You May Have Time To Catch Up If Youre Under Age 35
If youre young and youve contributed consistently to one or more retirement accounts since you graduated, then you may have time to catch up to avoid delaying your retirement. You will need to commit to making larger contributions once youre back to being financially stable.
However, you will still face the withdrawal penalties and taxes described above. So, even in this situation, you should consult with a financial advisor to see how it will affect your retirement goals.
Should You Withdraw Your Retirement Funds Early
Short answer no!
Longer, clearer answer even if your credit card interest rates are higher than your tax rate, its almost never a good idea to withdraw your retirement savings early. Heres a rundown of the types of retirement accounts you may have and the costs youll incur if you withdraw from them before retirement.
What Is A 401k Hardship Withdrawal
A 401k hardship withdrawal is legally allowed if you meet the Internal Revenue Service criteria for having a financial hardship and if your employer allows for them.
Most companies providing 401k plans allow hardship withdrawals check with your human resources department or plan administrator if youre not sure.
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What Are Some Ways Of Minimizing Risks To Your Retirement
If you decide using a 401 to pay off debt is your best option, here are a few things that could help you lower your financial risk.
Not using your high-interest credit cards once you use your 401 to pay them off. If you continue to use your credit cards, and then have credit cards and the 401 loan payments to make every month, you could end up in even more financial trouble.
Continuing to make contributions to your 401 while youre repaying the loan at least enough to get your employers match.
Not overborrowing. Creating a budget could help you determine how much you can comfortably pay each quarter while staying on track with other goals. And try to stick to taking only the amount you really need to dump your debt and no more.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using Your 401 To Pay Off Debt
In general, the risks of borrowing from your 401 plan are significant, and often outweigh the potential benefits.
Most importantly, taking a 401 loan can permanently reduce the size of your retirement savings. For starters, a 401 loan creates an opportunity cost, Imes says.
For any investor that takes out a 401 loan during a rising stock market, they are foregoing the performance that the underlying assets of the loan would have realized, he says.
Missing out on those gains can have long-lasting consequences, robbing you of compounding earnings and leaving you thousands of dollars possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars poorer in retirement.
Its also important to note that if you take out a 401 and separate from your company before the loan is paid back, theres a good chance that all the money youve borrowed will become due immediately.
If you cant pay back the money, you may be forced to treat the loan as a distribution. If this happens, youll also owe income tax and an early withdrawal penalty of 10% on the money.
Consequences such as these can put some large and possibly irreparable cracks in your nest egg. Because of these major drawbacks, people should think twice before borrowing from their 401 plan.
Imes says flatly that the decision to borrow from your 401 plan puts the prospect of having a suitable and comfortable retirement at risk.
Imes notes that there are even situations when a 401 loan can pay off in ways you might not expect.
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Should You Pay Off Your Car Or Invest
Whether you should pay off your car or invest depends on the loan’s interest rate and your overall financial situation. Paying off the loan early gives you full ownership of your vehicle, which can come in handy if you need to sell it quickly. If you have high-interest debt, you may want to pay that off before you pay off your car or invest. If your car loan has a high interest rate, it would make sense to pay it off before you invest.
When Can You Start Using Your 401
You can start using your 401 as soon as you have vested in the account. The vesting schedule varies from plan to plan, but it is typically between one and five years. To determine how long you need to be employed before becoming vested, you can check your employee handbook or contact your employer. If you dont yet have access to your 401 funds, you can look at alternatives, such as taking out a personal loan or using a credit card.
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Home Equity Line Of Credit
If you own a home and need quick cash to pay off a debt, you may be able to get a home equity line of credit . As the name suggests, this loan is secured by your home equity. HELOCs typically have lower interest rates than unsecured loans . However, if you default on the loan, your home could be foreclosed. In other words, this should be your last resort for paying off debt.
Your Comfort With Debt
Sometimes emotional factors are just as important as financial. Who you are and how you feel about debt can outweigh the math, says Stanley Poorman, a financial professional with Principal®. Are you a person who sees a mortgage balance as the world on your shoulders, or are you comfortable carrying it into retirement?
Depending on your financial goals and your comfort level with debt, making mortgage payments into retirement could free up funds for other expenses or priorities.
Learn more: 7 steps to pay off debt and save for retirement
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Should I Cash Out My 401k To Pay Off Debt
Paying off debt may feel like a never-ending process. With so many potential solutions, you may not know where to start. One of your options may be withdrawing money from your retirement fund. This may make you wonder, should I cash out my 401k to pay off debt? Cashing out your 401k early may cost you in penalties, taxes, and your financial future so its usually wise to avoid doing this if possible. When in doubt, consult your financial advisor to help determine whats best for you.
Before cashing out your 401k, we suggest weighing the pros and cons, plus the financial habits you could change to reduce debt. The right move may be adjusting your budget to ensure each dollar is being put to good use. Keep reading to determine if and when it makes sense to cash out your 401k.
Withdrawing Before Age 59
For individuals 59½ years old and younger, the early withdrawal penalty is 10 percent. Youll also have to pay income tax on what you withdraw, which in 2021 can range from 10 to 37 percent.
Plus, the withdrawal can impact your income taxes in one other way. Making annual plan contributions to your 401 reduces your taxable income. So if you withdraw a significant amount from your 401 account, it could push you into a higher income tax bracket and you might owe more in taxes.
Lets look at an example of what a withdrawal can potentially cost you when youre 59½ years old or younger.
Say you take out $40,000 to pay off a high-interest credit card and a student loan. Right away, youre charged the 10 percent penalty, which is $4,000. Next, youll owe income tax on that $40,000. If youre a single-income earner who makes $40,000 in 2021, your annual salary is in the 12 percent income tax bracket. However, this $40,000 withdrawal will put you in the next bracket with a tax rate of 22 percent, which means an additional $8,800 of your withdrawal will go toward taxes.
So, that $40,000 youre taking out will cost you $12,800 in taxes and fees, leaving you with $27,200 to apply to your debts.
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Why Focusing On Retirement Generally Works
Retirement plans and emergency savings are both critical pieces of your overall financial puzzle, and retirement should be a major priority, as a rule of thumb. Dollars invested early on can have an exponential impact on retirement earnings, Lynch said, due to compound returns and market gains over time.
Calculate how much your current and any additional savings could be worth by retirement age with the U.S. Department of Labors Lifetime Income Calculator.
Evaluate All Your Options For Paying Down Debt
If youre in dire need to pay off your debts, look into other accounts like your savings or emergency fund. While money saved can help in times of need, your financial situation may be an emergency. To save on early withdrawal taxes and fees, you can borrow from savings accounts. To cover future emergency expenses, avoid draining your savings accounts entirely.
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Should I Use My 401 To Pay Off Credit Card Debt
Absolutely not, and heres why.
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Hey, Money Scoop! Im debating cashing out the $48,000 I have invested in my companys 401 to pay off my $30,000 credit card debt. The credit card payments are brutal, and I feel like Ill never pay them off making minimum payments, just to see half that payment disappear due to interest. Is this a good or bad idea?401 to Pay
Dear 401 to Pay,
Cashing out your 401 to pay off credit card debt is a bad idea. Were talking worse than Quibi levels of badness.
Why? Because as soon as you pull that money out of your retirement account, youre going to get hit with two large billsa tax bill and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. The IRS may automatically withdraw that money from your 401 account, or you may have to set it aside on your own either way, you need to be prepared to lose a good chunk of your 401 right off the top.
If you liquidate your 401 before youre fully vested in your companys retirement plan, you could lose even more moneynot to mention the money youre going to lose by selling your 401 investments during a bear market.
This is a lose-lose-lose-lose scenario.
Depending on your credit score, you may also want to look into a low-interest personal loan. Use the loan to pay off your credit card debt, then start paying down the loan at its lower interest rate.
Consider Early Withdrawal Penalties
Early withdrawals will result in a significant penalty, which can mean a hit to your retirement savings. Therefore, in order to net a certain amount, you need to factor in the penalty and income tax you will owe for the withdrawal. This is how early withdrawal penalties will affect you:
If you are under 59 ½ and do not fit the 55 rule exception noted above, you will owe a 10% penalty. Meaning if you withdraw $25,000, $2500 will be taken out for the penalty in addition income taxes will be owed on the full $25,000 come tax time.
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When To Use Your 401 To Pay Off Debt
You should only withdraw from your 401 to pay off debt in extreme circumstances. Using a withdrawal to pay off a low interest home mortgage or student loans does not make financial sense due to penalty fees and taxes.
However, you might consider making a withdrawal to pay off loans or credit card debt with a high interest rate . Youll have to do some math before you decide whether or not its worth it. Keep this in mind, not only are withdrawal penalties and taxes a large expense, but any money you take from your 401 means less money saved for retirement.
What Are The Different Types Of Retirement Accounts
Before considering the costs of early withdrawal, its important to understand the difference between traditional and Roth accounts. Each is handled differently in case of early distribution.
A traditional retirement account is contributed to with pre-tax dollars. Contributions and earnings will be taxed when distributed.
A Roth retirement account is contributed to with taxed dollars. Contributions and earnings will be distributed tax-free.
You should also know the difference between the two main types of retirement accounts 401 and IRA.
A 401 is an employer-sponsored plan typically made up of funds chosen by your employer. If you have automatic contributions from your paycheck into a retirement account, you likely have a 401 plan. Many employers also offer a Roth option.
An IRA, or individual retirement arrangement, isnt employer-sponsored. You open it yourself and choose the funds that make it up. Traditional and Roth options are available for your IRA. If you need help opening an account, check out this NerdWallet article on how and where to open an IRA.
Normally, retirement accounts cant be distributed until after the age of 59½. If you withdraw money early, youll have to pay taxes and penalties. Youll also miss out on the biggest benefit of investing future gains.
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Does Withdrawing From Your 401 Affect Your Credit Score
Borrowing from your 401 can put your retirement at risk, but it wont hurt your credit score.
Unlike applying for a credit card, no lender will do a credit check if you borrow from your retirement fund. And even if you miss payments or default on your loan, this information wont be submitted to credit-reporting agencies.
Put Bonuses Towards Your Debt
Any time you get a monetary bonus, consider putting it towards debts. This could be a raise, yearly bonus, tax refund, or monetary gifts from your loved ones. You may have a set budget without this supplemental income, so act as if you never received it. Without budgeting for the extra income, you may feel less tempted to spend it.
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The Size Of Your Mortgage
The point above doesnt mean you shouldnt consider the numbers. The value of your mortgage at retirement could make a huge difference in your payoff plan.
You also need to understand your current tax situation and how taking distributions from your retirement accounts to pay off debt could cause you to change tax brackets and pay more tax than you would otherwise, Poorman says.
If youre retired, any pre-tax money taken out of your 401 is treated as income. So, for example, taking $100K out of your retirement plan to pay off your mortgage could easily bump you up into a higher tax bracket . A balance of $10K probably wont have as large of an impact.
Taking $100K out of your retirement plan to pay off your mortgage could bump you up into a higher tax bracket . A balance of $10K probably wont have as large of an impact.
If you continue to make monthly mortgage payments, the amount of interest you pay may be tax deductible. But that interest needs to be fairly high to make it count. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Acts nearly doubled the standard deduction, eliminating itemized deductions, such as mortgage interest, for many Americans.
Protect your mortgage.
If you choose to take your house payments with you in retirement, life insurance provides a form of mortgage protection. With a term insurance policy you can align the length of the term with the length of your mortgage.
Withdrawals Before Age 59
If you pull money out of your 401 plan before age 59½, thats generally considered an early or premature withdrawal and subject to both income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
Suppose you take $45,000 from your 401 to pay off debt. For starters, youll face a $4,500 early withdrawal penalty. On top of that, youll also owe income tax on the $45,000. For example, if youre single, and your other taxable income is $100,000, then your $45,000 withdrawal will be taxed at 24%, or $10,800 .
So, in total, your $45,000 withdrawal will cost you $15,300 and leave you with $29,700 to apply to your debts.
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How To Determine If You Want To Cash Out Your Retirement
Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in taxes and fees as your 401k has yet to be taxed. Meaning, the gross amount you withdraw from your 401k will be taxed in full, so assess your financial situation before making a decision.
What Is The Rule Of Thumb About Paying Debt Vs Investing
In general, the rule of thumb is that you should both pay debts and invest. In fact, try to consistently contribute to three bucketsdebt payoff, retirement, and an emergency fundsaid Linda Davis Taylor, former CEO of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors in Pasadena, California, and host of the podcast Money Stories with LDT. Even if that means you can only contribute $10 or $20 per paycheck per month to retirement or savings in addition to debt payoff, its worth doing.
If you overcommit to investing and only make minimum debt payments, you could wind up paying too much in interest over time, he pointed out, which can hamper your ability to buy a home or start a family. If you neglect investing entirely, however, you may fall short of your retirement goals.
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