Use the seven milestones below to guide you as you approach retirement—a journey that’s undoubtedly worthy of celebration.

Age 59½: Withdraw from your traditional IRA without being charged a penalty

After you hit age 59½, you can take a withdrawal from your traditional IRA without being subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.* Just keep in mind that you’ll still owe ordinary income tax on withdrawals of all traditional IRA earnings and on any contributions you originally deducted from your taxes.

Age 62: Become eligible for reduced Social Security benefits

Age 62 is the earliest age at which you can claim a Social Security benefit. However, there’s a penalty for collecting your benefit before you’ve reached full retirement age (the age at which you’re first eligible to receive your full benefit amount).

If you begin collecting Social Security before you reach full retirement age, your benefit will be reduced by about 6% each year. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you start collecting Social Security at age 62, you’ll receive about 30% less than the retirement benefit you would have received if you had waited until age 67.

Age 64¾: Enroll in Medicare

Administered by the federal government, Medicare is a national health insurance program for people age 65 or older. Most people enroll in traditional Medicare, which has three parts:**

  • Part A: Pays for inpatient hospital care. Most people get Part A hospital insurance at no cost when they turn 65. (You automatically qualify if you’re eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.)
  • Part B: Pays for doctor visits and outpatient care. Part B is optional. Almost anyone who is eligible for Part A can sign up for Part B medical insurance, but it’s not free. The monthly premium varies by income
  • Part D: Pays for prescription drugs. Anyone who has Part A or B can sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage. It’s optional, and it’s not free. As with Part B, the premium varies by income.
The initial Medicare sign-up window lasts for seven months. If you miss it, you may have to pay higher premiums for life. However, if you still have medical insurance provided by an employer, including your spouse’s employer, you can postpone enrolling until that coverage ends without having to pay higher premiums.

Age 65: Medicare begins; Sign up for Medigap

If you enrolled in (or are already receiving) Social Security, you qualify for Medicare, effective on the first day of the month in which you turn 65, regardless of whether you’ve retired.

The six-month enrollment window for Medicare supplemental insurance, known as Medigap, also begins the first day of the month in which you turn 65. Medigap is private insurance that covers some of the out-of-pocket costs that Medicare doesn’t cover.

If you miss the enrollment period, you may pay higher premiums for life or even be denied coverage.

Age 66–67: Reach Social Security full retirement age

Your Social Security retirement age is the age at which you qualify for your full Social Security retirement benefit. Although you can take your benefit without penalty when you reach your full retirement age, it may still make sense to wait—if you do, the value of your benefit will increase each month until you reach age 70.

Age 70: File for Social Security if you haven’t already

Don’t put off filing for Social Security benefits past age 70. Once you’re 70, your monthly benefit will no longer increase.

Age 70½: Begin required minimum distributions (RMDs)

By law, you must take taxable withdrawals from your non-Roth retirement accounts by April 1 the year after you reach age 70½. (Every year thereafter, you’ll need to take your RMD by December 31.) If you don’t take your RMD on time, you could owe a penalty of up to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn.

Additionally, once you reached age 70½, you can’t make contributions to any traditional retirement accounts—even if you still have earned income.

To infinity and beyond

Make your retirement savings last. Use our do-it-yourself tools to plan your retirement spending strategy, or partner with us for advice.

*Exceptions to the 10% tax penalty include distributions made after death, after permanent and total disability, under a divorce agreement, and to pay unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income.

**Alternatively, some people enroll in Medicare Part C, also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan. A Medicare Advantage Plan offers the basic coverage of Part A and Part B and often some extra services but with a limited number of health care providers.

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Advice services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc., a registered investment advisor.