The withdrawal of funds from a fixed-income investment before the prescribed time. Early withdrawal may come from a certificate of deposit before its maturity. More often, however, it refers to a withdrawal from a retirement account before the appropriate age (usually 65 or the date of retirement, whichever is later). Early withdrawals are usually assessed a fee to discourage frequent or abusive use. As a result, early withdrawals usually occur when the account holder is in great financial need. An early withdrawal is also called an early distribution or a premature distribution.