Your retirement accounts are meant to be there for you during your retirement, and they aren’t set up to be used before then, even in the case of emergencies. Most, if not all, retirement accounts will penalize people who choose to withdraw money from their retirement accounts early. Here are some good ways to avoid those penalties.

Don’t do it

First and foremost, the easiest way to avoid early withdrawal penalties is simply not to withdraw money from your retirement account before it is time to. This should be the very last resort during an emergency, as the fees are simply not worth it in any other case. Never withdraw from your retirement account early on a whim.

Withdraw from a Roth IRA

There are several choices when it comes to retirement accounts. A Roth IRA is the best choice for making early withdrawals from because you do not have to pay taxes on any withdrawals you make from it. This does only apply to the contributions you’ve made to your Roth IRA, however, not its growth.

Buy a home

If you (or you and your spouse) have not owned a home in the last two years, but are planning on buying one now, you can withdraw up to the lifetime maximum of $10,000 ($20,000 for couples) from an IRA to pay for the home. However, you may have to pay income taxes on the withdrawal, depending upon the type of IRA and the amount withdrawn.

Pay for college

If you, your spouse, child, or grandchild goes to college, you are allowed to withdraw from an IRA without penalty, as long as the money withdrawn is used to pay for education expenses. This includes things like books, tuition, room and board (if the student is enrolled at least half-time), and other fees.

Get exemption for a disability

If you become mentally or physically disabled before retirement age, you are qualified to make withdrawals from a retirement account penalty-free. This requires a physician to certify that the disability is continuous and of an indefinite or at least long-lasting duration. This allows people who become disabled access to all their retirement accounts since they will no longer be working, as if they had retired.