Substantially Equal Periodic Payments
Substantially equal periodic payments are another option for withdrawing funds without paying the early distribution penalty if the funds are in an Individual Retirement Account rather than a company-sponsored 401 account.
SEPP withdrawals are not permitted under a qualified retirement plan if you are still working for your employer. However, if the funds are coming from an IRA, you may start SEPP withdrawals at any time.
There is an exception to this rule for taxpayers who die or become permanently disabled.
SEPP must be calculated using one of three methods approved by the Internal Revenue Service : fixed amortization, fixed annuitization, or required minimum distribution . Each method will calculate different withdrawal amounts, so choose the one that is best for your financial needs.
Borrowing From And Rolling Over Your 401
Cashing out isn’t the only way for those who need it to get money out a 401. Many plans also allow employees to take loans from their 401 to be repaid with after-tax funds at pre-defined interest rates. The interest proceeds then become part of the 401 balance. The benefit of this type of loan is that the borrower repays himself — by eventually putting the borrowed money back into the 401 — rather than a bank.
If loans are permitted under terms of the 401 plan, the employee may borrow up to 50 percent of the vested account balance up to a maximum of $50,000 without the money being taxed. The borrower must repay the loan within five years unless the loan is used to buy a primary residence, and loan repayments must be made at least quarterly in substantially level amounts. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the money becomes a taxable distribution with all the same tax penalties and implications of a withdrawal.
401 holders looking for extra cash should keep all these options in mind when considering whether to tap into retirement savings early. Other savings tools may also provide penalty-free ways to get at money, depending on the holder’s circumstances. For more information on 401s and retirement savings strategies, check out the related articles and links on the next page.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Withdrawal Vs A 401 Loan
A withdrawal is a permanent hit to your retirement savings. By pulling out money early, youll miss out on the long-term growth that a larger sum of money in your 401 would have yielded.
Though you wont have to pay the money back, you will have to pay the income taxes due, along with a 10% penalty if the money does not meet the IRS rules for a hardship or an exception.
A loan against your 401 has to be paid back. If it is paid back in a timely manner, you at least wont lose much of that long-term growth in your retirement account.
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Build An Emergency Fund
This should be the foundation of your financial plan and experts recommend having about six months worth of expenses saved. You can park this money in a high-yield savings account to earn more interest than you would in a traditional checking account. An emergency fund should help you manage most of lifes curveballs.
Withdrawing From A Roth 401k
Most 401k plans involve pre-tax contributions, but some allow for Roth contributions, meaning those made after taxes already have been paid.
The benefit of making a Roth contribution to your 401k plan is that you already have paid the taxes and, when you withdraw the money, there is no tax on the amount gained as long as you meet these two provisions:
- You withdraw the money at least five years after your first contribution to the Roth account
- You are older than 59 ½ or you became disabled or the money goes to someone who is the beneficiary after your death
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What To Ask Yourself Before Making A Withdrawal From Your Retirement Account
There are many valid reasons for dipping into your retirement savings early. However, try to avoid the mindset that your retirement money is accessible. Retirement may feel like an intangible future event, but hopefully, it will be your reality some day. So before you take any money out, ask yourself: Do you actually need the money now?
Think of it this way: Rather than putting money away, you are actually paying it forward. If you are relatively early on in your career, your present self may be unattached and flexible. But your future self may be none of those things. Pay it forward. Do not allow lifestyle inflation to put your future self in a bind.
With all this talk of 10% penalties, and not touching the money until youre retired, we should point out that there is a solution if you feel the need to be able to access your retirement funds before you reach age 59 ½ without penalty.
Contribute to a Roth IRA, if you qualify for one.
Because contributions to Roth accounts are after tax, you are typically able to withdraw from one with fewer consequences. Keep in mind that there are income limits on contributing to Roth IRAs, and that you will still be taxed if you withdraw the funds early or before the account has aged five years, but some people find the ease of access comforting.
For some folks, however, a Roth-type account is not easily available or accessible to them.
Search Unclaimed Assets Databases
If your search is still coming up empty, your former employer has folded or was bought by another company, youâre not out of luck yet.
It may take a little more effort and research but there are many national databases that can help you track down your old 401 accounts:
- The Department of Laborâs Abandoned Plan database can help you identify what happened to your old plan and the contact information of the current administrator
- The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits allows you to do a free search for any unclaimed retirement money using just your Social Security number
- FreeERISA is another free resource to search for any old account information that has been filed with the federal government
- The Securities and Exchange Commissionâs website or your stateâs Secretary of State can provide more information on your previous employer
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Withdrawing From A 401
The first and least advantageous way is to simply withdraw the money outright. This comes under the rules for hardship withdrawals, which were recently made a little easier, allowing account holders to withdraw not just their own contributions, but those from their employers. Home-buying expenses for a “principal residence” is one of the permitted reasons for taking a hardship withdrawal from a 401.
You owe income tax on the withdrawal.
The withdrawal could move you to a higher tax bracket.
If you are younger than 59½, you also owe a 10% penalty on the money you withdraw.
You can never repay your account and lose years of tax-free earnings on the money you withdraw.
If you withdraw money, however, you owe the full income tax on these funds, as if it were any other type of regular income that year. This can be particularly unappealing if you are close to a higher tax bracket, as the withdrawal is simply added on top of the regular income. There is a 10% penalty tax, also known as an early withdrawal penalty, on top of that if you are under 59½ years of age.
401 plans do not have a first-time homebuyer exception for early withdrawals, but IRAs do.
Exceptions To The Penalty
The IRS permits withdrawals without a penalty for certain specific uses. These include a down payment on a first home, qualified educational expenses, and medical bills, among other costs.
As with the hardship withdrawal, you will still owe the income taxes on that money, but you won’t owe a penalty.
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Move Your Retirement Savings Directly Into Your Current Or New Qrp If The Qrp Allows
If you are at a new company, moving your retirement savings to this employers QRP may be an option. This option may be appropriate if youd like to keep your retirement savings in one account, and if youre satisfied with investment choices offered by this plan. This alternative shares many of the same features and considerations of leaving your money with your former employer.
- Option not available to everyone .
- Waiting period for enrolling in new employers plan may apply.
- New employers plan will determine:
- When and how you access your retirement savings.
- Which investment options are available to you.
Note: If you choose this option, make sure your new employer will accept a transfer from your old plan, and then contact the new plan provider to get the process started. Also, remember to periodically review your investments, and carefully track associated paperwork and documents. There may be no RMDs from your QRP where you are currently employed, as long as the plan allows and you are not a 5% or more owner of that company.
Continued Growth Vs Inflation
Remember that your retirement savings accounts don’t grind to a halt when you begin retirement. That money still has a chance to grow, even as you withdraw it from your 401 or other accounts after retirement to help pay for your living expenses. But the rate at which it will grow naturally declines as you make withdrawals because you’ll have less invested. Balancing the withdrawal rate with the growth rate is part of the science of investing for income.
You also need to take inflation into account. This increase in the cost of things we purchase typically comes out to about 2% to 3% a year, and it can significantly affect your retirement money’s purchasing power.
Read Also: Is An Ira Better Than 401k
Our Take: When Can You Withdraw From Your 401k Or Ira Penalty
There are a number of ways you can withdraw from your 401k or IRA penalty-free. Still, we recommend not touching your retirement savings until you are actually retired. Compounding is a huge help when it comes to maximizing your retirement savings and extending the life of your portfolio. You lose out on that when you take early distributions. To see how much compounding can affect your 401k account balance, check out our article on the average 401k balance by age.
We understand that its always possible for unforeseen circumstances to arise before you reach retirement. Being aware of the exceptions allows you to make informed decisions and possibly avoid paying extra fees and taxes.
To take control of your finances, a good place to start is by stepping back, getting organized, and looking at your money holistically. Personal Capitals free financial dashboard will allow you to:
The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.
Rolling 401k Into Ira
When you leave an employer, you have several options for what to do with your 401k, including rolling it over into an IRA account.
Its possible to do the same thing while still working for an employer, but only if the rules governing your workplace 401k allow for it.
The negative for rolling the money into an IRA is that you cant borrow from a traditional IRA account.
Another option when you leave an employer is to simply leave the 401k account where it is until you are ready to retire. You also could transfer your old 401k into your new employers retirement account.
If you are at least 59 ½ years old, you could take a lump-sum distribution without penalty, but there would be income tax consequences.
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The Age 55 Exemption Applies Only To The Date Employment Endednot When You Begin Taking Distributions
This is important for those entering retirement early. For example, if you retired from Company ABC at age 50, you would still be subject to the penalty tax if you take distributions at age 55. Since your employment ended before the year in which you turned 55, youd have to wait until age 59 ½ for penalty-free withdrawals.
Look Back To 2021 For Guidance In 2022
Now is the time to take inventory of the year that just passed, but not to dwell on any losses you suffered or to revel in your gains.
I think its a good idea to use the beginning of each year to look at our overall retirement picture, said Jason Laux, owner and retirement advisor at Synergy Group. How far out are we from retirement? How much risk is in our portfolio relative to your proximity to retirement? That evaluation lets us look at our retirement accounts to see how the performance was last year, but we dont just want to take last years winners. We want to evaluate what will work well for 2022.
Many investors are bracing for a cooling off of 2021s hot market gains in the coming year.
We expect returns and growth to be lower this year than it has been in previous years, so maximizing return and reducing costs are more important than in recent years because of that, Laux said.
Also, 2022 is almost certain to bring government action that will affect everything from bond yields and loan APRs to stock prices and inflation.
What funds in our 401 will still give us the opportunity to perform well in light of the Fed possibly increasing interest rates four times this year?
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Risks Of A 401 Early Withdrawal
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.
Next Steps To Consider
This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.
Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917
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Too Complicated Get Some Help
If this process seems like a lot of work, youâre not alone. Locating your old 401 accounts and finding the proper place to transfer them to can get confusing.
Series Of Substantially Equal Payments
If none of the above exceptions fit your individual circumstances, you can begin taking distributions from your IRA or 401k without penalty at any age before 59 ½ by taking a 72t early distribution. It is named for the tax code which describes it and allows you to take a series of specified payments every year. The amount of these payments is based on a calculation involving your current age and the size of your retirement account. Visit the IRS website for more details.
The catch is that once you start, you have to continue taking the periodic payments for five years, or until you reach age 59 ½, whichever is longer. Also, you will not be allowed to take more or less than the calculated distribution, even if you no longer need the money. So be careful with this one!
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How To Cash Out Your 401
Since 1982, American workers have been saving for retirement by contributing to 401 plans. A type of defined contribution plan offered by many employers, a traditional 401 allows an employee to elect for his employer to contribute up to 15 percent of his monthly pay to the plan. Some employers will match the amount set aside up to a certain amount. The employee then chooses from a number of funds — including various money market, mutual and bond funds — in which the money is invested.
The employee will ultimately receive the balance in the account, which fluctuates based on changes in the value of the investments, as well as the amount of contributions to the account. The employee is not taxed on the money in the plan until it’s withdrawn. Additionally, 401 money is protected in the event the company sponsoring the plan goes bankrupt, although some plans require the employee to be enrolled for a certain amount of time before the portion of employer contributions to the balance are protected .
About 60 percent of households nearing retirement age have 401-type accounts, and as the national economy continues to sputter, many are turning to this portion of their nest egg for help. While the money in a 401 account ultimately belongs to account holder, cashing out a 401 early can have dire affect on a person’s financial security .
Here are some things you should know before cashing out your 401.