Should I Borrow From My 401k? Only If You Are A Petulant Fool

Cash Only Register

Are you wondering: Should I borrow from my 401k? The short answer is no. Your 401k is for your retirement. If you borrow from your 401k, you might not have the discipline to pay yourself back. Once you start raiding your 401k for current expenses, you leave your future self in jeopardy.

By borrowing from your 401K, you are robbing your future self in the hopes of having a better life now. Some of you are tempted to borrow from your 401k to buy a house. Although real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth, it's important to compartmentalize your wealth.

Instead of borrowing from your 401k, you should be trying to max out your 401k every year you can without fail. Let compounding working its magic for as long as possible. For those of you following my 401k by age guide, the majority of you will become 401k millionaires by 60.

Should I Borrow From My 401k? No

Who is going to take care of you when you are old? The government? Doubtful. Your kids? Hahaha! Only you can rely on yourself. If all my wealth disappears now at age 35, I have the energy to find a new job, work on a new idea, and survive. If I have nothing at the age of 70, I'm screwed and will become a burden on society, thank you very much.

So many people who borrow or want to borrow from their 401K think they are smarter than they are. They argue that they've either found a better investment, or they just absolutely need to have that new car or house. This inability to delay gratification is one of the main reasons why we got into this economic mess in the first place!

Unless you have some serious type of life-threatening emergency and for some reason don't have any savings, do not borrow from the 401K. Treat your 401K like a sacred hippopotamus. Let's talk about various reasons why some borrow from their 401K.

Main Reasons Why People Borrow From Their 401k

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.” – Stuart Smalley, SNL

To pay for medical emergencies.

Hopefully with Obamacare, fewer people will get financially slaughtered due to unforeseen medical emergencies. Using your 401K to pay for medical emergencies is not a bad idea, provided that such expenses have high interest rates and could damage your credit if not paid.

If you or a loved one is facing a life or death situation and have no other sources of funds, borrowing from your 401K is fine. Better to pay the penalty and risk your retirement future than let a loved one die.

To buy a house.

I'm not sure when we got this notion that we all deserve to be homeowners, but it is really wreaking havoc on people's finances. If you cannot afford to put at least 20% down on your own and have another 10% buffer in cash, you probably do not deserve to buy a house. You are putting your neighbors and the entire economy at risk for buying an enormously expensive asset you can't afford.

If you default and go into a short-sale, you will immediately drag down the value of your neighbors even though they've always paid on time. There will always be houses for sale. Wait until you've got the capital using my 30/30/3-5 home buying rule.

To invest.

Although there are plenty of good enough options to invest within your 401K, some people can't resist investing in the next good idea. The large majority of private equity/angel investments go nowhere. The large majority of great ideas that seem too good to be true, or exactly that.

Unless you are a sophisticated investor with a fantastic investment track record, do not borrow from your 401K to invest in other things you don't fully understand. Trust me, you are not Warren Buffett. And for goodness sake, do not borrow money to invest in cryptocurrency like some people are doing now with credit cards!

Going on margin to buy stocks is not a good idea. Not only are you unlikely to outperform the market, you will be paying high margin fees.

Bad Reasons To Borrow From A 401k

Here are the worst reasons to borrow from a 401k.

To buy a car.

This could be the dumbest thing ever. If you cannot afford a car, do not buy a car. In the land of Internet and fantastic public transportation, if you are spending much more than 20% of your gross income on your car, you cannot afford it!

Furthermore, if you do not have enough disposable cash lying around to pay in full, you likely can't afford your car either. Considering spending the least amount of money on a depreciating asset.

Bitconnect price chart
Bitconnect price chart. If you borrowed money to invest, you lose.

To keep up with the Joneses.

This is really one of the worst things you can do. Because your 27 year old friends own houses paid for by Bank of Mom & Dad, even if you don't have the capital, you are propelled to own a house yourself to keep up.

You tell yourself that because you studied hard in school, are smart, think you're good looking, and make $80,000 a year you deserve all the good things as someone older than you.

Main Negatives Of Borrowing From A 401k

Teaches impatience.

I firmly believe that doing anything successfully takes methodical planning and patience. Whether it's starting a business, playing a sport, thriving in your career, or saving a nice nut for retirement, you need to have the fortitude to push on through when things don't look so great.

If you look at the chart below, those with $5,000-$9,900 have a much higher propensity to borrow from their 401Ks than every other account balance segment. It's as if as soon as there's a decent chunk of change, this segment feels a need to raid their account for something.

One of the keys to building wealth is to develop grit and git rid of entitlement mentality!

Gives you a false sense of security.

Don't let your 401K be a crutch on your wealth building endeavors. If you always carry the mindset that you can borrow from your 401K, you might not try as hard to build income streams that are in your control. It's easy to get lazy when we have a crutch.

Big government allows us to not try as hard. Unions allow us to not fight as hard. The Federal Reserve allows us to not spend as carefully. Beware of moral hazard.

Could create a double financial whammy.

If you need to borrow money from your 401K, chances are you don't have as much money in liquid savings to feel financially comfortable. You could end up losing your job. If so, your 401K loan comes due immediately. If you so happen to spend your 401K to borrow more money (like get a mortgage), you are going to experience a world of financial hurt.

Decreases your chances of wealth maximization.

After creating a game plan for financial security, we must then hope for the best. The more we save and the more we do our research, chances are the more financial security we have. Being old and poor is no way to live.

How many times have you heard 55 year old people in the news say they are devastated after a layoff? How can you be devastated if you've had 30 years to save and invest? Life happens all the time. Don't expose your golden hippo to the chicaneries of life. The money in your 401K and IRA are protected in bankruptcy.

401K Study By Vanguard

Source: Vanguard Report by Cynthia Pagliaro

Your 401K balance adds up over time. If you borrow from a 401k, you rob its ability to compound over time.

After 10 years of maxing out your contributions, your 401K will likely grow to over $200,000. You don't have to be a genius investor at all. Company matches and compounded returns do the work for you! After 30 years of maximum contribution, there's a great chance you'll have more than $1 million dollars in your 401K alone!

If You Really Want To Borrow From Your 401k Or IRA

If you really want to borrow from your 401k, then you can read this post: How To Borrow From A 401k. I still don't advise you do so, but now you know.

In addition, there is this little known rule called the 60-day rollover rule, which enables you to borrow money from your 401k or IRA. Rollovers happen usually when you are changing jobs.

You have 60 days to rollover your retirement plan to a new one if you want. During this time period, you can borrow from your retirement plans. Where people get in trouble is paying back the borrowed funds within 60 days. If people don't, they face a 10% penalty and taxes.

Financial Samurai 401K Progress Guide

401k savings targets by age - Should I Borrow From My 401k?

If you raid your 401K because you think you deserve something before you should, you will put a stop to compounding, momentum, and wealth accumulation.

I can promise you very few people who borrow from their 401K will be able to follow my 401K progress guide. If you have a 401K, treasure it by preserving it.

Be patient and wait your turn. Tell yourself you are nobody special, to prevent yourself from financial misfortune. You'll be happier, and so will the rest of the economy!

Track Your Finances Diligently To build wealth

 Get a handle on your finances by signing up with Empower. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize.

Before Empower, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ difference accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to manage my finances. Now, I can just log into Empower to see how my stock accounts are doing, where my spending is going every month, and how my net worth is progressing.

Empower is great for tracking your 401K balance, reducing portfolio fees, and planning for retirement with their award winning Retirement Planning planner. There is no better free online platform that has helped me grow my 401K to over $400,000 and outperform the market. It only takes a minute to sign up.

Retirement Planning Calculator - Should I Borrow From My 401k?
Personal Capital's Retirement Planning Calculator. Click to see how you're doing

Invest In Real Estate To Build More Wealth And Diversify

Real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth. It is a less volatile asset class that generates income and provides shelter. I recommend investing in real estate in addition to contributing to your 401(k).

Here are my two favorite private real estate platforms.

Fundrise: A way for all investors to diversify into real estate through private funds with just $10. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and manages over $3.3 billion for 400,000+ investors. 

The real estate platform invests primarily in residential and industrial properties in the Sunbelt, where valuations are cheaper and yields are higher. The spreading out of America is a long-term demographic trend. For most people, investing in a diversified fund is the way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations and higher rental yields. These cities also have higher growth potential due to job growth and demographic trends. 

If you are a real estate enthusiast with more time, you can build your own diversified real estate portfolio with CrowdStreet. However, before investing in each deal, make sure to do extensive due diligence on each sponsor. Understanding each sponsor's track record and experience is vital.


I've invested $953,000 in real estate crowdfunding so far. My goal is to diversify my expensive SF real estate holdings and earn more 100% passive income. I plan to continue dollar-cost investing into private real estate for the next decade.

About the Author:

Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened a Charles Schwab brokerage account online in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing. He 13 years after college working at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse Group. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley.

In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $380,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.

Should I Borrow From My 401k Is A Financial Samurai original post.

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64 thoughts on “Should I Borrow From My 401k? Only If You Are A Petulant Fool”

  1. Sam, while it is definitely a priority to not pull money from your 401k, I am someone that ended up having to do it due to my financial situation.

    The zero percent interest promotion on my credit card with a balance of about 3600 was about to run out. After attempting to balance transfer the amount over to a Chase Slate card (0% interest and 0 transfer fee) and only being approved for 2000, I was forced to borrow 1,600 from my 401k in order to avoid being charged anywhere between 12-16% interest.

    I justified this because I figured that rather than pay the credit card company the interest in the time that it took me to liquidate the debt, I would rather pay the interest to myself. I set up automatic deductions every time I am paid to make sure that the money goes back into the account before I have a chance to spend it and I was able to avoid paying interest on the funds entirely.

    I know that it’s bad to pull from your 401k for all the reasons you have listed, but in my case, it’s helped me lower my credit card debt and avoid interest rate charges while repaying the amount borrowed *with interest* to my own 401k.

  2. Last night I took out a loan out of my 401K to pay down the final $13K on my loans. The student loan was 4.25% interest and the monthly payment was $625 a month since the refi I did a while ago when the balance was larger and had a 5 year pay off plan regardless of how much prepayment I did. I read a lot about the perils of 401k loans but felt that the amount is relatively small, the stock market has been kind of stagnant and overvalued and I don’t foresee things getting better so I don’t think I’m missing any compounded growth (my YTD growth is 3.75% on my 401K). Also the interest I’d pay on the 401k is 3.25% and I pay it to myself over 4 years with $133 biweekly payments. I could also pay the 401k loan back more quickly than 4 years if I wanted to with no penalty. I will be able to continue to contribute to my 401k with my employer match while also repaying the loan. I feel like I thought this through and don’t see much downside to doing it, but just wanted to hear your thoughts. I just will feel so much better having zero student loan debt, not having the 625 a month payment (instead will have a $266 a month 401k loan payment). I also intend on putting more than the 133 towards the 401k loan as I can so thinking I could pay it off in 1-2 years.

    Also don’t want to hear about double taxation which is a myth. You contribute pre-tax, you get the loan pre-tax so of course you have to pay it back with post tax money. What other loan lets you pay back with pre-tax anyway? I’d be paying my student loan with post tax money too so it’s the same thing basically.

    1. I agree with your decision. I would rather pay myself the interest than pay someone else interest any day. In the long run, you are basically netting far more income by reducing an expense and contributing even more than you actually borrowed.

  3. The amounts that can be added into a 401(k) are limited each year. Once the year is over so is your opportunity to add that amount. Instead of putting cash for a house down payment into a taxable account, why not contribute that to a 401(k) if you weren’t going to be able to max out the 401(k) anyway? That way, when you’re repaying the loan, it won’t be counted against your current year’s amount.

    Of course, there’s always the risk of losing your job, which would require a quick payback.

  4. Jay @ effumoney

    If the options in your 401k plan are crap, and you can borrow the money at Prime + 1% currently 4.25% and then invest the money in well diversified index ETF’s or Mutual funds then pay yourself back the loaned money and keep the interest you wind up ahead of them game, you have to have the assets to support the cash flow, also many plans don’t allow you to contribute while you have an outstanding loan, if that is the case and you can front load do so, if not it is better to contribute then try to invest the loan.

    I will post more details on this strategy on my blog this evening; I am not necessarily recommending it, just pointing it out as an option if you want to pump up your returns in your 401k.

    1. Investor Junkie

      My wife’s 403(b) is 3% APR for loans (fixed). I agree for the possible situation you describe. If your company’s 401(k)/403(b) options stink this might be a option to help with your returns. This assumes the company does matching of course. If they do not, then you are best to just not use their retirement options and invest in taxable accounts. You should NEVER pass up company matching!

      1. Jay @ effumoney

        Sorry I didn’t get to write my post last night, I got home later then I expected but it is up now, I go through the basic math to show how you can wind up with larger account balances both in a 401k and your taxable accounts.

        Here is the link if you are interested.

        @Investor Junkie – I would still max out a 401k/403b even if there is no match, the tax deferal is an automatic return of 10%/15%/25%/28%/33%/35% depending on your tax bracket not to mention state taxes as well.

  5. People raid their 401k because they lack the discipline to save for the big ticket items. Medical emergencies I kind of understand, however.. If the medical emergency is that large where you need to take out a loan from your 401k to cover it .. for example 50k or so, then you should have insurance to cover you. Other than some weird medical thing… No excuse for taking money out the 401k

    1. Good point about if the medica emergency is that large, that insurance should cover it!

      There is co-insurance nowadays, which basically makes people pay a percentage of the total bill (usually around 20%). So, I guess a 50K bill would be $10K, and that would fit in the bill of borrowing from a 401K as some don’t have that lying around.

  6. Sorry to hear about your stomach virus Jeremy, however, congrats on losing 9 pounds! I always look to that positive when I’m sick.

    When there’s only one way to go, that is what we do.

  7. RichUncle EL

    I have a coworker who after 5 years of working does not have a 401K, Do you know what the crazy thing is he doesn”t even know if he should enroll in the plan. I told this person to do so immediately and I doubt they will listen to me. But you know what they mentioned towards the end of the conversation? How good the video game was the night before. Wasting money on video games when you do not have a 401K is immaturity to the max.

    1. That is ridiculous. Is this the reason why people are devastated to lose their jobs after 30 years? Seriously, if you save and invest for 30 straight years, you should have more than enough to hold yourself over for several years, especially with government assistance.

  8. I’m a petulant fool as charged. I’ve twice borrowed from the 401K to purchase rental property and paid all back in full. Once took 2 years in the down market and he second was three (or was that four) months.

    I won’t say that there is never a time when someone should borrow from the 401K. Sometimes the math makes sense.

    Now, if you are borrowing to buy a shiny new car, you should definitely be walking!

    1. But why not just wait until you have the money to buy? If it took you 3-4 months to pay back your 401K loan, why not just wait 3-4 months to buy the property? There are ALWAYS new properties that come around, especially in this market where you are.

      1. Remember, I backed into a mortgage on the second property. I had to buy and hold for those three months to secure the mortgage. :)

  9. I disagree with a few points in here. Should people be deterred from borrowing from a 401(k) for a depreciating asset like a car? Of course. But if a better investment comes around, why not? The only realistic scenario I see where this occurs for most people is to invest in a rent producing investment property. Let’s take my example:

    – I borrowed 50K from my 401(k) to close on a set of college real estate properties
    – I’m paying back the loan over 5 years which is like 900/mo. the interest rate was 4.5%
    – There ARE NO FEES. And the interest gets paid back solely to me.

    Let’s say for years, I don’t even go cash flow positive (unlikely, but being real conservative here). Let’s also say the properties never increase in value. These are ridiculous assumptions, but just to show how much it makes sense, bear with me…

    Each year, I’m paying off 5K, 6K, 7K in principal (amortization improves each year of course). After like 8-9 years, IF the property never made any positive cash flow at all, and if it never even appreciated, then I’ve already made back my money. Everything after that is free money.

    Of course, we are just going cash flow positive now a year into the deal after some tenant issues last year upon purchase. And looking out 10 years, it would be hard to believe a property with year over year increasing rents has not appreciated in value.

    The math is pretty clear on this purchase at least – borrowing from the 401k was a great move – AND it diversified my assets out of stocks.

    1. This is exactly why I borrowed from my 401k to buy a house (which I will live in now and hope to turn into a rental property when I make my next move).

      Someone who suggests I keep 95% of my next worth in stocks/bonds instead of diversifying into real estate is dumb in my opinion.

      1. Why not contribute less to your 401K and use that money as a 20% down payment instead?

        Why not wait until you have the money to buy before buying?

        If 95% of your net worth is in stocks, is that so risky at your age? I’m assuming given the percentage, your net worth might not be that high compared to your income, so it’s not as risky as you think.

        1. Darwin's Money

          This is just where the money happened to be when the opportunity rolled around. I had $50K set aside in a different taxable trading account which could be liquidated, but which makes more sense? Trigger thousands of dollars in capital gains? Or simply take a loan from myself?

    2. You forgot several things:

      * How do you know your 401K won’t perform as well or better?
      * There is no free lunch. 50K for property is 50K less in stocks.
      * Property is fine, but it is not exactly an apples to apples comparison in terms of work involved. You’ve written a lot in the past about the college party ragers that have already occurred.

      My question is: If you wanted a rental property, why not use $50,000 from your liquid savings to buy it?

      1. Darwin's Money

        * How do you know your 401K won’t perform as well or better? –> You don’t. But why not diversify? You own real estate right? Why don’t you have all that initial investment in stocks? Same reason. Plus, my anticipated ROI is higher than the 6-7% I anticipate stocks returning over the next couple decades.

        * There is no free lunch. 50K for property is 50K less in stocks. –> ROI, diversification.

        * Property is fine, but it is not exactly an apples to apples comparison in terms of work involved. You’ve written a lot in the past about the college party ragers that have already occurred. –> true, up front it was a lot of work. Now, with a new group of tenants this year, things are much smoother and the property manager is handling most of the day to day. I’d trade off a higher ROI and diversification for a couple hours a month any time.

        1. I enjoy diversification, but I’m not borrowing money to borrow more money for real estate. I bought real estate through savings accumulated outside of my 401K and stock trading accounts. They are totally separate and is the crux of the argument. If you couldn’t afford to come up with 50K for the DP, and really want diversification into real estate, then just buy REITs or home builders.

  10. Borrowing from a 401k = bad news. Now, I think that if somebody has a medical emergency or something truly unforseen, that’s one thing. But raiding it to buy a house, buy goodies, keep up with the Joneses, etc….not smart at all in my opinion!

    The really crazy thing is, those people who do so are probably making better decisions than many others, in that they actually have money in a 401k in the first place.

    1. True. The importance of compartmentalizing our wealth can’t be said enough. Let individual segments of wealth building accounts grow. It’s crazy how much our 401Ks get after giving it a long enough period of time.

      I’d much rather borrow money elsewhere that via my 401K.

  11. jefferson @SeeDebtRun

    that last point in your article is the one that is the most startling to me, and is the reason why companies are always more than happy to offer these 401k loans to their employees.. one company that i worked at actually advertised them on bulletin boards around the office..

    if you have an outstanding 401k loan, you are much less likely to up and leave the company.. the penalties are harsh for an early 401k deduction, and if you don’t have the cash on hand– you have no choice but to pay them.

    with that elephant in the room.. many folks just elect to stay at their current position until the loan is paid off, even if they are unhappy with their situation, or even if a better opportunity comes up elsewhere…

    1. Does stuff like this really happen? I can’t imagine a 401K loan as the reason why people stick in misery for longer than they should just so they have more time to pay it back.

      This to me sounds like a BIG problem and a negative death spiral.

  12. I’ve never even thought about withdrawing money from my 401k. I’d feel like I was hurting myself and there’s nothing I want or need that desperately anyway. If I was in a pinch I might reduce my monthly contributions temporarily but that’s about it.

      1. Which forces me to ask the question… where does life insurance come into play in all of this? For example, a cash-value whole life policy (that you can overfund in the initial years) would have a certain value that you can “borrow” up to 50% of in retirement and lower your effective rate of taxation in retirement. Then upon death, the remaining 50% is paid as part of the survivor benefits with no need to repay any value.

        Would you see something like this as an alternate investment vehicle for retirement versus say a Roth IRA for people who are over the income caps for that type of investment?

        1. It’s a reasonable option for those who’ve already maxed everything out and have extra disposable income.

          Term life is probably the cheapest and easiest way to go for most people. I’ve got little experience with whole life.

  13. I don’t always agree with everything you say, Sam, but as someone who has just turned 64, I have my funds investing variously in a tax-deferred IRA, a Roth IRA, and a 401(k), and I have never withdrawn a dime from any of that money. But even if you don’t max out your 401(k), you can do pretty well by contributing even 10% of your income, and certainly enough to get whatever match your employer provides. My situation is somewhat different from your chart as I did not start working full time until age 29 as I was in grad school until then; also despite your disparaging claim — “Who is going to take care of you when you are old? The government? Doubtful” — I am not convinced social security is going away anytime soon, and I am likely at my age to benefit from it for the foreseeable future. (For the record: I fully support major entitlement reform so that succeeding generations can also benefit, even if that means some reduction in my own benefits.)

    The biggest problem with the 401(k) concerns the limited number of investment choices, the (often hidden) fees that cut into one’s returns and the lack of good investor education. Our 401(k) is with Fideltiy, and from time to time I sit in on 401(k) planning meetings. I see a number of people in my smallish company contributing all their investments either to mutual funds with high expense ratios or to the money market account with a .5 expense ratio that is earning .1 percent. Personally, I lobbied successfully for several of the Fidelity Spartan index funds, which are all I use for my 401(k) investments, and I try (not always successfully) to convince others to do the same.

    If you have unsatisfactory choices in your 401(k) offerings, a little known option once you hit 59.5 is to do an in-service rollover to a traditional IRA. This strategy is allowed by the IRA but may not be available with all 401(k)s, so do your homework, but it means you can put all your 401(k) money in the investments you want rather than what your employer wants, while your funds retain their tax-deferred status.

    1. Larry,

      Thanks for your perspective. I would be disappointed if my readers always agreed with me. Can’t learn much if so!

      If I was 64, I’d be bullish on SS as well. Unfortunately, I’m under 40 and expect best case 70% of what is owed if the retirement age stays the same.

      My chart includes years worked as well to incorporate folks who start contributing later. They are forward assumptions based of a 17k minimum max contribution.


  14. I am a fool who borrowed from my 403(b) plan. However, I borrowed 20k right before the market tanked and bought a for 20k in VT. I am selling it this year for 80k and it’s been rented since I purchased it for cash. I think I did ok while it would have otherwise tanked with the market.

    1. Nice job! I’ve never met someone online who has lost money! This is why I’m so bullish on the economy.

      Why not buy “VT” for a 4 bagger with your savings instead though?

      1. At the time I had no savings. I was a mess. If I knew then what I know now I would be rich, but I’m working on it!!

  15. Patience = wealth. Debt = impatience. Hopefully people do the basic math and realize THEY SHOULD NOT BUY STUFF THEY CANNOT AFFORD! And if you’re borrowing from you 401k, you cannot afford it.

    As far as injury goes, it’s really a case by case basis. Everything else is stupid.

    1. “As far as injury goes, it’s really a case by case basis.” – unless the unfortunate decided to forego insurance and demand others to foot the bill … in that case it’s another case of straightforward irresponsibility.

      Even if he/she has 10/20% co-insurance, most would be able to pay themselves for almost everything if they stop driving, eating out, flying around like a bird, etc. Basically, most people simply leech money because they don’t understand how to provide for themselves. Unfortunately this means that you and I are forced to pay up AND be responsible on top of it.

      1. I agree that insurance is a must, and I don’t like the idea of a leech. I was more talking about something that even insurance is maxed out on and you empty your savings to pay for. Example: I broke my neck and insurance only paid the first $100,000 of medical bills, and I had to cover the rest. Luckily, it wasn’t too much more, but I know procedures that cost a LOT more and have more involved (cancer) could max out insurance and cause them to choose between eating and paying their medical bills.

        That’s where I was coming from, but I do agree, those who borrow from 401k’s because of lack of proper financial planning are fools. FOOLS, I TELL YOU! :)

    1. Great report, although Figure 1 just shows the median age of 43.9 is for the 246,259 defined contribution plans study, not the median age for those taking out a loan.

      Figure 4 shows that 12.9% of the 246,259 participants took out a loan, but it doesn’t say what the median age is of the 12.9%, just race. I added Figure 5 to the post, and it looks like age 55+ has the highest propensity to borrow sadly. So close, yet so far!!

      1. You’re right, I said median, meant average. Gosh, you’d never know that I work a lot in stats. LOL :-)

    2. 55+? That’s not good. Maybe they retired early and didn’t have a good plan and had to take a loan. I think the accumulated amount is probably too small when people are in their 20s and 30s to bother taking a loan out. It’s a bit sad. My 401k is closer to the low end than high end.

      1. I’m hoping that perhaps it’s because they have a very nice nut, that borrowing a little bit is no big deal. As we age, I think we feel more at risk of death logically. Hence, why not borrow a little just in case we can’t utilize 100% of our 401K by 59.5 penalty free.

  16. People in general would rather br satisified now than give something up now and be set for life later. The now part seems more certain. That said, I don’t agree.with it and I would never touch my 401k early.

  17. You mean I shouldn’t borrow from my 401k even if it’s to put the money in a more stable investment like peer to peer lending? Kidding, of course. I might consider contributing less though in order to allow more money for other investments… If I am quite sure they will out-perform.

    1. Yeah, probably not. All about compartamentalizing our wealth. Besides, borrowing from your 401k is a PITA. P2p lending is easier I’ve found.

      Also, a 401k cannot be touched in bankruptcy.

  18. I think you missed the biggest drawback- that you have to pay back the loan with after tax money. I’ve heard people say “I’m paying myself the interest”, like they are some sort of genius and they’ve figured out the best way to borrow money.
    Also, if for some reason you lose your job, or decide to take a new job, you may have to repay the loan in full.

    1. That and you are on the hook for the entire amount if you lose your job or want to change jobs. Imagine losing your job, and to add to the trauma of the lost income you now have to deal with a loan that comes due immediately.

    2. If you were going to take a loan no matter what. I dont see how borrowing from yourself is a worse option than borrowing from a bank. Youll pay roughly the same or lower interest with the 401 and can set the terms of the loan and in many cases not forget your credit score. You were going to take the loan either way the only difference is whether you give the bank 5 percent or yourself.

      To those who say you lose the compounding interest. If at least a portion of your 401 isnt in low risk funds that prob dont return 5 percent then youre not trying. Putting the whole lump of your investment in the high risk funds all the time is how you end up hating yourself with the impending market crashes. Most years you will make out but there will come a day you drop most of your invesment if youre not watching it or rebalancing from time to time.

      So there are ways in which a 401k loan makes sense mathematically provided you dont lose your job as you are correct having to take that as an income deduction would probably result in you just dropping more cash from the account to pay the penalty.

  19. I didn’t contribute as much as I should have when I first started working. I think I started out at a paltry 5% or so. I wish I could go back in time and increase my contributions! Or I can start lying about my age. Instead of being a mediocre 26 year old, I can be an excellent 24 year old!

      1. Gen Y Finance Journey

        Man, finding all the places where my old domain is auto-filled in is really difficult! It seems like every day I find a new place where my blogspot domain is listed. Lesson #376 of switching from Blogger to WordPress: tirelessly search for any and all occurrences of your blogspot domain.

    1. Genius,

      I was just thinking to myself the other day how patient all those baby boomers and generation Xers were/are. lol

  20. Housing is really a big one because it affects your neighbors who are innocent bystanders in your own financial undoing. It’s OK to hurt yourself financially given it’s a free world. Just don’t hurt others in the process.

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