How to Calculate Life Expectancy for IRA Accounts

by Mark Kennan, studioD

Starting at age 70 1/2, the Internal Revenue Service forces you to start taking money out of your traditional IRAs. Calculating your life expectancy affects your calculation of how much you have to withdraw from your IRA for minimum required distributions. Using the wrong number results in an incorrect minimum distribution amount, which can cause you to incur penalties for failing to withdraw enough or cause you to take out more than you needed. The IRS publishes the IRA life expectancy tables in the appendix of Publication 590.

Use the uniform life expectancy table unless a special circumstance applies. In the event that your spouse is 10 years younger than you, use the joint and last survivor life expectancy table. If you received the IRA as a beneficiary, use the single life expectancy table.

Find your age for the purpose of calculating your life expectancy by using the age you will be at the end of the calendar year. If you use the joint and last survivor table, do the same for your spouse. For example, if you will be 81 at the end of the year, even if you are currently 80, use 81 as your age.

Find your age in the left-hand column of the appropriate life expectancy table; your life expectancy is listed in the cell to the right. If you use the joint and last survivor table, find your spouse's age in the top row along with your age in the left-hand column. Where the row for your age and the column for your spouse's age meet is your life expectancy.

Items you will need

  • IRS Publication 590

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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