Americans 61 to 70 are withdrawing money from their IRAs at a faster rate than people required to take distributions, a new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) shows.

The EBRI study, IRA Withdrawals: How Much, When and Other Saving Behavior, says people age 61 to 70  withdrew an average of $16,655, compared with people aged 71 to 80, who withdrew an average of $10,557. Retirement plan account owners are required to take minimum distributions starting when they are 70 1/2. As would be expected, the EBRI study showed that those at lower income levels withdrew more than people in upper income levels.

“As more and more baby boomers enter retirement with large portions of their retirement savings in IRAs, their financial security in retirement may well depend on how they manage these accounts post-retirement,” says Sudipto Banerjee, EBRI research associate and author of the report.

“Some may be overly cautious in drawing down their IRA balances, sacrificing a more enjoyable retirement, while others may spend too much too soon, jeopardizing their retirement security,” he adds.

The survey includes 12,347 households that included individuals between the ages of 61 and 79 who made IRA withdrawals.

Older households were three times as likely to roll over their withdrawals to another form of savings rather than spend the money than younger households (31.5 percent versus 10.9 percent). The majority of both age groups used the withdrawn money for regular expenses or special purchases.

Forty-eight percent of lower-income people in the younger age group made IRA withdrawals, which EBRI calls a very high percentage of households. The average annual percentage of the account withdrawn was 17.4 percent by lower-income people.

“These findings are important because people who are withdrawing early do not seem to be making withdrawals with any particular strategy,” says Banerjee. “The high rate of withdrawal cannot be sustained over a retirement lifetime.”