NEW YORK – E*Trade Financial Corp. has probably beat competitors to the punch with a ramped-up individual retirement account that features a host of access options. Customers who are age 59 1/2 can now write checks, pay bills electronically and use debit cards within their traditional IRA, IRA Rollover, Roth IRA, Roth IRA Conversion, Simple IRA or SEP IRA, according E*Trade, which made the announcement Jan. 10 “Only qualified customers, meaning those who are nearing or at retirement, are being notified” of the new offer, an E*Trade spokeswoman told Credit Union Times. Account holders younger than 59 1/2 will pay a 10% penalty for tapping their IRA before they reach that age. Industry watchers say the E*Trade IRA is considered to be the first of its kind. The latest offer is the continuation of the integration of cash management solutions that began with the introduction of the E*TRADE Complete(TM) Investment Account in 2005, the company said. Some critics have said such easy access to IRAs could lead to spending retirement income too quickly and unexpected tax obligations.

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