In-Service Withdrawals from 401(k) plans

A qualified reservist distribution is a distribution (1) to a reservist or national guardsman ordered or called to active duty after September 11, 2001, for a period in excess of 179 days or for an indefinite period, and (2) that’s made during the period beginning on the date of such order or call to duty and ending at the close of the active duty period.

You may be familiar with the rules for putting money into a 401(k) plan. But are you familiar with the rules for taking your money out? Federal law limits the withdrawal options that a 401(k) plan can offer. But a 401(k) plan may offer fewer withdrawal options than the law allows, and may even provide that you can’t take any money out at all until you leave employment. However, many 401(k) plans are more flexible.

First, consider a plan loan

Many 401(k) plans allow you to borrow money from your own account. A loan may be attractive if you don’t qualify for a withdrawal, or you don’t want to incur the taxes and penalties that may apply to a withdrawal, or you don’t want to permanently deplete your retirement assets. (Also, you must take any available loans from all plans maintained by your employer before you’re even eligible to withdraw your own pretax or Roth contributions from a 401(k) plan because of hardship.)

In general, you can borrow up to one half of your vested account balance (including your contributions, your employer’s contributions, and earnings), but not more than $50,000.

You can borrow the funds for up to five years (longer if the loan is to purchase your principal residence). In most cases you repay the loan through payroll deduction, with principal and interest flowing back into your account. But keep in mind that when you borrow, the unpaid principal of your loan is no longer in your 401(k) account working for you.

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