As a part of my divorce settlement, I am supposed to get a portion of my husband’s retirement plans. I’ll need some of the money to live on, but I’m only 53, so I’m too young to receive retirement benefits. What’s the best way to handle this retirement plan distribution?
Generally, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “quadro”) would be used to transfer your portion of your husband’s plan to an IRA in your name. Ordinarily, you can’t take money from your IRA without penalty until you are 59-1/2.
If you need money to live on now, you can elect to have the funds transferred from your husband’s plan directly to you, rather than transferring them to your IRA. You will have to pay tax on the money you receive, but there won’t be any 10% penalty if the money comes from a retirement plan other than an IRA.
If you don’t want to pay all those taxes up front (and who would?) you can choose to have the money sent directly to your IRA. Then you can annuitize the IRA, taking monthly distributions based on your remaining lifetime.
Although IRA distributions before age 59-1/2 are usually subject to a 10% penalty tax, an exception applies if you annuitize the IRA and continue receiving the payments until you are 59-1/2 (and for a minimum of five years).