Leave The Money Alone
This money will only get taxed when you take it out of the account or make distributions.
We discussed 401 and how the phenomenon is that you never know what taxes will be like in the future and whether its best to cash out your 401 now or later.
However, compound interest only works if you leave the funds alone. Taking a few hundred dollars from your plan now could cost you thousands in the future. So its best not to take your money out and let it increase without interruptions.
Every time you make a withdrawal, you squander some part of your funds to taxes because its considered your income and just gets added to your tax bracket at the end of the year. Also, every time you make an early withdrawal you will most likely have to pay the 10% penalty fee.
What Is A 401k Cares Act Withdrawal
Normally, participants who withdraw money from a tax-deferred retirement account before reaching age 59½, must pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to including the distribution in their taxable income for the year.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, including one for hardships, such as avoiding foreclosures, repairing your home after a disaster, or covering out-of-pocket medical expenses. However, these hardship withdrawals are normally limited to the amount needed to meet a limited list of hardships.
The CARES Act provided more flexibility for making emergency withdrawals from a tax-deferred retirement account by eliminating the 10% early withdrawal penalty. Participants are allowed to withdraw up to $100,000 per person without being subject to a tax penalty. Any early withdrawals above that amount dont qualify for special tax treatment.
It is important to note that the withdrawal is taxable income the special tax treatment waives the tax penalty but not the taxable event. However, the CARES Act allows people who take hardship distributions to elect to pay federal income taxes on the distribution over a three-year period or repay the distribution amount over a three-year period and avoid tax consequences entirely. The three-year repayment period starts on the day of the distribution.
How Holtzmans Tax Team Can Help
Like other tax legislation, the CARES Act includes many intricacies that can complicate taking advantage of early 401k withdrawals. Holtzmans team of accounting and tax advisors can help you determine whether you qualify for a hardship withdrawal and identify other opportunities to minimize your taxes. Contact our Tax Services team to learn how this important piece of legislation can benefit you.
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Risks Of 401 Early Withdrawals
While the 10% early withdrawal penalty is the clearest pitfall of accessing your account early, there are other issues you may face because of your pre-retirement disbursement. According to Stiger, the greatest of these issues is the hit to your compounding returns:
You lose the opportunity to benefit from tax-deferred or tax-exempt compounding, says Stiger. When you withdraw funds early, you miss out on the power of compounding, which is when your earnings accumulate to generate even more earnings over time.
Of course, the loss of compounding is a long-term effect that you may not feel until you get closer to retirement. A more immediate risk may be your current tax burden since your distribution will likely be considered part of your taxable income.
If your distribution bumps you into a higher tax bracket, that means you will not only be paying more for the distribution itself, but taxes on your regular income will also be affected. Consulting with your certified public accountant or tax preparer can help you figure out how much to take without pushing you into a higher tax bracket.
The easiest way to avoid these risks is to resist the temptation to take an early 401 withdrawal in the first place. If you absolutely must take an early distribution, make sure you withdraw no more than you absolutely need, and make a plan to replenish your account over time. This can help you minimize the loss of your compound returns over time.
Who Is Qualified For A 401 Qualified Disaster Distribution
Disaster relief is available to individuals who reside in FEMA declared disaster areas , such as areas impacted by hurricanes and wildfires that occurred after December 31st, 2019 through 60 days after the enactment of the law . An individual must have also suffered an economic loss due to the qualified disaster.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act also has provisions for disaster related hardship withdrawals:
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Making A Hardship Withdrawal
Depending on the terms of your plan, however, you may be eligible to take early distributions from your 401 without incurring a penalty, as long as you meet certain criteria. This type of penalty-free withdrawal is called a hardship distribution, and it requires that you have an immediate and heavy financial burden that you otherwise couldn’t afford to pay.
The practical necessity of the expense is taken into account, as are your other assets, such as savings or investment account balances and cash-value insurance policies, as well as the possible availability of other financing sources.
What qualifies as “hardship”? Certainly not discretionary expenses like buying a new boat or getting a nose job. Instead, think along the lines of the following:
- Essential medical expenses for treatment and care
- Home-buying expenses for a principal residence
- Up to 12 months worth of educational tuition and fees
- Expenses to prevent being foreclosed on or evicted
- Burial or funeral expenses
- Certain expenses to repair casualty losses to a principal residence
The home-buying expenses part is a bit of a gray area. But generally, it qualifies if the money is for a down payment or for closing costs.
For Many This Relief Simply Isn’t An Option
Only about half the workforce has a retirement account, says Olivia S. Mitchell, professor of insurance/risk management and business economics and public policy, and executive director of Wharton’s Pension Research Council at the University of Pennsylvania.
And many have far less than $100,000 saved. A recent report found pre-retirees, Americans 56 to 61, had a median balance of $21,000 in their 401 accounts in 2016, which is the most up-to-date data on file. That total reflects almost 30 years of savings. Younger generations do not fare much better. Older millennials have about $1,000 saved in their 401s.
Not only that, but employees with retirement accounts tend to be the higher paid, better educated and longer-term workers. “Therefore allowing people to tap into their retirement accounts won’t help the millions who have no accounts,” Mitchell says. “Those with no accounts are also likely to be the people that will be needing the most help.”
Additionally, Mitchell predicts that the U.S. will see an increase in applications for early Social Security benefits, particularly if the recession is long and hard. “People taking early benefits will end up with a lifetime of lower payouts, and if they already ate into their 401s, they’ll be more likely to face shortfalls in their later years,” she says.
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Requesting A Loan From Your 401
If you do not meet the criteria for a hardship distribution, you may still be able to borrow from your 401 before retirement, if your employer allows it. The specific terms of these loans vary among plans. However, the IRS provides some basic guidelines for loans that won’t trigger the additional 10% tax on early distributions.
Whether you can take a hardship withdrawal or a loan from your 401 is not actually up to the IRS, but to your employerthe plan sponsorand the plan administrator the plan provisions they’ve established must allow these actions and set terms for them.
For example, a loan from your traditional or Roth 401 cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of your vested account balance or $50,000. Although you may take multiple loans at different times, the $50,000 limit applies to the combined total of all outstanding loan balances.
Beware Of A Large Tax Bill
A word of caution here, as I have seen some individuals withdraw all of the money from their TSP accounts without rolling it over to an IRA, and then they suddenly realized they have a massive tax bill. A ship with no rudder is tossed about with no direction. Create a plan with direction and understand what that plan is. It will include income planning, investment planning, tax planning, and legacy planning, and then have it written down and executed according to the plan.
This bit of information regarding the penalty-free provision at age 55 is often a big surprise to both near-retirees and federal retirees since 59 ½ is a mantra repeated so often that it seems to be law. Most times, it is law, but not in the case of TSP if a federal employee separated from federal service at age 55.
Heres to a productive retirement!
CD Financial is a Registered Investment Adviser. CA LIC #0G46793. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to security or guaranteed income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. CD Financial is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.
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Loan Or 401 Withdrawal
While similar, a 401 loan and 401 withdrawal aren’t interchangeable and have a few key differences. While you can use either to access up to $100,000 of your retirement funds penalty- and tax-free as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, they each have their own rules.
As part of a 401 withdrawal:
- Repayment isn’t required.
- There’s no withdrawal penalty.
- Distribution will be taxed as income, but you can pay it back within three years and claim a refund.
As part of a 401 loan:
- You must repay the loan within a specified time frame .
- The loan amount isn’t taxed initially, and there’s no penalty. If you can’t pay it back within the specified time frame, the outstanding balance is taxed and you’ll also be assessed a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, if you are under age 59 1/2.
- If you leave your job, you have until mid-October of the following year to offset the outstanding loan amount. Otherwise, you could owe 401 early withdrawal taxes and penalties.
Work with your plan sponsor to learn more about the pros and cons of a 401 withdrawal vs. 401 loan.
Rules About Early 401 Withdrawals
Should you make a 401 withdrawal before you reach age 59.5, the IRS will consider it an early distribution. This will induce a 10% tax penalty on it. In addition, because you have yet to pay any taxes on the money, youll owe income taxes. As you can imagine, this is a pretty dangerous way to withdraw funds from your 401.
That said, the IRS allows for penalty-free hardship withdrawals. To qualify for one, youll need to demonstrate what the IRS calls an immediate and heavy need. On top of this, you must prove that there are no other assets that could satisfy that need, such as a vacation home.
Examples of hardships that can earn you an exemption from the 10% withdrawal penalty include:
- Housing payments needed to prevent eviction
- Certain home repair expenses for a primary residence
It should be noted, though, that its up to your plan to allow for hardship withdrawals. The IRS doesnt require them. It only delineates the circumstances under which they may happen. Also, you should know that though you wont have to pay the 10% penalty, you will still have to pay income taxes on the distribution.
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Hardship Distributions From 401k Plan
If you are younger than 59 ½, youre going to have to demonstrate that you have an approved financial hardship to get money from your 401k account. And thats only if your employers retirement plan allows it. They are not required to offer hardship distributions, so the first step is to ask the Human Resources department if this is even possible.
If it is, the employer can choose which of the following IRS approved categories it will allow to qualify for hardship distribution:
- Certain medical expenses
- Certain expenses for repairs to a principal residence
The only other way to get access to your funds is to leave your employer.
What Are The Penalties For Withdrawing From My 401 Before Age 59
Unless you fall into one of the special exemption categories, you will pay a penalty of 10% of the amount of funds you withdraw. This can get quite pricey and really cut into your retirement savings. If you must make a withdrawal before reaching retirement age, then make sure you check the list of exemptions to the penalty. If you can qualify under one of the exemptions, then you will not be forced to pay this extra penalty.
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Other Alternatives To Taking A Hardship Withdrawal Or Loan From Your 401
- Temporarily stop contributing to your employers 401 to free up some additional cash each pay period. Be sure to start contributing again as soon as you can, since foregoing the employer match can be extremely costly in the long run.
- Transfer higher interest rate credit card balances to a lower rate card to free up some cash or take advantage of a new credit card offer with a low interest rate for purchases .
- Take out a home equity line of credit, home equity loan or personal loan.
- Borrow from your whole life or universal life insurance policy some permanent life insurance policies allow you to access funds on a tax-advantaged basis through a loan or withdrawal, generally taken after your first policy anniversary.
- Take on a second job to temporarily increase cash flow or tap into family or community resources, such as a non-profit credit counseling service, if debt is a big issue.
- Downsize to reduce expenses, get a roommate and/or sell unneeded items.
Should You Cash Out Your 401
The short response is no.
Cashing out your 401 is something that you shouldnt execute if you can help it, as its frequently a substandard financial resolution in the long run.
When you take out an early withdrawal, you have to compensate for the penalty fee on top of regular income tax and state tax. This means that you lose a lot of funds every time you seize assets from your account.
The average 401 plan account balance for consistent plan participants increased at a compound annual average growth rate of 13.9% from 2010 to 2018, rising from $63,756 to $180,251.
When you leave your funds alone you can let them increase over decades because of interests, but every time you cash out your 401, you waste funds in the future, no matter how minuscule the amount seems.
Retirement savings need to be taken very vigorously and you shouldnt plunder your future self.
The positive fact about keeping funds in your 401 is that its safety is legally guaranteed even if you file for bankruptcy and creditors cant get to it.
Of course, in some cases this will be your last resort, but in any other circumstance, do your best to circumvent it.
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How Do I Withdraw From My 401k After Age 60
As soon as you turn 59 1/2, youre allowed to access the funds in your 401 plan whenever you want, even if youre still working for the company. So, if youre 60, your company cant stop you from withdrawing your money. However, just because you can get the money in your 401 doesnt mean you have to.
Taking Normal 401 Distributions
But first, a quick review of the rules. The IRS dictates you can withdraw funds from your 401 account without penalty only after you reach age 59½, become permanently disabled, or are otherwise unable to work. Depending on the terms of your employer’s plan, you may elect to take a series of regular distributions, such as monthly or annual payments, or receive a lump-sum amount upfront.
If you have a traditional 401, you will have to pay income tax on any distributions you take at your current ordinary tax rate . However, if you have a Roth 401 account, you’ve already paid tax on the money you put into it, so your withdrawals will be tax-free. That also includes any earnings on your Roth account.
After you reach age 72, you must generally take required minimum distributions from your 401 each year, using an IRS formula based on your age at the time. If you are still actively employed at the same workplace, some plans do allow you to postpone RMDs until the year you actually retire.
In general, any distribution you take from your 401 before you reach age 59½ is subject to an additional 10% tax penalty on top of the income tax you’ll owe.
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Will I Have To Pay The 10% Additional Tax On Early Distributions If I Am 47 Years Old And Ordered By A Divorce Court To Take Money Out Of My Traditional Ira To Pay My Former Spouse
Yes. Unless you qualify for an exception, you must still pay the 10% additional tax for taking an early distribution from your traditional IRA even if you take it to satisfy a divorce court order ). The 10% additional tax is charged on the early distribution amount you must include in your income and is in addition to any regular income tax from including this amount in income. Unlike distributions made to a former spouse from a qualified retirement plan under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, there is no comparable exception.
The only divorce-related exception for IRAs is if you transfer your interest in the IRA to a spouse or former spouse, and the transfer is under a divorce or separation instrument ). However, the transfer must be done by:
- changing the name on the IRA from your name to that of your former spouse , or
- a trustee-to-trustee transfer from your IRA to one established by your former spouse. Note: an indirect rollover doesn’t qualify as a transfer to your former spouse even if the distributed amount is deposited into your former spouse’s IRA within 60-days.
See Retirement Topics – Divorce