IRAs: Withdrawals are generally subject to a 10% penalty, unless you become disabled and cannot work, you die, or you set up a plan to make regular, equal withdrawals over your life. You cannot borrow from an IRA.
Other exceptions to the rule against early withdrawals are:
To pay health insurance premiums. This exception applies only if you are unemployed or were recently unemployed and meet certain conditions.
To pay higher education expenses.
To help pay for your first home. This exception has a lifetime distribution limit of $10,000.
401(k) accounts: You can borrow from your 401(k) but cannot withdraw money from it except for an IRS-recognized hardship, such as to pay medical bills, prevent eviction or foreclosure, pay college tuition, or make a down payment on your primary residence. And you still must pay the 10% penalty on early withdrawals. There is one important exception: If you're 55 or older and actually retired, you may make penalty-free withdrawals.
591/2 to 701/2
Withdrawals are optional.
Traditional IRAs: The amount is included in your gross income for income tax purposes.
Roth IRAs: You are free to take out the money that you put into your Roth IRA anytime you want, and it will never be subject to a tax. However, the interest that your money earned while it was in the IRA is a different matter. Interest is tax free only if at least five years have passed since you established the Roth IRA.
701/2 or older
Traditional IRAs: Withdrawals are mandatory. The minimum amount is determined by your age and that of your oldest beneficiary.