How to Take Money Out of 401K without Penalty (Detailed Guide)

How to Take Money Out of 401K
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A 401(k) withdrawal is a significant decision. Depending on your age, employer plan, whether you’re still employed by the firm that sponsors your 401(k) plan, and the type of withdrawal you’re making, there are different rules for taking money out of a 401(k). In this post, we will deal with how to take money out of 401k early, without penalty, paying taxes, and before retirement.


A 401(k) loan lets you replace your lump sum 401(k) gains with salary payments. Principal and interest are included in these payments. Some businesses only permit loans in extreme financial need, while others permit 401(k) loans for workers who need to borrow money to pay for a home, a car lease, or other significant expenses.

Most plans have a loan cap of $50,000 or 50% of your vested balance, whichever is less. But, if the value of your account is less than $20,000, you could be eligible to borrow a higher percentage. Often, there is little documentation and no credit check. There might be a small processing fee, but that’s most likely all.

How to Take Money Out of 401K without Penalty 

Typically speaking, you’ll incur a 10% tax penalty if you take money out of a 401(k) or an IRA before reaching the applicable retirement age of 59 and a half. Nonetheless, there are several circumstances that permit withdrawals without incurring penalties. Below are some tips on how to take money out of 401k without penalty:

#1. Unreimbursed Medical Bills

Investors can use eligible retirement plan funds for deductible medical expenses over 10% of their adjusted gross income. This is permitted by the government. Avon, Connecticut CPA Alan Rothstein says the withdrawal must be made in the same year as the medical costs.

#2. Disability

The IRS requires investors to be permanently disabled to withdraw retirement funds without a 10% penalty. Rothstein says Social Security or insurance disability payouts are the easiest way to prove your disability to the IRS and to money out of 401k without penalty.

#3. Health Insurance Premiums

Unemployed people can utilize IRA funds to pay for health insurance without penalty. The catch is that you have to be jobless for a full 12 weeks. In event of an audit, Rothstein suggests using a separate bank account to receive IRA transfers and pay premiums.

#4. Death

Beneficiaries of an IRA account who pass away may withdraw funds without being subject to a 10% penalty. The IRS restricts spouses who inherit IRAs and use them. If they get a payout before reaching the age of 59 1/2, they can be charged a penalty. This is one of the ways to money out of 401k without penalty.

#5. If you Owe the IRS

According to CFP specialist Joe Gordon, co-founder of Durham, North Carolina-based Gordon Asset Management, if Uncle Sam levies your IRA for unpaid taxes, or in other words, if there is a tax lien placed against the account, you can withdraw money out of 401k without incurring any penalty.

#6. First-time Homebuyers

401(k) withdrawals for down payments incur a 10% penalty. Yet, there are no penalties if you withdraw funds from your IRA. Also, first-timers are not the only ones who can withdraw without penalty. However, prospective homeowners must not have owned a property in the two years prior.

#7. Higher Education Expenses

If a 401(k) plan allows hardship withdrawals, greater education expenditures can be paid with a 10% penalty. But, if IRA withdrawals are utilized to cover eligible expenses, there are no penalties.

How to Take Money Out of 401K Early 

Once you’ve established your eligibility and the kind of withdrawal you wish to make, you’ll need to complete the proper paperwork and supply the required papers. Depending on your employment and the cause of the withdrawal, other documentation and documents may be needed, but once you’ve finished everything, you’ll get a check for the requested amount, ideally without having to pay the 10% penalty. The below list is on how you can take money out of 401k early enough:

#1. Borrowing from a 401(k)

In general, taking a loan out of your 401(k) is better than taking an early withdrawal. In essence, you’re pledging to repay a loan you made to yourself. With a loan, you have the option to replenish the lost funds through payroll deductions as opposed to permanently losing them as you would with a withdrawal. If your plan offers loans, you must determine your eligibility. Alternatively, you may want to consider applying for a personal loan from another provider, such as a bank. If you have no other choice than to withdraw money from your 401(k), check with the IRS to see if your withdrawal is exempt from the 10% penalty due to hardship or other circumstances.

#2. Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP)

Another way to withdraw money without having to pay an early distribution penalty is to use substantially equivalent monthly payments (SEPPs), provided the money is in an IRA rather than a 401(k) sponsored by the employer.

SEPP withdrawals under a qualified retirement plan are not permitted if you are still employed by your employer. But if the money is from an IRA, you can start SEPP withdrawals whenever you want.

Is it Possible to Withdraw Money Early From a 401(k)?

Absolutely, if your company or boss agrees. But, doing so has financial consequences. You must pay a 10% tax penalty on the amount you withdraw, with the exception of the following situations:

  • Whether it is an IRS-approved hardship withdrawal
  • If it meets the IRS’s requirements to be an exemption to the penalty
  • If necessary to cover COVID-19-related expenses

In any scenario, the individual who takes the money out early will be required to pay regular income taxes on it. A typical IRA’s whole balance is subject to taxation. A Roth IRA withdrawal that includes funds that haven’t yet been taxed will be taxed. A 10% extra penalty will be added to the amount withdrawn if it does not fall under one of these exceptions.

How to Take Money Out of 401K Without Paying Taxes 

There are a few ways to avoid or lower your tax cost if you wish to get your 401(k) without paying taxes. Continue reading to learn how to minimize taxes on 401k payouts when the IRS wants a share of your distributions. Lets us look at how to take money out of 401k without paying taxes.

#1. Consider Roth Contributions

Consider transferring your funds to a Roth account if you anticipate that your income in your golden years will slip into a higher tax rate. As after-tax money was used to open this account, any future withdrawals will be tax-free. Although this method does not completely prevent paying taxes, it does allow you to do so by paying the tax when you deposit the money into the account. This way, you can avoid paying taxes on future savings that have accumulated. You won’t pay taxes on the payouts you get in retirement.

#2. Stay in a Lower Tax Bracket

To minimize your tax liability while taking 401(k) withdrawals, strive to keep your taxable income at a lower tax rate. Take distributions to your tax bracket to avoid shifting into the next tax bracket with a higher tax rate. Staying in a lower tax bracket is another way of taking money out of a 401k without paying taxes.

#3. Borrow Instead of Withdrawing from a 401(k)

Some 401(k) plans permit participants to borrow money from their accounts before reaching retirement age. The employer and plan administrator will determine the particular loan terms, and an employee may need to meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for a 401(k) loan. The loaned cash is exempt from regular income tax and early withdrawal penalties if it follows IRS rules.

#4. Avoid Early Withdrawal 

Depending on your tax rate, withdrawals made before the age of 59 1/2 are subject to income taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. But, you might be eligible for a penalty-free 401(k) withdrawal if you quit your present company at age 55 or later. Even so, the payout will still be subject to your tax bracket’s regular income tax. To be eligible for a penalty-free distribution, an employee must have left their employer, according to the IRS. The so-called “Rule of 55” does not apply to Individual Retirement Accounts or prior plans.

#5. Defer Taking Social Security

Deferring your Social Security benefits if you have taken a 401(k) withdrawal could help you retain your taxable income in a lower tax bracket. Accepting both payouts at once raises your taxable income, which raises your tax obligation. You can postpone claiming social security payments until age 70 if the withdrawals from your 401(k) are sufficient to cover your expenses. This method not only reduces 401(k) withdrawal tax, but it also raises your social security benefits by up to 28%. If you wait to begin receiving social security payments after turning 65 to 67 years old, this technique will work.

#7. Donate to Charity

You can roll over your money directly into an IRA and contribute the distribution to a qualifying charity to avoid paying income tax if you are 70 and a half years old and do not require the 401(k) payouts to cover living expenses. As long as the donation falls within the IRS’s $100,000 annual limit, the IRA account holder is exempt from paying income tax on the donation to charity.

How to Take Money Out of 401K before Retirement 

401(k)s are incentive-based retirement savings plans for Americans. The government offers tax benefits to promote contributions, but it also imposes regulations to deter distributions before retirement. If you violate those regulations and take distributions before the deadline, you can also be subject to a 10% penalty on top of the ordinary income taxes you’ll have to pay on the withdrawn money. Let’s examine all the permitted withdrawal money methods from a 401k and the fines you’ll pay if your early withdrawals don’t qualify for one of the exceptions in retirement.

How to Take Money out of your 401k Before Retirement

A 401(k) can be accessed in a variety of ways, including:

#1. Withdrawing When you Retire

You are permitted to start taking withdrawals from your 401(k) after you turn 59 1/2(k). You can start taking penalty-free withdrawals from the 401(k) you had with your present employer if you quit your job in the calendar year that you age 55 or later. If you work in public safety, this rule begins to apply to you when you turn 50.

Indeed, you must start making needed minimum distributions after you turn 72. (RMDs).

#2. Early Withdrawals

An early withdrawal is any withdrawal made before the age of 59 1/2. When you take money from a 401(k), you typically have to pay standard income taxes as well as a 10% early withdrawal penalty (k).

#3. Hardship Withdrawals

You may be able to make an early withdrawal from some 401(k) plans if you have an “immediate and heavy” financial need. Many instances include:

  • Medical expenses
  • The price of buying a principal residence
  • Payments for the 401(k) owner, his or her spouse, or dependents’ tuition or other qualified educational costs
  • Payments required to avoid a foreclosure or eviction
  • Expenses related to a parent’s, spouse’s, child’s, or other dependent’s burial or funeral

Unless you fall under one of the aforementioned exceptions, you may still be liable for the 10% early withdrawal penalty even if your employer’s plan authorizes hardship withdrawals.

#1. 401(k) Loans

Certain plans permit you to borrow a maximum of $50,000 within a 12-month period, up to a maximum of 50% of your vested account amount. Similar to a regular loan, a 401(k) loan requires you to pay interest on the money you borrow. If you don’t make your refund as agreed, it will be seen as a distribution, and you can be charged the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

#2. Rolling Over a 401(k)

You can transfer your 401k money funds to some other tax-advantaged retirement account if you lose your work or your plan expires. You might be able to perform a direct rollover, in which case the funds directly transfer from your old tax-advantaged account to your new 401(k). In order to avoid being treated as a distribution, you can alternatively perform an indirect rollover, in which you receive the money straight and deposit them in your new account within 60 days.

How to Take Money Out of 401K for House

Saving money for a down payment can be a significant obstacle to becoming a homeowner, especially since it isn’t the only cost associated with getting a mortgage. Closing charges, moving expenses, as well as any necessary renovations or furnishings for your new home, may all require funding. If you’re strapped for funds, taking money out of your 401(k) could help you pay for your down payment (k). This, however, has serious disadvantages.

Can you Use Your 401(k) to Buy a House?

You can really purchase a home using the funds in your 401(k). This is a brief explanation of how 401(k) accounts operate:

  • Pre-tax money from employees’ pay as well as money from self-employed people can be contributed.
  • On behalf of the company, contributions may also be made by employers and independent contractors.
  • Companies have the option to match a portion of employee contributions.

You must pay taxes at your current tax rate on the entire withdrawal amount when you take money out of your 401(k). Also, you’ll pay a 10% early distribution penalty if you’re under the age of 5912 (or 55 if you’re no longer employed by your employer).

How to Make a Down Payment with Your 401(k)

While it is conceivable, it is typically not advised to fund a down payment from a 401(k). Yet, there are two basic methods to go forward:

#1. Borrow Against Your 401(k)

If you want to use your plan to finance a down payment, borrowing from your 401(k) is usually the better choice. You can normally borrow up to 50% of your vested account balance or $50,000, whichever is less if your employer’s plan permits employees to take out loans against their 401(k) accounts. Until you have paid back the loan, you must make more or less equal installments that must be made at least quarterly and include interest. Usually, you’ll have five years to pay it back.

#2. Make Money out of Your 401(k)

When using a 401(k) for a down payment, a withdrawal is typically a bad choice. The IRS permits people to take early withdrawals prior to age 5912 as a consequence of a “immediate and substantial financial need,” such as purchasing a home if your employer’s plan permits hardship distributions.

Although purchasing a home might not seem like a hardship, the IRS governs these kinds of distributions in that way. You won’t be required to repay the money you borrow, nor will you be permitted to do so. You must pay ordinary income tax on the amount you withdrew, as well as an early withdrawal tax penalty of 10% if you are under the age of 5912.

#3. Options for Making a Down Payment from Your 401(k)

Instead of leveraging your 401(k), there are safer methods to accelerate your route to homeownership (k). Here are four options to consider.

#4. Instead, use Your IRA or Roth IRA.

For qualifying first-time homebuyer withdrawals, the IRS makes an exemption to the rule that you must be 5912 to obtain penalty-free distributions from your IRA. Any early payouts up to $10,000 must be used to purchase or construct your first house in order to avoid paying the additional 10% tax.

#5. Obtain a Mortgage with Government Approval

When you apply for an FHA loan and have a credit score of at least 580, you can put down as little as 3.5%. You don’t need to have a lot of cash on hand because you can finance the closing costs and early mortgage insurance premiums.

#6. Obtain a Conventional Mortgage with a Modest Down Payment.

You can obtain a conventional loan with a modest down payment if your credit score is at least 620. You might wish to pay special attention to loans designed for first-time homebuyers. They include the HomeReady or Standard 97 loans from Fannie Mae, as well as the Home Possible and HomeOne loans from Freddie Mac.

#7. Look into Programs to Help with Down Payments.

First-time homebuyer programs are offered by state housing finance agencies, neighborhood nonprofits, federal agencies, local governments, and other groups.

How Are 401K Withdrawals Done? 

You may choose to take nonperiodic or lump-sum withdrawals, or you may choose to take regular payments in the form of an annuity, either for a defined period or over the course of your predicted lifespan, depending on the policies of your firm.

Does My Employer Have to Approve My 401K Withdrawal? 

If you require a 401(k) before retiring, your employer may even refuse to grant it to you. Early money withdrawal fees from a 401(k) account are imposed by the IRS. These penalties might be a small price to pay in the event of an emergency, depending on the circumstance.

How Much Can You Borrow from 401K? 

For those who have $100,000 or more invested, you can borrow a maximum of $50,000, which is equal to 50% of your account’s vested value. You can only borrow up to $10,000 if your account balance is less than that amount.

Can I Withdraw 100% Of My 401K? 

Yes. In retirement, you can only take out what you need to survive and leave the remainder invested.

How Much Does It Cost to Cash Out a 401K? 

If you take assets early from a typical 401(k), you will be assessed a 10% penalty.


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