So, you’ve decided that you’d like to begin taking distributions from your IRA funds – and you’re under age 59½, so you need to structure your distributions as a Series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SOSEPP). (For more background information on the SOSEPP, see this article.) It is important to do this right, because once you set up the plan, you’re pretty much stuck with it.
Steps to Set Up a SOSEPP
The first step in setting up a SOSEPP is to figure out just how much you’ll need to take each year. Working with a financial advisor or an actuary, you can figure out how much money is required to support the SOSEPP payments that you require.
Once an amount is determined, a new IRA can be opened and the money required rolled over into that account. Other IRAs and 401(k) accounts will then hold the remainder of your funds – which provides your savings for future needs, once the SOSEPP is no longer in effect, or a “safety valve” for you to use in the event that you need additional funds at some point. Of course, taking an additional amount from one of these other accounts would require payment of the 10% penalty (unless one of the other exceptions applies) – but this is much better than taking too much from your SOSEPP IRA and busting the plan, which carries some heavy penalties.
Keep in mind, especially if you’re setting up your SOSEPP early in your life, it is possible to set up another SOSEPP from a different account should the need arise. You would just have two series’ going on at the same time, with different variables impacting each series.
In other cases, you may just want to take the greatest possible payment that you can from account, which can be easily determined when the span of the plan is understood, given your age and the amount in the IRAs.
Several choices are necessary to set up the plan:
- Choose one of the three permitted methods – RMD, amortization, or annuitization
- Choose a life expectancy table – single, joint, or uniform life expectancy
- Choose an interest rate (if using amortization or annuitization)
- Decide whether to use annual recalculation (if using amortization or annuitization)
- Choose the account balance valuation date
- Determine the “period” for your payments. These can be monthly, quarterly or annually, but must at least be annual, and must be at the same regular interval each “period” once set up.
All of these details must be attended to when setting up the plan, and careful attention should be paid when making these decisions. If you set up such a plan early in your life (say at age 50 or earlier) you will have to live with your choices for a considerable amount of time. Understand what each choice means and can mean in the future as you make these decisions.