For Mark Roberts’ Use: As we grow older, birthdays sometimes seem less significant. Unlike the major milestones of turning 18 or 21, going from 55 to 56 may not seem all that exciting. But since there are significant laws attached to several birthdays that can affect your financial planning decisions, you should keep these in mind when planning your retirement.

Age 59 ½. Under certain conditions, you can begin taking withdrawals from your IRA or other qualified retirement plan without tax penalties. Generally speaking, ordinary income taxes will apply to these distributions. Before this date, withdrawals might be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty.

Age 62. This is the first age at which you may begin to collect Social Security benefits. It is not, however, considered “full retirement age”, so your benefits will be reduced by up to 30 percent. Your full retirement age depends upon the year you were born, and can range between 65 and 67.

Age 65. You are now eligible to enroll in Medicare. It’s best to enroll about two to three months before your birthday so that you can receive coverage on the earliest possible date. Once you’re eligible for Social Security, Medicare Part A Hospital Insurance is automatically available to you. If you want to enroll in Medicare Part B Medical Insurance, you’ll have to pay a monthly premium.

Age 70 ½. At this age you’re required to begin taking minimum distributions from most tax-deferred retirement plans. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a 50 percent penalty on the amount you should have withdrawn. The required minimum distributions each year are determined by the federal government, and are based on life expectancy.

Since these dates can carry quite a few implications for your financial planning and budget, mark them on a calendar. Dates which fall on your half-birthday are especially important to keep in mind, because these can easily pass without any sort of reminder. Remember to anticipate changes months or even years in advance, and discuss important decisions with your financial advisor in order to formulate the best retirement plan.