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Thread: Should I cash out my 401k to pay off debt?

  1. #1

    Should I cash out my 401k to pay off debt?

    After mortgage and monthly bills, I am spending the majority of my paychecks paying down credit card debt (totalling about $19K).

    I have about 22,000 in a 401k. Because I have almost no faith in the stock market for the forseeable future, I am considering cashing out my 401k to pay off my debts. If I do so, I will be able to put about $1000 into saving and/or other investments each month.

    I understand that I'll pay a big penalty on cashing out, meaning I'll actually get a little more than half of that $22,000. But, it will nearly end all my debts (other than mortgage).

    Most sites I've looked at strongly recommend against doing this, but I'd like to hear from folks here that are outside the standard government/keynesian mode of thought.

    I appreciate any input. Thanks!



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  3. #2
    I wouldn't. The gummit is talking about bailing out credit card holders. Or at least that is my understanding.

    Plus, can you even cash out your 401K?
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  4. #3
    get some gold.
    "You ain't fooling nobody.........with the lights out!"

  5. #4
    I would assume the govt would not bail out this credit card holder. The fact is, I have excellent credit and have a job that pays me a decent amount. So I assume that I'm not enough of a deadbeat to get any govt assistance.

    I am capable of making ends meet, but I am sick as hell of being in debt. I was going to be debt-free (other than mortgage) about 6 months ago until my ex-wife left me and got greedy during our divorce (against her original promises, I might add). So my debt went up to uncomfortable levels.

    I want to be able to use my money for savings and buying things rather than paying down debt, which is why I'm considering this.

  6. #5

    NO, NO and NO

    Wait for the Obama Amnesty plan within 2 years. If the debts are strangling you now, simply call em up and tell em to lower the minimums and the rates or you might not pay at all.

  7. #6
    I have about 22,000 in a 401k. Because I have almost no faith in the stock market for the foreseeable future
    I would not touch it. I don't know your age, but I'll guess you have 30-40 years before retirement. We will probably have more bubbles and recessions during that time frame. Can you put it into an international stock fund? If we do have inflation then your debt will be reduced and at worst your stocks will grow due to inflation. You can always use it for an emergency, but I would not pay off debt with it.

    I have seen allot of threads on here about people wanting to pay off debt. Hell, with all the bailouts and $ uncertainty, now is the least time you would want to pay off debt.
    Last edited by madengr; 03-30-2009 at 10:27 AM.

  8. #7
    What is the average annual percentage rate on your credit card debt?

    Do you think you could match or beat that percentage with GAINS in your 401k over time?

    If not, then cash out your 401k.

    When you pay your credit card debt it is the same as a guaranteed return on your money at the credit card APR.

    If your paying 14% on your credit cards, for example, and you don't think you could earn 14% per year guaranteed with your 401k investments then you would make (or protect) more money by cashing out and using the proceeds to pay down the high interest rate debt.

    Don't depend on the government to "bail" you out or provide "assistance" or "relief"!

    The idea is to be self-sufficient.

    Hope this helps.
    Read the Complete Ron Paul Book Collection!

  9. #8
    I think it would depend on the interest rate on the credit cards, etc.

    When I first went to a financial advisor, he made me realize I was being a dumbass about my debt. I was garnering about $50-$100 in interest a month on my debt and only paying the minimum amount. Basically I was running in circles and it was going to cost me about $10,000 to pay off $6000 in debt with all the interest I was paying. And the whole time I had enough money to completely pay off the debt and have some emergency savings left over. If you can take a BIG chunk out of your debt AND leave yourself with some emergency savings money, I say do it. I've been able to save so much money into my retirement and savings since I did.

    Totally debt free (except the mortgage) and I'm NEVER going back....



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  11. #9
    Transfer your 401(k) assets into an IRA that can hold GOLD bullion:

    http://www.GloomDoom.com

  12. #10
    Not that I'm recommending either way, but my husband did that with his 401k. I did not. Thus we have sort of hedged our bets on that issue.

  13. #11
    See if you can borrow money from the fund. I have done that. You have to repaid it, but all the money and interest goes back into your fund.
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  14. #12
    Cashing out will cost you an awful lot. First you face a ten percent penalty. If you have $22,000 that means that you lose $2,200 off the top. Then you have to pay income taxes on it too. In a 25% tax bracket you are down to $14,850. You are giving away over $7,000 and would still not eleminate all of your debt while draining your savings. You are also giving up any future returns on that money were you to leave it in the 401k.

    Would you have any money to live off of in case of an emergency? You should have at least enough money to be able to pay your bills for about six months in case you found your self unable to work- maybe longer in this economy. If this 401k is your only fund, that is another reason not to cash it in. I could see suspending contributions to the 401k and putting that money towards getting rid of the debt but would not liquidate the 401k.
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  15. #13
    I say get rid of the debt. There is a stress factor involved that can't be put on paper. Never count on any bailout. Then start buying silver and gold coins with your extra cash.

  16. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by RCA View Post
    I say get rid of the debt. There is a stress factor involved that can't be put on paper. Never count on any bailout. Then start buying silver and gold coins with your extra cash.
    Don't pay 10% + income taxes

  17. #15

    Goldstar Precious Metals IRA

    I would buy Silver. It is priced better than Gold now and is actually becoming more rare since it is being consumed by industry unlike Gold. Open a Goldstar Trust or Sterling Trust Precious Metals IRA, put your money into the account, then buy Silver from Apmex, Colorado Gold, Monex, NW Territorior, GoldSilver, or one of the other brokers who has best prices for what kind of silver you choose. Keep your mortgage it is a good tax break.

  18. #16
    Normally it's a no brainer, yes to paying down debt no matter what.

    But maybe you should cash out half and pay off half.

    Credit card debt is not something that'll appreciate and profit for you later, is it? If not, get rid of it.



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  20. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by RCA View Post
    I say get rid of the debt. There is a stress factor involved that can't be put on paper. Never count on any bailout. Then start buying silver and gold coins with your extra cash.
    I agree, unless of course you have no sense of responsibility, then you'd have no shame, no stress, and no troubles.

  21. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Cashing out will cost you an awful lot. First you face a ten percent penalty. If you have $22,000 that means that you lose $2,200 off the top. Then you have to pay income taxes on it too. In a 25% tax bracket you are down to $14,850. You are giving away over $7,000 and would still not eleminate all of your debt while draining your savings. You are also giving up any future returns on that money were you to leave it in the 401k.

    Would you have any money to live off of in case of an emergency? You should have at least enough money to be able to pay your bills for about six months in case you found your self unable to work- maybe longer in this economy. If this 401k is your only fund, that is another reason not to cash it in. I could see suspending contributions to the 401k and putting that money towards getting rid of the debt but would not liquidate the 401k.
    Then how about cash out half of it.

    You'll take out $11k
    Lose 1.1K to taxes
    I don't think you're in a 25% bracket if you need $20K right now.

    But let's say you ARE
    You'll have $7.5K which will cut your debt down to $11K

    I don't think somebody who's worrying about paying debt can/should think about emergency money.

  22. #19
    It's a tough call. First off, you are going to have to pay taxes when you cash out, so you don't "lose" anything with taxes. 10% is about 2K in penalties with what you have-- not all that much. Plus, if you have as lousy of choices as most 401Ks do- large cap US stocks, bonds, and money markets-- you will probably lose more than 2K even in nominal dollars.

    To me, the big question w/retirement plans comes back to the usual culprit- government. Will they confiscate them (i.e. nationalize them in a social security like acct and spend the proceeds)? I fear they will.

    If I had significant credit card debt and it was variable rate, I'd be inclined to pay off that debt. I'd leave fixed debt alone; massive inflation will take care of that for you.

  23. #20
    What interest rate are you paying on your credit card debt, and how much money are you able to spend paying down the debt each month?? It should be easy to calculate which plan of action would be the least expensive.

  24. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Danke View Post
    See if you can borrow money from the fund. I have done that. You have to repaid it, but all the money and interest goes back into your fund.
    Now that's a great idea!

    If that doesn't work, can you consolidate into a cheaper loan? Most credit card rates are ridiculous.

    In general, I wouldn't recommend paying off a low-interest loan right now...

  25. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    Now that's a great idea!

    If that doesn't work, can you consolidate into a cheaper loan? Most credit card rates are ridiculous.

    In general, I wouldn't recommend paying off a low-interest loan right now...
    credit cards are not low interest, or that wouldn't be a question.

    i don't know enough about IRAs and 401k, but I WOULD NOT borrow money from it, why? Because why pay interest on it when you at worst pay a 10% penalty?

  26. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by EddieG View Post

    If I had significant credit card debt and it was variable rate, I'd be inclined to pay off that debt. I'd leave fixed debt alone; massive inflation will take care of that for you.
    let's see massive inflation take care of you when you don't have a job.

  27. #24
    That debt will be the least of his concerns. Food prices will be a bigger problem.



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  29. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Josh_LA View Post
    don't know enough about IRAs and 401k, but I WOULD NOT borrow money from it, why? Because why pay interest on it when you at worst pay a 10% penalty?
    You are paying the interest to yourself when you borrow from a 401(k). It's like your 401(k) has an investment option of "loan money to myself at x%". Your 401(k) makes money from the deal.

    No penalties. No loss of funds in your 401(k).

  30. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    You are paying the interest to yourself when you borrow from a 401(k). It's like your 401(k) has an investment option of "loan money to myself at x%". Your 401(k) makes money from the deal.

    No penalties. No loss of funds in your 401(k).
    what if your 401k remainder depreciates? you'll be paying interest on yourself for something that's shown to lose value?

  31. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Josh_LA View Post
    what if your 401k remainder depreciates? you'll be paying interest on yourself for something that's shown to lose value?
    By 401k "remainder", do you mean the excess money in your 401(k) that you don't loan to yourself? You can usually invest that in anything, but it depends on your 401(k). If you're lucky you have the option of investing in GDX...

    401(k)s are great in that they sometimes having employer matching, and you don't have to worry about IRS bs for all your transactions. No difference between a short and long term capital gain, no end of year tax paperwork. Buy and sell all you want. Big caveat is the options your 401(k) plan gives you for investing. Many have all the options of a standard broker, but some may be limited. You may have idiots at your company choosing/running the 401(k), so always make sure you have unlimited investment options.

  32. #28
    i say cash it out. i never got into the thing myself. always feared a crash in the economy, plus the fees that rob you blind if you ever do take it out. JMO

  33. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    By 401k "remainder", do you mean the excess money in your 401(k) that you don't loan to yourself? You can usually invest that in anything, but it depends on your 401(k). If you're lucky you have the option of investing in GDX...

    401(k)s are great in that they sometimes having employer matching, and you don't have to worry about IRS bs for all your transactions. No difference between a short and long term capital gain, no end of year tax paperwork. Buy and sell all you want. Big caveat is the options your 401(k) plan gives you for investing. Many have all the options of a standard broker, but some may be limited. You may have idiots at your company choosing/running the 401(k), so always make sure you have unlimited investment options.
    ok, let's play some numbers.

    Let's say I have $22K in my 401k today

    I borrow out $10K of it, leaving $12K in it.

    If I were to pay it back 5 years later, I'd owe 5 years worth of interest (5% or more I assume)

    But what if my 401k depreciated? (is that a possible scenario?)
    Now my originally $12K+ portfolio is worth only $9K
    If that were the case, wouldn't I have been better off taking a one time penalty of 10%?

    Why would I want to pay back + interest into this losing portfolio?

  34. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Josh_LA View Post
    ok, let's play some numbers.

    Let's say I have $22K in my 401k today

    I borrow out $10K of it, leaving $12K in it.

    If I were to pay it back 5 years later, I'd owe 5 years worth of interest (5% or more I assume)

    But what if my 401k depreciated? (is that a possible scenario?)
    Now my originally $12K+ portfolio is worth only $9K
    If that were the case, wouldn't I have been better off taking a one time penalty of 10%?

    Why would I want to pay back + interest into this losing portfolio?
    I believe you pay back your 401(k) loan on a schedule (like a mortgage or credit card).

    Assuming that you have a good 401(k) with broker-style options, you can invest in any portfolio you invest in outside a 401(k). It's up to you to invest so you don't lose too much money. You can play it super-safe (money market or some bank-style money fund), or you can take some risk. There's risk in or out of the 401(k). Your $12k portfolio could grow to $50k in 5 years. I invest in GDX, USAGX, CEF, GLD, SLV, SLW, etc. I expect that to go up...

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