Financial Planning Retirement Planning

Are “Penalty-Free” 401k Withdrawals Free?

Are "Penalty-Free" 401k
Withdrawals Free?

On March 27, the government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, otherwise known as the CARES Act. The Act had a wide range of provisions to provide Americans and small businesses with economic support during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill provided stimulus payments, enhanced unemployment, and various forms of business loans.

One provision that flew under the radar was the ability for qualified individuals to take distributions from their 401(k) plans and IRAs without paying early distributions penalties. Normally, you face a 10% early distribution penalty if you take a withdrawal from these accounts before age 59 ½.1

However, under the CARES Act you can take up to $100,000 as a penalty-free distribution from your qualified accounts, assuming you are a qualified individual.2 Are you qualified? And even if you can take a distribution, is it wise to do so?

CARES Act Qualified Plan Distributions

Under the CARES Act, you can take up to $100,000 in qualified plan distributions if you are a qualified individual. Who is qualified? Anyone who meets the following criteria:

  • You are diagnosed with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • Your spouse or dependent is diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or with COVID-19 by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off, or having work hours reduced due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19;
  • You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being unable to work due to lack of child care due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19; or
  • You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of closing or reducing hours of a business that you own or operate due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19.2

If you meet any of these criteria and you decide to take a distribution, you won’t have to pay the 10% early distribution penalty, even if you are under age 59 ½. However, you will still have to pay income taxes on the distribution. You can spread the taxes out over a three-year period, but you still have to pay them.2

Should you take a CARES Act distribution?

A CARES Act distribution may be the right strategy if you are in a financial crisis and have limited avenues available for relief. However, just because the distribution is “penalty-free” doesn’t mean it comes without consequences.

In addition to paying taxes on the distribution, you’ll also forego any future growth on the assets you withdraw. Tax-deferred growth is one of the biggest advantages of a qualified account. However, if you pull out funds, you lose all future tax-deferred growth on that amount. That could lead to a substantial reduction in your future assets at retirement.

Instead of dipping into your 401(k) or IRA, consider what other options you may have available. For instance, perhaps you could tighten your budget. Maybe you could refinance mortgages or other loans, or even renegotiate new payment terms. You may even consider picking up additional work until the crisis passes. It may be tempting to take an IRA distribution, but you’re only taking money from your future self.

Let’s talk about strategies to help you get through this period. Contact us today at Benefit Resource Partners. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.

Financial Planning Retirement Planning

Investing After Retirement: Tips to Protect Your Nest Egg

Investing After Retirement: Tips to Protect Your Nest Egg

Saving for retirement can often feel like climbing a mountain. It takes immense planning and discipline to reach the summit – the moment when you can finally retire and leave the working world behind.

Much like climbing a mountain, though, the summit isn’t the end of the story. You still have to get back down the mountain. Often, climbing down the mountain can be more dangerous than the ascent. It requires just as much planning and focus.

The same is true of continuing to grow your savings after retirement. Technically, you’ve reached the summit and retired, but you still have a long way to go. According to the Society of Actuaries, a 65-year-old man has a 50% chance of living to 87 and a 25% chance of living to 93. For a woman, those ages are 89 and 95.1 If you retire in your mid-60s, it’s very possible that you will live another 20 to 30 years.

How do you make your savings and income last for that period of time? Your strategy should be based on your unique needs and goals, but there are a few good practices to keep in mind. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:

Be mindful of inflation.

Inflation is the increase in prices of goods and services. Annual inflation is usually modest. In fact, it hasn’t exceeded 5% since the 1980s.2

Even modest inflation can impact your strategy over the long-term, though. Consider an average 3% inflation rate. Over 24 years, that means a doubling in prices. Could you afford to see your expenses double throughout retirement?

A strategy that leaves room for growth potential can help offset the effects of inflation. As your assets grow, you may be able to take increased income to cover the increase in prices.

Many retirees opt for strategies that have little risk exposure. However, it may be wise to allocate some portion of your savings to assets that offer growth potential so you can keep up with inflation. A financial professional can help you find the right mix.

Take the “Goldilocks” approach.

Do you remember the story of Goldilocks, the girl who finds her way into the home of a family of bears? She tries their porridge, their chairs, and even their beds until she finds the one that is just right.

A “Goldilocks” approach to growing your savings may not be a bad idea, especially after retirement. Don’t look for the portfolio that offers the most return or the least risk. Rather, look for the mix that is “just right” for your needs and goals. For instance, it may be that your “just right” strategy is one that limits risk but also offers growth potential and consistent income. A financial professional can help you find your “just right” strategy.

Have a withdrawal strategy.

If you’re like many retirees, you’ll receive Social Security and possibly even a defined benefit pension in retirement. But you also may need to take withdrawals from your savings to supplement those income sources.

What’s the right amount of income to take? If you take too little, you may not live the type of lifestyle you desire. Take too much and you could drain your savings. Before you enter retirement, you may want to plan your income strategy. Determine the right level to take without draining your savings.

Also develop backup plans. For example, how will you adjust your income if your investments decline? What if you have a costly emergency? How will you cover that expense? Should you look at tools to guarantee* your income? Again, a financial professional can help you answer these questions.

Ready to develop your post-retirement strategy? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at Benefit Resource Partners. We can help you analyze your needs and develop a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.



Licensed Insurance Professional. This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not state specific. The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting or specific advice for your situation. By providing your information, you give consent to be contacted about the possible sale of an insurance or annuity product. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting insurance professional. The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change at any time. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, presenting insurance professional makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax or investment advice. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and is not sponsored or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency.

*Guarantees, including optional benefits, are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuer, and may contain limitations, including surrender charges, which may affect policy values. 20113 – 2020/5/26