Have you refinanced your home into oblivion? Tapped out every available money resource with a myriad of loans and credit cards? When buying a home, 401(k) retirement plans can be used to fund your downpayment.

If you’ve never heard of this option, it’s because until recently, it just wasn’t done that frequently. But with the market still not fully recovered, and people desiring to cut their high interest debt, more folks are discovering this alternative lending source.

Pros:

• A 401(k) loan does not appear on your credit report. They are not reported to Experian, and do not become a part of your credit history.

• The interest on these loans is some of the lowest out there.

• You’ll get your money more quickly than if you were using another means of borrowing.

• Since it’s a loan, you will not be charged the 10 percent early withdrawal penalties plus income taxes you would have to pay if you withdrew the money.

• You don’t have to qualify for the loan through the usual long, painful credit approval process, because in effect, you are the lender.

• No assets or collateral are needed to secure the loan. Since it’s a loan, you will not be charged the 10 percent early withdrawal penalties plus income taxes.

Cons:

• The biggest con is that you are forfeiting the accrued interest you would earn if your money stayed in the 401(k). Calculated over the long term, it can cost tens (even hundreds) of thousands of dollars in potential gain.

• Some plans do not allow contributions to the 401(k) for the period of the loan.

• Unlike a home equity loan, the interest is not tax deductible.

• If you lose or quit your job, the loan is often due in full in 30-60 days (although some plans are open to renegotiating the terms of the loan. Find out before you sign the papers.)

• If you default on the loan, it is considered a withdrawal and you will owe a 10 percent penalty plus a hefty tax payment. So if you had borrowed $50,000 and couldn’t pay it back, you would have to pay a $5,000 penalty and federal and state taxes that could take another $20,000 of the amount.

To calculate the actual cost of borrowing from either source: for a home equity loan, ignoring up-front costs, the after-tax cost is the interest rate minus your tax savings (interest rate times 1 minus your tax rate).

 

Borrowing from your 401K

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