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The IRS permits early retirees to access their retirement funds prior to age 50 1/2 without penalty as long as they take distributions under a plan of substantially equally periodic payments (rule 72t). Once started, these payments must continue for the longer of 5 years of their attainment of age 59 1/2. Therefore, once a 72t distribution plan is started, these become required mandatory distributions subject to the early withdrawal penalty if ceased.
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