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When Can I Use My 401k

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Your Retirement Money Is Safe From Creditors

Can I Use My 401k To Buy A House

Did you know that money saved in a retirement account is safe from creditors? If you are sued by debt collectors or declare bankruptcy, your 401k and IRAs cannot be liquidated by creditors to satisfy bills you owe. If youre having problems managing your debt, its better to seek alternatives other than an early withdrawal, which will also come with a high penalty.

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.

Whats The Best Way Of Using Your Home Equity During Retirement

Josh Rubintimerupdate

Youre retired, and your CPP and RRSP arent quite enough income for your liking.

Hey, you think to yourself, Ive got some equity in my home. Why not use some of that?

This week, In Your Corner looks at the best ways to start using that equity.

Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York Universitys Schulich School of Business, is unequivocal about the best option.

The only real way to monetize it is to sell and either downsize, or move somewhere where real estate is cheaper, said Milevsky.


Average CPP payment per month.


Average Old Age Supplement payment per month.


Monthly RRIF withdrawal on $250,000 balance.*


Monthly RRIF withdrawal on $500,000 balance.*

*Based on required minimum annual withdrawal at age 65 of 3.85 per cent of account.

Star graphic

The next set of options, which Milevsky calls choice B, are taking out a fixed loan, home equity line of credit, or reverse mortgage. While those options all have the advantage of not having to move out of your existing home, they also share a couple of disadvantages, he points out.

Theres risk in every one of those because no-one knows exactly where the real estate market will go, or what interest rates will be, Milevsky said. .

Recommended Reading: How Much Does 401k Cost Per Month

Are You Still Working

You can access funds from an old 401 plan after you reach age 59 1/2 if you’re still working, but you may not have the same access to the funds at the company for which you currently work if you’ve changed jobs.

Check with your 401 plan administrator to find out whether your plan allows what’s referred to as an in-service distribution at age 59 1/2. Some 401 plans allow this, but others don’t.

Withdrawing Funds From 401 After 55 But Before 59

Can I Withdraw Money from My 401(k) Before I Retire?

If you are 55 or older and still working for the company managing your retirement savings, you cannot take a penalty-free distribution until you are 59 ½. However, you may still qualify to take a hardship withdrawal if you have a qualified expense. You will owe income taxes and a 10% penalty tax on the distribution you take. You may also qualify for a 401 loan if your retirement plan provides this benefit.

Read Also: How To Get My 401k Early

How Do You Prove Need For 401k Hardship Withdrawal

Each plan administrator can specify what documentation is required for proof of the financial need for a hardship withdrawal.

If the money is used to prevent home foreclosure, the administrator may require documentation from the mortgage company that the home is about to enter foreclosure, for example.

When Can I Withdraw From My 401 Before Retirement But Without Tax Penalties

You don’t have to be in retirement to start withdrawing money from your 401. However, there are penalties involved depending on your age. If you wait until after you are 59 1/2, you can withdraw without any penalties. If you can’t wait until you are 59 1/2, then you will experience a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn.

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When You Leave A Job

When you leave a job, you generally have the option to:

  • Leave your 401 with your current employer
  • Roll over the funds to an IRA
  • Roll over the funds to your new employer’s 401.

If you choose any of those options, you will not owe taxes or a 10% penalty. You can also take this money as a distribution, but this will trigger early-withdrawal penalties if you are under 59 1/2 .

Cashing Out Your 401k While Still Employed

Can I Use My 401k To Buy a Home in 2020

The first thing to know about cashing out a 401k account while still employed is that you cant do it, not if you are still employed at the company that sponsors the 401k.

You can take out a loan against it, but you cant simply withdraw the money.

If you resign or get fired, you can withdraw the money in your account, but again, there are penalties for doing so that should cause you to reconsider. You will be subject to 10% early withdrawal penalty and the money will be taxed as regular income. Also, your employer must withhold 20% of the amount you cash out for tax purposes.

There are some exceptions to the rule that eliminate penalties, but they are very specific:

  • You are over 55
  • You are permanently disabled
  • The money is needed for medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income
  • You intend to cash out via a series of substantially equal payments over the rest of your life
  • You are a qualified military reservist called to active duty

Recommended Reading: How To Figure Out Your 401k Contribution

Q: I’m 57 Years Old And My Oldest Child Is About To Start College Can I Tap Into My 401 To Help Pay For Tuition Without Paying A Penalty

While an IRA allows the owner to withdraw money penalty-free at any time to help pay for college, 401s and similar retirement plans don’t have this feature. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t use yours.

Specifically, there are two ways you might be able to use your 401 funds to pay for college without penalty. First, unlike an IRA, you can usually borrow money from your 401. Most plans allow for loans of up to $50,000, and the interest rate you’ll pay is likely to be far lower than you’ll get from a parent student loan — plus you’ll be paying yourself the money and building your retirement fund back up.

Alternatively, you said that you’re 57. That still puts you below the standard withdrawal age of 59 1/2, but there’s a special provision that allows you to withdraw from your account penalty-free after 55 if you are no longer working for the sponsoring employer. In other words, if you have an old 401 from a previous employer, you can use it without a penalty at your age. It’s important to realize that if you withdraw money under this rule, it won’t be penalized but it will be considered taxable income.

So while you can’t withdraw from your account penalty-free specifically for college purposes, there are still ways you can potentially use your 401 savings to help cover the costs.

Should I Close My 401k And Withdraw My Funds

When American consumers take a whack in the wallet like they did with the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 asking for relief from their 401k account is a legitimate question.

The legitimate answer is: NO, DONT DO IT!

Not even if the federal government dangles some tantalizing incentives like removing penalties for early withdrawals, which they did during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The reason temporarily was bold-faced was the option ended December 31, 2020. The 10% penalty for withdrawals before the age 59 ½ is back in play.

Before the CARES Act was passed, taking an early withdrawal was available only to people 59 ½ or older. It was not an advisable choice before COVID-19 and its not an advisable choice after.

If you can avoid it.

A 401k account is a vital part of your financial future and should never be toyed with. However, if something drastic like COVID-19 brings the U.S. economy to its knees and your job/income sinks with it your 401k account might seem like the only ticket to get back on your feet.

Its not for two very good reasons:

  • The value of stocks and mutual funds typically plummet during a crisis. Your investment might already have lost a significant amount of its value during a market downturn, meaning you already have significantly less money to borrow from.
  • Less money in the account means you definitely will lose out on the gains from compounding interest that make long-term investing so attractive.

Recommended Reading: How To Borrow Money From 401k Fidelity

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

Withdrawing Funds Between Ages 55 And 59 1/2

Can I use my 401k to Finance my Startup Small Business ...

Most 401 plans allow for penalty-free withdrawals starting at age 55. You must have left your job no earlier than the year in which you turn age 55 to use this option. You must leave your funds in the 401 plan to access them penalty-free. But there are a few exceptions to this rule. This option makes funds accessible as early as age 50 for many police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.

Make sure to understand the rules around the age requirement for penalty-free withdrawals. For example, the age 55 rule won’t apply if you retire in the year before you reach age 55. Your withdrawal would be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty tax in this case.

You might retire at age 54, thinking that you can access funds penalty-free in one year. It doesn’t work that way. You must wait one more year to retire for this age rule to take effect.

The retirement rule regarding age 55 and up won’t apply if you roll your 401 plan over to an IRA. The earliest age at which you can withdraw funds from a traditional IRA account without a penalty tax is 59. 1/2.

Read Also: What Is The 401k Retirement Plan

Withdrawing Money From A : Taking Cash Out Early Can Be Costly

An unexpected job loss, illness or other emergencies can wreak havoc on family finances, so its understandable that people may immediately think about taking a withdrawal from their 401. Tread carefully as the decision may have long-range ramifications impacting your dreams of a comfortable retirement.

Taking a withdrawal from your traditional 401 should be your very last resort as any distributions prior to age 59 ½ will be taxed as income by the IRS, plus a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty to the IRS. This penalty was put into place to discourage people from dipping into their retirement accounts early.

Roth contribution withdrawals are generally tax- and penalty-free contribution and youre 59 ½ or older). This is because the dollars you contribute are after tax. Be careful here because the five-year rule supersedes the age 59 ½ rule that applies to traditional 401 distributions. If you didnt start contributing to a Roth until age 60, you would not be able to withdraw funds tax-free for five years, even though you are older than 59 ½.

Can I Use My 401 To Buy A House

For many would-be homeowners, the down payment is the biggest entry barrier to buying a house. While down payments can be as low as 3.5%, 20% is ideal if you want to secure a mortgage without monthly mortgage insurance fees.

If youre having trouble gathering funds for a down payment, you might find yourself considering using your 401 retirement fund as a convenient source of cash. While this is technically allowed, and could help you cover your down payment, there are some factors and drawbacks that you might want to consider.

Well break down the pros and cons of making a 401 withdrawal for a home purchase, as well as some alternatives.

Also Check: What Are Terms Of Withdrawal 401k

Look For An Opportunity

Ideal Strategy

The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, âLuck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.â Based on Senecaâs formula, we can make our own luck.

Preparation is what we discussed in Step 1. As you enter your second or third year of 401k saving, you need to start looking for your opportunity to invest the money at year five. Hence, part two in creating your own luck.

From my personal experience, I found this strategy lends itself well to real estate investment. If you want to take the same path, start learning about real estate. Hereâs what I recommend:

  • Start listening to The Bigger Pockets Podcast. Start from the beginning and listen to every episode. Thatâs what I did, and I can promise you it is time well spent.
  • As you work through the podcasts, youâll have a better idea what type of real estate youâre interested in â multi family, single family, turnkey, flipping, note investing, maybe even crowd funding.
  • Once you decide your area of interest, read some books on that specific topic. The BP podcast will provide you with plenty of recommendations, but I liked these:
  • After you learn about how to invest in real estate, you need to decide where you will invest. I invest in the area where I attended college. This is the same area where my business partner grew up.

    This gives us two distinct advantages:

    Start with the areas in which you have a competitive advantage.

    Rules You Need To Know

    Can I Use My 401K For Real Estate Investing?

    If you want to become a real estate investor through your IRA, there are a few rules you’ll need to follow. Recall in the previous section that I mentioned that you and your IRA are considered to be two separate entities. As a result, the following rules apply:

    • Any real estate you buy with a self-directed IRA needs to be purely for investment purposes. There are some definitions of the term “investment property” that allow for a small amount of personal use, but this is not the case with the property you own through an IRA.
    • Property expenses must be paid by the IRA, not by you directly. For example, if the property needs a new roof, the check needs to come from the IRA. For this reason, it’s very important to leave some funds available in the IRA to cover any unforeseen expenses.
    • You can’t use any personal possessions in the property.
    • Any rental income needs to be paid to the IRA, not to you.
    • You can’t buy a property that is currently owned by you or a relative in a self-directed IRA.

    Also Check: Can I Cancel My 401k And Cash Out

    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.

    Withdrawals After Age 72

    Many people continue to work well past age 59 1/2. They delay their 401 withdrawals, allowing the assets to continue to grow tax-deferred. But the IRS requires that you begin to take withdrawals known as “required minimum distributions” by age 72.

    Those who are owners of 5% or more of a business can defer taking their RMDs while they’re still working, but the plan must have made this election. This only applies to the 401 of your current employer. RMDs for all other retirement accounts still must be taken.

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