Can You Take Money Out of a Roth IRA?

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Learn about the government's Roth IRA withdrawal rules for contributions and earnings. Discover when you can withdraw money without paying taxes or penalties.

A Roth individual retirement account (IRA) offers a tax-advantaged way to save for retirement. Unlike traditional IRAs and 401K accounts, Roth IRAs offer greater flexibility when you're ready to use the money. As you plan for retirement, it's important to understand the Roth IRA withdrawal rules and how each type of distribution affects you in terms of taxes and potential penalties.

How Do Contributions and Earnings Affect Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules?

When you contribute to a Roth IRA, you're putting in after-tax money — in other words, you've already paid income tax. As your contributions sit in the account, they earn interest.

The Roth IRA withdrawal rules vary based on whether you're taking out contributions or earnings. Since you've already paid tax on your contributions, you can take them out of the Roth IRA whenever you like. These withdrawals aren't subject to penalties or additional taxes.

Imagine that you've contributed $5,000 to a Roth IRA over 2 years, and the account is now worth $5,500. You can withdraw up to $5,000 at any time without paying taxes or fees. However, the same may not be true for the $500 you earned.

That's because the IRS has special rules for withdrawing Roth IRA earnings. There are two withdrawal options: qualified and non-qualified.

Qualified Withdrawal Rules

When you want to withdraw the earnings from your Roth IRA, you can do so without paying penalties or taxes if you meet two criteria:

  • You're at least 59.5 years old
  • Your first Roth IRA contribution was at least 5 years ago

The IRS calls these withdrawals "qualified distributions."

If you're older than 59.5 years, but your oldest Roth IRA has been open for less than 5 years, you can withdraw earnings without paying a penalty. However, you'll still pay income tax on the money.

Early Withdrawal Rules

What if you need to access Roth IRA earnings, but you're younger than 59.5 years old? You can still take out the money, but it may be subject to both income tax and an additional 10% penalty. The goal of this rule is to encourage people to use Roth IRAs for retirement and not other purposes.

The IRS allows some flexibility with these rules. You can avoid the 10% penalty if your initial Roth IRA contribution was at least 5 years ago and you meet one of the following
IRS exceptions:

  • You're withdrawing up to $10,000 for a first-time home purchase
  • You're withdrawing up to $5,000 before the birth or adoption of a child
  • You're totally and permanently disabled
  • You pass away, and the withdrawal is going to your beneficiary
  • The money is going toward higher education expenses
  • You need to pay for unreimbursed medical costs
  • You're using the money to pay certain health insurance premiums after you've received unemployment benefits for at least 12 weeks in a row
  • You need the money for qualified disaster relief
  • You need the money because of an IRS levy

The IRS has specific rules for exceptions. For example, before you can use a qualified withdrawal to pay for medical expenses, the total must be higher than 7.5% of your adjusted income. Before you withdraw money, consider speaking with your financial adviser to avoid unexpected taxes.

Roth IRA Withdrawals for First-Time Home Buyers

If you want to withdraw Roth IRA earnings to buy your first home, there are a few rules.

  • You have 120 days to use the money to buy, build or rebuild
  • You and your spouse can't have owned a home within the past 2 years
  • You must use the money for a first-time home purchase for yourself, your spouse or the parent or grandchild of you or your spouse

Roth IRA Withdrawals for Higher Education

The higher education exception allows you to withdraw up to $5,000 of earnings to cover tuition, fees, books and supplies for you, your spouse, your children and your grandchildren. This does not include expenses that were paid for through tax-free scholarships, Pell grants or assistance from the VA or an employer.

Is It Easier To Withdraw Money From a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA?

It's easier to withdraw money from a Roth IRA. You can take out your contributions without worrying about taxes and penalties at any time. With a traditional IRA, you'll typically pay income tax and a 10% penalty if you withdraw contributions or earnings before age 59.5.

How Does the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule Work?

With a Roth IRA, 5 years is the magic number when it comes to withdrawals. If you haven't met the 5-year threshold, you won't be able to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty — even if you're 59.5 or you meet one of the exceptions.

Here's the good news: the 5-year countdown starts at the beginning of the year you make the first deposit into any Roth IRA. So, if you opened and contributed to your first Roth IRA in November 2020, the clock started ticking on January 1, 2020. The end of the 5-year waiting period would be December 31st, 2024. Starting on January 1, 2025, you can make qualified withdrawals from any of your Roth IRAs, regardless of when you opened them.

If you inherit a Roth IRA from someone else, the clock doesn't reset; the 5 years is calculated from the year of the original owner's first contribution.

How Much Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA?

Given that contributions to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time, it's helpful to understand annual contribution limits. That way, you know how much money you can access tax-free in an emergency.

In 2022, the IRS allows you to contribute $6,000 total to all your IRA accounts; this includes both traditional and Roth IRAs. If you're turning 50 in 2022, this number increases to $7,000.

Roth IRAs also have
income limits that determine your maximum contributions.

Tax Filing Status

Adjusted gross income

Contribution Limits

Widowed or married filing jointly

Less than $204,000

Standard limit

Widowed or married filing jointly

$204,000 to $213,999.99

Reduced amount

Widowed or married filing jointly

$214,000 or higher


Single, head of household or married filing separately and living apart for full year

Less than $129,000

Standard limit

Single, head of household or married filing separately and living apart for full year

$129,000 to $143,999.99

Reduced amount

Single, head of household or married filing separately and living apart for full year

$144,000 or higher


Married filing separately but lived together during the year

Less than $10,000

Reduced amount

Married filing separately but lived together during the year

$10,000 or higher


Does a Roth IRA Have Required Withdrawals?

Roth IRAs don't require you to withdraw money at any point. This is one factor that sets them apart from traditional IRAs, which have required minimum distributions once you reach age 72.

Roth IRAs and Life Insurance

Are you deciding between life insurance and a Roth IRA? You can use your Roth IRA instead of life insurance; the IRS allows you to pass a Roth IRA to your beneficiaries without taxes, so it serves a similar purpose. However, if you don't meet the 5-year rule, your heirs may need to wait to withdraw earnings.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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