Generally speaking, you have to wait until age 59 1/2 to tap your account without getting hit with the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. But if you’re age 55 or older and you permanently leave your job, then you can begin tapping it immediately without owing the 10% penalty. This is called the “separated from service” exception. It doesn’t matter if you quit, retire or are fired. In fact, you could even begin working someplace else. But remember: Even when the 10% penalty doesn’t apply, you’ll still owe income taxes on your withdrawals.