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Home / Tips and Tricks / The CARES Act amended all rules on 401 (k) withdrawals. Here’s everything you need to know

The CARES Act amended all rules on 401 (k) withdrawals. Here’s everything you need to know


Sarah Tew / CNET

In addition to providing Americans with a one-time incentive payment and paving the way for increased unemployment benefits, the CARES Act has temporarily changed the rules for withdrawing money from pension accounts. You can now withdraw penalty-free withdrawals from your IRA or 401

(k) up to $ 100,000 without meeting the usual early withdrawal fees.

With continued high unemployment and millions of workers working or working fewer hours than before, this major rule change could contribute to much-needed relief for the growing number of Americans economically affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, taking advantage of pension funds if possible is to be avoided – but when the government continues to wrestle with the details of another stimulus package and other sources of funding are drying upLoans from a pension account can be an attractive option.

The new rules apply until the end of the year. How to use them.

Read more: HEALS, CARES, Heroes works: A final stimulus pack can land somewhere in the middle

What were the rules before COVID-19?

Before the CARES law was passed, you could not withdraw money from your pension accounts before you were 59 1/2 years old without being subject to an “early withdrawal” fee. The 10% tax penalty was introduced to discourage people from spending money that they should save for retirement.

Although there were some exceptions to the rule – such as deductions for tuition and other education expenses or buying a home – Americans threw away more than $ 5 billion a year in early withdrawal fees, according to the IRS. To avoid being penalized, it is generally a good idea to leave your retirement account alone after you have stopped working full time.

What changed the CARES Act?

The CARES Act allows you to withdraw up to $ 100,000 from your retirement account – with no penalty – until the end of 2020. To date, relatively few Americans have taken advantage of this new exemption: the Investment Company Institute reports that less than 3% of retirement plan owners made early withdrawals to date. year.

Read more: Have you lost your job? Here’s what to do with your 401 (k)

Who is entitled to the exemption?

Only tax-deferred pension accounts are eligible for this exemption, including:

  • Employer pension accounts, such as a 401 (k) or 403 (b) – although other types of plans may qualify

However, not everyone is entitled to this exception. You only qualify if:

  • You, your spouse or a person entitled to maintenance have / been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are going through major financial difficulties due to COVID-19 such as losing your job, a delayed start date for a new job, a job offer being revoked, further, a reduction in hours, closing your company or you can not work on due to lack of childcare.

If you meet the criteria, you have until the end of 2020 to make a qualified distribution of up to $ 100,000 – per person – without incurring a 10% tax penalty. Keep in mind that even if these are impunity, you are still liable to pay income tax on them. But you can spread what you owe for three years.

Good reason to press your 401 (k) right now

  • Money to cover urgent needs: If you need to take out a mortgage, keep the lights on or pay other bills, you may need to withdraw money from your retirement plan. If you are facing deportation, it may make sense to point to your home or exclusion.
  • Avoid taking out a loan: If you have a high credit score and are eligible for favorable terms, it can be a good short-term tactic to take out a loan. But for many who face long-term unemployment and underemployment, a loan can simply be another impossible bill to pay. Some people do not qualify to take out a loan and have no other financial resources other than to borrow from their retirement plan.

Disadvantages of withdrawing money from your pension plan

  • To take money from your future self: The standard advice is to leave your pension account alone until you are retired. The earlier you save for retirement and the more you can contribute, the more it is put together over time. Every time you withdraw money before you need it, you remove money from your future (retired) self. If you can avoid it, you should.
  • Tax consequences: Even if you avoid a 10% early distribution penalty, you will still be subject to income tax on the money. Remember: money deposited in a traditional IRA is taxed when it is back – not when it is contributed. So how much money you spend will be added to your annual income, and you will be taxed on it accordingly. It can put you in a different tax bracket and dramatically change how much you owe in taxes.

Read more: 5 investment accounts that everyone should have

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