IRAs can be helpful tools in saving for retirement. But like any account, an IRA comes with rules and restrictions that you should know before you open one.

One of the most important IRA-related rules is the required minimum distributionon traditional IRAs.

The required minimum distribution (or RMD) must be taken by April 1 of the year after the accountholder reaches 70½ years of age. The accountholder must take these distributions by December 31 of each consecutive year, as well as pay income tax on each withdrawal.

The IRS calculates RMDs by using one of three tables that take into consideration several factors, including the retiree’s age, the amount in the account at the end of the previous year, and whether the retiree is the sole account owner.  These tables are all available on the IRS website. As always, it’s best to consult a tax professional when considering how to take the RMD.

U.S. News & World Report lays out some helpful tips related to taking your required minimum distributions:

Remember to do it each year

Failure to withdraw comes with a hefty 50 percent tax on the required withdrawal, on top of the related income tax you already have to pay. So don’t let it slip your mind.

Only do it once a year

Your first withdrawal has to be taken by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. However, you’ll have to make another withdrawal by December 31 of that year to count for the following one. These two withdrawals may put you in a higher tax bracket for the year, so the IRS allows you to make that first withdrawal by the December 31 of the year you turn 70 ½.

Stagger your withdrawals

Don’t want to make your required withdrawal all at once? You can withdraw multiple times over the course of a year, as long as your RMD adds up to the required amount. However, if you take out more than the required amount, the difference will not count toward future years.

Handling multiple IRAs

An accountholder with multiple IRAs must calculate the RMD for each account. However, the total can be withdrawn from one or several accounts. Some experts suggest taking your RMD from the account with the lowest interest rate.

Roth conversion

Don’t want to deal with taking a RMD? Consider converting your IRA to a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA allows accountholders to make any withdrawals they’d like without penalty after age 59½.

Do you use an IRA to save for retirement? What’s your strategy for taking your required minimum distribution?