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Q&A: "Is There an Age Minimum I Must Reach to Access My Roth IRA/TSP? If not, are There any Penalties for Withdrawing Early?"

Retirement Accounts Tax

Question: 

Is there an age minimum I must reach to access my Roth IRA/TSP? If not, are there any penalties for withdrawing early?

Answer: 

It wasn't clear if you're asking about your Roth IRA or Roth TSP (Thrift Savings Plan), so I'll answer for both. Roth IRA If you withdraw ("distribute") funds from your Roth IRA, the funds are treated as if they came out in the following order:

  1. Your original Roth IRA contributions
  2. Any previous conversion or rollover of taxable assets (such as tax-deductible Traditional IRA)
  3. Any previous conversion or rollover of non-taxable assets (such as non-tax deductible Traditional IRA)
  4. Earnings on all Roth IRA assets

You can always withdraw your original contributions without tax consequence or penalty. That's because you already paid the tax...you made contributions with after-tax money. 

Converted assets will not be subject to income tax, but will be subject to the 10% federal penalty tax unless it's been five years since the conversion and you're age 59.5 or older, or one of the other exceptions applies (disability, death, first-time homebuyer, etc).

Distribution of any earnings from your Roth IRA before age 59.5 (and five years in the plan) will be taxed as ordinary income plus get hit with the 10% federal penalty tax. Again, there are certain exceptions to the penalty tax portion. 

Roth TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) 

A withdrawal ("distribution") from the federal government's TSP while you are still actively employed is called an in-service distribution. Under the TSP, you can typically only take an in-service distribution in cases of (1) financial hardship, or (2) age-based, in other words age 59.5 or older.

As with the Roth IRA, you will have already paid the tax on contributions to a Roth TSP. Distribution of earnings on Roth TSP assets will be tax-free if you've participated for five years and are age 59.5. This is the case regardless of whether it's an in-service distribution or after you've terminated federal employment. 

Distribution of earnings before age 59.5 (and five years in the plan) will be subject to tax as well as the 10% federal penalty tax (unless one of the exceptions applies).

Hope that helps. All the best!