Are you considering making a large purchase but don’t have the money to do so? Are you in need of emergency cash? Typically, they are many options for people in that situation such as a home loan, a home equity line of credit, personal loans, etc. But what if you do not want to deal with a bank or have a poor credit score? Fortunately, there are a few options, with the most notable being the Qualified Plan Loan. That’s right, you could be able to take a loan from your employer’s retirement plan. In fact, over 75% of Qualified Retirement Plans allow participants to take loans from their accounts.
So now to the big question…is it worth taking a loan from your retirement plan? In short, no. However, it is still important to weigh the options of taking such a loan. Below are the major pros and cons of taking loans from your employer’s retirement plan.
1. Qualified Plan loans offer a low interest rate, which is usually the prime rate plus 1%
2. You are not borrowing from a bank; you are just borrowing from yourself. In other words, the interest that you pay will actually go into your retirement account balance. (However, please note that all loan payments going back into the plan are in after-tax dollars).
3. The loan process is typically very easy and you can get the needed cash in a timely manner. On top of that, payments are simply deducted from your paycheck.
4. Loan minimums can be as low as $500-1,000 and people can borrow up to 50% or $50,000 of their vested balance, whichever is less.
1. Payment options are not as flexible as other loans since the only two options are the minimum payments deducted from your paycheck or to pay the balance in full.
2. You have 90 days to start making payments back into the plan or else the loan will be considered taxable and will trigger a 10% tax penalty (for borrowers under 59 ½). Remember, if you are laid off, you may only have 90 days to pay the remaining balance in full or the loan will become a taxable event and will also trigger the 10% tax penalty (for borrowers under 59 ½)
3. People who borrow from their employer retirement plan may face loan fees, i.e. loan origination fees, loan maintenance fees, etc. And if the loan is particularly small (say $1,000 for an example) you could theoretically be paying 15% just in fees, which will not go back into your plan.
4. Finally, there are major opportunity costs associated with a Qualified Plan Loan. For example, if the borrowed funds in your account can potentially earn an average of 8% a year while your borrowed funds can only earn a theoretical 4.5% with the interest from the loan, you could theoretically be losing money (depending on market conditions).
In the end, a Qualified Plan Loan may not a great idea for those who have other means of getting an affordable loan and in most cases should only be used as a last resort.
So, how can someone get money for large purchases without going to a bank or borrowing from their retirement plan? For starters, people can make it a monthly habit to contribute to an emergency fund and/or a special purchase(s) fund so that they will not have to borrow money in the first place (please read our previous blogs on emergency funds and on general savings tips).
Overall, borrowing can be quite a hassle and could be costly in the long run no matter how you look at it. However, if you develop a plan for making a large purchase or plan ahead of an emergency, funding these events in our lives can be a much smoother and inexpensive process. If you currently do not have a plan, contact Castle Rock Investment Company to help you reach life’s major financial milestones, we will always work in your best interest!