Other Alternatives To A 401 Loan
Borrowing from yourself may be a simple option, but its probably not your only option. Here are a few other places to find money.
Use your savings. Your emergency cash or other savings can be crucial right now and why you have emergency savings in the first place. Always try to find the best rate on an online savings account so that youre earning the highest amount on your funds.
Take out a personal loan. Personal loan terms could be easier for you to repay without having to jeopardize your retirement funds. Depending on your lender, you can get your money within a day or so. 401 loans might not be as immediate.
Try a HELOC. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a good option if you own your home and have enough equity to borrow against. You can take out what you need, when you need it, up to the limit youre approved for. As revolving credit, its similar to a credit card and the cash is there when you need it.
Get a home equity loan. This type of loan can usually get you a lower interest rate, but keep in mind that your home is used as collateral. This is an installment loan, not revolving credit like a HELOC, so its good if you know exactly how much you need and what it will be used for. While easier to get, make sure you can pay this loan back or risk going into default on your home.
Withdrawals After Age 59 1/2
Age 59 1/2 is the magic number when it comes to avoiding the penalties associated with early 401 withdrawals. You can take penalty-free withdrawals from 401 assets that have been rolled over into a traditional IRA when you’ve reached this age. You can also take a penalty-free withdrawal if your funds are still in the 401 plan, and you’ve retired.
You can take a withdrawal penalty-free if you’re still working after you reach age 59 1/2, but the rules change a bit. Check with the plan administrator about its specific rules if you’re still working at the company with which you have your 401 assets.
Your plan might offer an “in-service” withdrawal that allows you to access your 401 assets penalty-free, but not all plans offer this option. And remember, the withdrawal will still be subject to income taxes, even if it’s not penalized.
When Faced With A Sudden Cash Crunch It Can Be Tempting To Tap Your 401 More Than A Few Individuals Have Raided Their Retirement Account For Everything From Medical Emergencies To A Week
But if you’re under 59-1/2, keep in mind that an early withdrawal from your 401 will cost you dearly. You’re robbing your future piggy bank to solve problems in the present.
You’ll miss the compounded earnings you’d otherwise receive, you’ll likely get stuck with early withdrawal penalties, and you’ll certainly have to pay income tax on the amount withdrawn to Uncle Sam.
If you absolutely must draw from your 401 before 59-1/2, and emergencies do crop up, there are a few ways it can be done.
You are allowed to make withdrawals, for example, for certain qualified hardships — though you’ll probably still face a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59-1/2, plus owe ordinary income taxes. Comb the fine print in your 401 plan prospectus. It will spell out what qualifies as a hardship.
Although every plan varies, that may include withdrawals after the onset of sudden disability, money for the purchase of a first home, money for burial or funeral costs, money for repair of damages to your principal residence, money for payment of higher education expenses, money for payments necessary to prevent eviction or foreclosure, and money for certain medical expenses that aren’t reimbursed by your insurer.
Most major companies also offer a loan provision on their 401 plans that allow you to borrow against your account and repay yourself with interest.
You then repay the loan with interest, through deductions taken directly from your paychecks.
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Early Withdrawals Less Attractive Than Loan
One alternative to a 401 loan is a hardship distribution as part of an early withdrawal, but that comes with all kinds of taxes and penalties. If you withdraw the funds before retirement age youll typically be hit with income taxes on any gains and may be assessed a 10 percent bonus penalty, depending on the nature of the hardship.
You can also claim a hardship distribution with an early withdrawal.
The IRS defines a hardship distribution as an immediate and heavy financial need of the employee, adding that the amount must be necessary to satisfy the financial need. This type of early withdrawal doesnt require you to pay it back, nor does it come with any penalties.
A hardship distribution through an early withdrawal covers a few different circumstances, including:
- Certain medical expenses
- Some costs for buying a principal home
- Tuition, fees and education expenses
- Costs to prevent getting evicted or foreclosed
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Emergency home repairs for uninsured casualty losses
Hardships can be relative, and yours may not qualify you for an early withdrawal.
This type of withdrawal doesnt require you to pay it back. But its a good idea to avoid an early withdrawal, if at all possible, because of the serious negative effects on your retirement funds. Here are a few ways to sidestep those hefty levies and keep your retirement on track.
Taking Money Out Of A 401 Once You Leave Your Job
If you no longer work for the company that sponsored your 401 plan, first contact your 401 plan administrator or call the number on your 401 plan statement. Ask them how to take money out of the plan.
Since you no longer work there, you cannot borrow your money in the form of a 401 loan or take a hardship withdrawal. You must either take a distribution or roll your 401 over to an IRA.
Any money you take out of your 401 plan will fall into one of the following three categories, each with different tax rules.
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How Do You Take A Withdrawal Or Loan From Your Fidelity 401
If you’ve explored all the alternatives and decided that taking money from your retirement savings is the best option, you’ll need to submit a request for a 401 loan or withdrawal. If your retirement plan is with Fidelity, log in to NetBenefits®Log In Required to review your balances, available loan amounts, and withdrawal options. We can help guide you through the process online.
What Is A Plan Offset Amount And Can It Be Rolled Over
A plan may provide that if a loan is not repaid, your account balance is reduced, or offset, by the unpaid portion of the loan. The unpaid balance of the loan that reduces your account balance is the plan loan offset amount. Unlike a deemed distribution discussed in , above, a plan loan offset amount is treated as an actual distribution for rollover purposes and may be eligible for rollover. If eligible, the offset amount can be rolled over to an eligible retirement plan. Effective January 1, 2018, if the plan loan offset is due to plan termination or severance from employment, instead of the usual 60-day rollover period, you have until the due date, including extensions, for filing the Federal income tax return for the taxable year in which the offset occurs.
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If You Lose Your Job You May Have To Repay The Money By Tax Day Next Year
Departing from your job used to trigger a requirement that you repay your loan within 60 days. However, the rules changed in 2018. Now, you’ll have until tax day for the year you took the withdrawal to pay what you owe.
So if you borrowed in 2020 and lost your job, you’ll have to repay the full balance of your loan by April 15, 2021 . The CARES Act did not change this rule for loans taken in 2020. Similarly, if you borrow in 2021, you will need to repay the full balance by April 15, 2022 .
This longer deadline does slightly reduce the risks of borrowing. But if you take out a loan now, spend the money, and then are faced with an unexpected job loss, it could be hard to repay your loan in full.
Possible Consequences If You Borrow From Your 401
Although paying yourself interest on money you borrow from yourself sounds like a win-win, there are risks associated with borrowing from your retirement savings that may make you want to think twice about taking a 401 loan.
- The money you pull out of your account will not be invested until you pay it back. If the investment gains in your 401 account are greater than the interest paid to your account, you will be missing out on that investment growth.
- If you are taking a loan to pay off other debt or because you are having a hard time meeting your living expenses, you may not have the means to both repay the loan and continue saving for retirement.
- If you leave your job whether voluntarily or otherwise, you may be required to repay any outstanding loan, generally within 60 days.
- If you cannot repay a 401 loan or otherwise break the rules of the loan terms, in addition to reducing your retirement savings, the loan will be treated as taxable income in the year you are unable to pay. You will also be subject to a 10% early distribution tax on the taxable income if you are younger than age 59½. For example, if you leave your employer at age 35 and cannot pay your outstanding loan balance of $10,000, you will have to include $10,000 in your taxable income for the year and pay a $1,000 early distribution tax.
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Is It A Good Idea To Borrow From Your 401
Using a 401 loan for elective expenses like entertainment or gifts isn’t a healthy habit. In most cases, it would be better to leave your retirement savings fully invested and find another source of cash.
On the flip side of what’s been discussed so far, borrowing from your 401 might be beneficial long-termand could even help your overall finances. For example, using a 401 loan to pay off high-interest debt, like credit cards, could reduce the amount you pay in interest to lenders. What’s more, 401 loans don’t require a credit check, and they don’t show up as debt on your credit report.
Another potentially positive way to use a 401 loan is to fund major home improvement projects that raise the value of your property enough to offset the fact that you are paying the loan back with after-tax money, as well as any foregone retirement savings.
If you decide a 401 loan is right for you, here are some helpful tips:
- Pay it off on time and in full
- Avoid borrowing more than you need or too many times
- Continue saving for retirement
It might be tempting to reduce or pause your contributions while you’re paying off your loan, but keeping up with your regular contributions is essential to keeping your retirement strategy on track.
Long-term impact of taking $15,000 from a $38,000 account balance
Should You Use A 401 Loan To Pay Off Your Credit Cards
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Many 401 plans allow users to borrow against their retirement savings. Its a relatively low-interest loan option that some people use to consolidate credit card debt meaning, taking a more favorable loan to pay off several high-interest credit card balances. But NerdWallet cautions against taking a 401 loan except as a last resort.
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Make A 401 Withdrawal
Your second option would be to make a direct withdrawal from your 401 account. As mentioned above, this is the less desirable of the two options.
An early withdrawal would be classified as a hardship withdrawal. The IRS considers any emergency removal of funds from a 401 to cover an immediate and heavy financial need as a hardship withdrawal. Whether or not the purchase of a home using your 401 counts as a hardship withdrawal is a determination that falls to your employer, and you will need to present evidence of hardship before the withdrawal can be approved.
Regardless, you will still likely incur the 10% early withdrawal penalty. There are exemptions in place for specific circumstances, including home buying expenses for a principal residence. Qualifying for such exemptions is difficult by design, however. If you possess other assets that could be used for your home purchase, then you likely wont qualify for an exemption. Even if you do, your withdrawal will still be taxed as income.
When A Problem Occurs
The vast majority of 401 plans operate fairly, efficiently and in a manner that satisfies everyone involved. But problems can arise. The Department of Labor lists signs that might alert you to potential problems with your plan including:
- consistently late or irregular account statements
- late or irregular investment of your contributions
- inaccurate account balance
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An Example Of A 401 Loan
Suppose you have $5,000 in and $50,000 in a 401 plan. You borrow $5,000 and agree to pay off the debt within five years at an annual percentage rate of 4.25%. At the end of the five years, after having made payments of $92.65 a month, you will have replenished your account and paid yourself $558.83 in interest.
If you were to take the same amount of time to pay off the $5,000 of credit card debt, which had an annual percentage rate of 14.25%, using money left over after meeting your other expenses, you would have paid the card issuer $2,019.47 in interest after having made monthly payments of $116.99.
The Cares Act And 401 Loans
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which became law on March 27, 2020, enables people who had taken out a 401 loan to delay for up to one year payments owed from that date through December 31, 2020. Interest would still accrue on your outstanding balance during the period of delayed payments.
The CARES Act also eliminated the 10% federal tax penalty on early withdrawals made from your 401 through the end of 2020.
The CARES Act enabled employers to increase the amount of a loan that employees could take against their 401 to $100,000 or the entire vested portion of their account, whichever was lower. However, that ability expired on September 22, 2020, and the maximum loan amount returned to $50,000 or 50% of the available amount, whichever is less.
To be eligible for any of the provisions of the CARES Act, you, your spouse, or your dependent must have been diagnosed with the coronavirus or its associated disease using a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You also must have experienced financial hardship for one of the following reasons:
- You were quarantined, furloughed, or laid off, or your work hours were reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- You were unable to work because of a lack of child care due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- You closed or reduced the hours of a business you owned or operated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Those Who Can Stomach The Loss In Stock Value
Because a 401 is an investment account, you should also consider the trade-off of missing the market rebound if you withdraw funds right now. Any money that you borrow from your 401 now wont be there when the market turns around, Renfro says. This would compound the adverse effects of an early 401 withdrawal if you dont truly need one.
Echoing that, Levine says many 401 balances have been hit hard, and taking a loan while theyre down essentially locks in the losses.
Taking an early withdrawal from your 401 can have long-term adverse effects on your financial health. However, so can the ramifications of COVID-19, especially if youve been particularly affected by the disease. The CARES Act gives options to those who need it most. Theres no right answer, but in times of uncertainty and struggle, those options can be a life raft.
If You Have Filed For Bankruptcy When You Can Take Out A Loan From Your 401k Retirement Fund Depends On Whether You Filed For Chapter 7 Or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
By Cara O’Neill, Attorney
You can take out a 401k loan after you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without risk of losing the money to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case, although it would be prudent to wait until after your case ends. By contrast, in Chapter 13, you’re prohibited from borrowing against your 401k without first getting permission from the bankruptcy judge.
If you’re thinking that you’d prefer to borrow against your 401k loan before filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, keep in mind that it can be riskyespecially if you don’t use the funds beforehand for a necessary expenditure and instead, deposit the money in a bank account.
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