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What are the Withdrawal Rules for My Keogh Plan?

As a self-employed individual or a small business owner, you have taken the proactive step of establishing a Keogh plan to secure your retirement. However, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the withdrawal rules associated with your Keogh plan to optimize its benefits. In this article, we will explore the withdrawal regulations for Keogh plans, drawing parallels to similar retirement vehicles like IRAs and 401(k)s, while also addressing some unique considerations. Understanding these rules will help you make informed decisions about when and how to access your Keogh plan funds.

Penalty-Free Withdrawals:

Similar to traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, penalty-free withdrawals from your Keogh plan are generally allowed once you reach the age of 59½. At this stage, you can withdraw funds without incurring a 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, it's important to note that income taxes will still apply to the amount you withdraw, as these funds were likely contributed on a tax-deferred basis.

Early Withdrawal Penalties:

In the event that you decide to withdraw money from your Keogh plan before reaching the age of 59½, you may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to income taxes on the withdrawn amount. However, there is an exception known as the early retirement exception. This exception applies to employees who separate from service at or after the age of 55. If you fall into this category, the 10% penalty will not apply to withdrawals from your Keogh plan.

Differences from IRAs:

While Keogh plans share similarities with both IRAs and 401(k)s, it's important to note that they primarily adhere to the early withdrawal rules for 401(k)s rather than IRAs. Although the differences between these rules may be minimal, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the specific regulations pertaining to 401(k) early withdrawals to ensure compliance with your Keogh plan.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs):

Once you reach the age of 70½, you must start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your Keogh plan. RMDs are annual withdrawals mandated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and are calculated based on age-based factors determined by the IRS. It is crucial to note that if you are still employed by the company sponsoring the Keogh plan, you may be exempted from taking RMDs until you retire.

Unique Considerations for Different Keogh Plans:

It is worth mentioning that different types of Keogh plans, such as defined benefit and money purchase Keoghs, may have their own distinct withdrawal rules. These rules could deviate from the standard regulations outlined earlier. Therefore, it is essential to carefully review the specific provisions of your Keogh plan to ensure compliance and optimize your withdrawal strategy.


Withdrawal rules for Keoghs will be essentially the same as rules for IRAs and 401(k)s. Once you are age 59½, you may begin to make penalty-free withdrawals and only pay income taxes on the amount you withdraw, similar to a traditional IRA. If you decide to withdraw money before age 59½, you may have to pay a 10% penalty fee in addition to income taxes on the amount of your withdrawal.

Of course, there are exceptions. One exception for most qualified plans is for employees who separate from service at or after age 55: this is the early retirement exception, and the 10% penalty will not apply. Keoghs will technically use the early withdrawal rules for 401(k)s and not IRAs, which differ slightly.

Once you turn 70½, you must begin to withdraw minimum amounts each year known as RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions), which are determined by the IRS using age-based factors. You do not have to take RMDs if you are still working at the company. The defined benefit and money purchase Keoghs out there may have different withdrawal rules.

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