People are dipping into their retirement funds for big expenses. Here are the pros and cons of a 401(k) loan


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Here’s why you shouldn’t borrow money from your 401(k).

Key points

  • Some people borrow money from their 401(k) for a large purchase or an emergency expense without having to pay taxes on the withdrawal.
  • But if you can’t repay the loan, it will be considered a withdrawal and subject to taxes and penalties.
  • Another thing to consider is the impact of the loan on your retirement savings. The money you borrowed will no longer work for you and will increase over time.

It’s no secret that a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet these days. With the cost of living rising and wages stagnating, it’s no wonder so many people are looking to their retirement savings for help. After all, what’s the point of having cash on hand if you can’t use it when you need it, right? Bad. Borrowing from your 401(k) should be a last resort, and here’s why.

Benefits of borrowing from your 401(k)

There are a few potential benefits to take out a loan of your 401(k). For one, the interest rate is usually quite low. In fact, most 401(k) loans have an interest rate that’s significantly lower than the rates you’d find on a credit card or personal loan. This can be a great way to consolidate high interest debt and save money in the long run.

Another advantage of borrowing from your 401k is that you are essentially borrowing from yourself. This means no credit checks are required and you won’t have to go through a lengthy application process. The money is already yours, so all you have to do is fill out some paperwork and you could have the money in your hands within days.

The disadvantages of borrowing from your 401(k)

Despite the benefits, borrowing from your 401(k) should be your last resort. There are several downsides to taking out a loan from your 401(k) that you should be aware of before making a decision.

For one thing, if you can’t repay the money, the loan will be treated as a withdrawal and you’ll be subject to income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59. 1/2. Also, if you quit your job (by choice or not), you may have to repay the entire loan immediately. This could put you in a very difficult financial situation if you are not careful.

Another downside to borrowing from your 401(k) is that you’re essentially stealing your future self. When you take money out of your retirement account, it’s no longer there to grow tax-free and composed over time. This means you could end up retiring with less money than if you had left your savings alone.

Finally, you can only borrow up to 50% of your account balance or $50,000, whichever is less. For example, if you have $40,000 in your account, you can only borrow $20,000. If your account has $160,000, the maximum you can borrow is only $50,000. There is an exception to the rule. If 50% of your account balance is less than $10,000, you can borrow up to $10,000. Once you take out a loan, you have five years to pay it back and you must make payments at least quarterly. Your employer may also have additional restrictions that may make it more difficult to borrow money from your 401(k).

So should you borrow from your 401(k)? Ideally not. If you are sure you can repay the loan quickly and without a hitch, it may be worth considering, especially if you need money for an emergency expense or to consolidate high interest rate debt. However, if there’s a chance that paying off the loan will put undue strain on your finances, it’s probably best not to touch your retirement savings. Taking out a loan from your 401(k) can reduce your retirement savings and can have a significant impact on your ability to retire comfortably.

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