Americans are Withdrawing Retirement Funds Early Amidst Financial Stress; Here's What Experts say

Americans are Withdrawing Retirement Funds Early Amidst Financial Stress; Here's What Experts say
Cover Image Source: Unsplash|Photo by Josh Appel

With rising food prices, higher rent, and other costs stretching household budgets, and increasing number of Americans are tapping into their 401K retirement savings earlier than anticipated. Whether it's for unexpected emergencies or just to get by, Americans are taking the easy way out to withdraw retirement funds, putting future stability at risk.

Image Source: Unsplash|Photo by Nick Pampoukidis
Image Source: Unsplash|Photo by Nick Pampoukidis

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Recently, the data from the Vanguard Group 3.6% of their participants took out funds early in 2023, which is higher than in previous years. They have been able to gather data on how many people are resorting to their 401(k) accounts to get the money to satisfy their loans and other expenses. In light of the grim situation, they posted about the matter in their Facebook community to know the reason behind so many Americans indulging in this practice.

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Many including Miechelle Croft, shared their stories saying that she never imagined that there could be a time when she would have to use her retirement fund. But with unexpected challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic affecting her business and family finances, she had no choice left. Withdrawing funds from your retirement account comes with unnecessary tax and penalty payments. Others suggested that they took loans for the emergency expenses, sliding into debt. On the one hand, withdrawals provide short-term relief, but they also reduce your future savings and financial goals. Reacting to those citing emergency situations as a reason for early withdrawals, many financial experts advised that people must explore other options first, but also acknowledged that sometimes tapping retirement accounts is the only option left.

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Taking money out of your 401(k) scheme before its maturity i.e. at your retirement can cost you a hefty amount with penalties. Since this money is being accumulated for the time when you will stop working, so whenever you deviate from that motive government imposes taxes on each transaction. For example, if you're younger than 59 and a half years old, you are obliged to pay an extra penalty of 10%. So, if you're just trying to get some quick cash for a house or to pay for your mortgages, withdrawing money out early can end up being expensive. Additionally, if you're in the 22% federal tax bracket, you owe 22% plus any state taxes. On top of that, there's the 10% penalty. For instance, if you withdraw $10,000 then you'll only receive $6,100 after the deduction of taxes and fees.

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If it's a real emergency, where people might lose their home or need to pay unexpected medical bills, they might be able to qualify for a hardship withdrawal. Kyle Moore, a financial planner at Quarry Hill Advisors suggested, "But when you try to take a hardship withdrawal from your plan, that plan gets to decide which of those emergencies they're going to allow you to withdraw for. Some plans don't even allow those hardship withdrawals at all". Money in 401(k) usually earns 10% per year, and if one doesn't withdraw $10,000, that amount could yield $67,000 in 20 years and a massive $174,000 in 30 years.

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