Early Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts During the Great Recession

Statistics of Income Division, Internal Revenue Service

"Early withdrawals from retirement accounts are a double-edged sword, because withdrawals reduce retirement resources, but they also allow individuals to smooth consumption when they experience demographic and economic shocks. We show that pre-retirement withdrawals trended up between 2004 and 2010, but the trend is modest given the substantial early withdrawals (particularly relative to new contributions) occurring in all of those years. Early withdrawal events are strongly correlated with shocks to income and marital status, and lower-income taxpayers are more likely to experience the types of shocks associated with early withdrawals, and they are more likely to have a taxable withdrawal when they experience a given shock."

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