In an ideal situation, you won’t need to access your IRA money until you hit the minimum age of 59 ½. With that said, if you find yourself in a bind, you can access your money with a 10% penalty for early withdrawal, plus other federal and state taxes that are due.
However, there are some exceptions that let you remove money without penalty, including purchasing a house, some types of higher education, and certain medical expenses if you become unemployed.
The main thing to remember is that the money is still there for you if you really need it, but you may pay a penalty for early withdrawal (prior to 59 ½) plus other taxes. But even the risk of a penalty can be better than keeping that money in a bank account or in investments that could cost you money in taxes every year.
Make sure you understand the consequences before making an early withdrawal.