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Kwaj4robbs writes:

1) There is that obscure rule governing IRA withdrawls for underaged folks which takes actuarial tables and blah, blah blah into account for which one has to sign up for 5 years...equal payments...blah, blah, blah

Does the Roth IRA also have this feature/benefit?

Am planning to retire in 6 years at the foolishy ripe age of ~50 and need to plan...

Yes it does, but in a Roth it applies only to the withdrawal of earnings. Contributions may be withdrawn at any time tax-free.

2) I keep reading about ... 5 years in the Roth..., does that mean the account must exist for >5 years (simple) or must the actual distributions taken need to be >5 years old? (much more complex!)

The five years means five tax years, and refers to qualified tax-free withdrawals of earnings, not contributions. If you open a Roth on 12/31/98, you may make tax-free qualified withdrawals of earnings on or after 1/1/2003, which is the fifth tax-year after the account is opened. A qualified withdrawal is one made after the account has been open for five tax-years and occurs after age 59 ½, on the owner's death, because the owner is disabled, of for a qualified first home purchase (subject to the lifetime limit of $10K. Touch the earnings before that, and they will be subject to tax and to an early withdrawal penalty. In your case, you can escape the penalty - but not the taxes - by taking the earnings under the exception you cited (i.e., Section 72(t) of the IRC). For more info on Section 72(t) rules, see:

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