving.


IRAs, retirement

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Investment Company Institute or its members. All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the authors and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2008 Pension Research Council of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.


The authors thank Michael Bogdan for data tabulations.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 17 December 2019