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These funds help boomers avoid a 50 percent tax penalty

  • You have to start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRA, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA or retirement plan accounts when you reach age 70½.
  • If you don't make the appropriate withdrawals, you may have to pay a 50 percent tax on the amount that was not taken out as required.
  • Fidelity launched funds designed for retirees who only take out the required minimum distribution each year.

Millions of baby boomers will have to take out money from their individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans this year or face a 50 percent tax penalty. Known as required minimum distributions, these mandatory withdrawals can be a pain for older investors to figure out — and now some retirement account providers are working on strategies and services to help take the guesswork out of the process.

Generally, you have to start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRA, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA or retirement plan accounts when you reach age 70½. If you are still working, some 401(k) plans allow you to defer RMDs from those plans until you retire.

You catch a break on your first RMD, which you can defer until the following year. That means if you turn 70½ this year, you have until April 1, 2018, to make your first withdrawal. However, if you defer your first RMD this year, you will need to take two RMDs in 2018. After your first RMD, you will have to take an RMD every year from your retirement accounts by Dec. 31.

You can calculate your RMD on your own. The Internal Revenue Service uses a formula to determine the RMD for each tax-deferred retirement account you have, based on your age and account balance.

The IRS provides worksheets, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority offers a free calculator to figure out your annual RMD.

Many retirement account providers, such as Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard, will automatically calculate RMDs for account holders.

"The biggest fear retirees have is running out of money." -Ken Hevert, Fidelity's senior vice president of retirement

Today, Fidelity launched a series of mutual funds that help investors manage their RMDs. The strategy is designed to help new retirees determine a suitable allocation for assets that are subject to RMDs.

Like target-date funds, which are default options in many retirement plans, Fidelity's RMD funds invest more conservatively over time. Fidelity customers also can opt in to have their RMDs automatically withdrawn.

"These funds are designed for investors who only take out the required minimum distribution each year," said Ken Hevert, Fidelity's senior vice president of retirement. "The biggest fear retirees have is running out of money.

"These funds help address that fear," he added.

To be sure, plenty of fund companies offer investments for people in retirement. What makes these funds different is that they are created specifically for people who want to withdraw the minimum from their retirement accounts and no more.

The Fidelity funds make the RMD process "simpler with professional diversification," said Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA. "However, as with all diversified products, investors should look to see what the underlying investments consist of to ensure they are appropriate."