Can I Cash Out My 401k After Quitting

Whether or not you can cash out your 401(k) after quitting depends on several factors, including your age, reason for leaving, and the plan’s rules. Typically, you can’t make a full withdrawal without paying taxes and penalties unless you’re 59½ or older. If you leave your job before 59½, you may be able to take a hardship withdrawal or loan. However, you’ll need to meet specific criteria, such as having an immediate and heavy financial need. If you take a non-qualified withdrawal, you’ll pay income taxes and a 10% penalty. Note that the plan document you received when you joined the plan will provide specific details about withdrawals and distributions.

Withdrawal Options After Resigning

Upon leaving your job, you have several options for accessing your 401(k) funds. The most common withdrawal options include:

  • Withdrawal penalty: If you withdraw funds before age 59½, you will typically pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, there are exceptions for certain events, such as medical expenses or higher education.
  • Roth 401(k) withdrawal: If you have a Roth 401(k), you can withdraw your contributions tax-free at any time. However, you will pay taxes on any earnings withdrawn before age 59½.
  • 401(k) loan: You may be able to borrow up to 50% of your vested balance, not exceeding $50,000. Loans must be repaid within five years (or ten years for primary home purchases).
  • 401(k) rollover: You can roll over your 401(k) funds into another retirement account, such as an IRA or new employer’s 401(k). This option allows you to avoid taxes and penalties.
  • 401(k) lump sum withdrawal: You can withdraw the entire balance of your 401(k) in a lump sum. This option may trigger the 10% early withdrawal penalty, as well as ordinary income taxes.
Withdrawal OptionTax ImplicationsAge Restrictions
Withdrawal penalty10% penalty + ordinary income taxesBefore age 59½
Roth 401(k) withdrawalNo taxes on contributions, taxes on earnings before age 59½None
401(k) loanNo taxes or penalties if repaid on timeNone
401(k) rolloverNo taxes or penaltiesNone
401(k) lump sum withdrawal10% penalty + ordinary income taxesBefore age 59½

Tax Implications of 401k Distribution

Withdrawing funds from your 401k before reaching retirement age typically incurs substantial tax penalties. Understanding the implications is crucial to make informed decisions.

Tax Consequences

  • Income Tax: Withdrawals are considered taxable income, subject to your ordinary income tax rate.
  • 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty: An additional 10% penalty is imposed on withdrawals before age 59.5, unless an exception applies.
  • Exceptions to Penalty: Exceptions may apply to withdrawals for certain expenses, such as medical expenses, disability, or a first-time home purchase.

Tax Withholding

When you take a 401k distribution, 20% is typically withheld for federal income taxes. You can request a lower withholding rate, but be aware that you may be liable for additional taxes at the end of the year.

Other Considerations

Withdrawal TypeTax Implications
Regular DistributionIncome tax + 10% penalty (if before age 59.5)
Direct RolloverNo taxes or penalties if transferred to another eligible retirement account within 60 days
Roth DistributionNo income tax or penalty if qualified withdrawals are made (e.g., age 59.5 and account held for 5 years)


Cashing out your 401k after quitting may have significant tax implications. To avoid penalties, consider leaving funds in your account until retirement or rolling them over to another qualified plan. Consult a tax professional to determine the best course of action for your specific circumstances.

Financial Planning Considerations

Before cashing out your 401k, it’s crucial to weigh the financial implications:

  • Early Withdrawal Penalty: Withdrawal before age 59½ triggers a 10% penalty on top of income tax.
  • Lost Growth Potential: Cashing out forfeits future earnings and compounding interest that could grow your balance significantly.
  • Tax Implications: Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, potentially increasing your tax liability.
  • Retirement Security: 401k funds are intended for retirement savings. Cashing out reduces your retirement nest egg.
Under 59½10% penalty
59½ to 59¾10% penalty on traditional 401k withdrawals
Over 59¾No penalty

Consider the following alternatives to cashing out:

  • 401k Loan: Borrow against your 401k without penalty. However, repayment must be made by termination of employment.
  • Roth Conversion: Convert traditional 401k funds to a Roth IRA. Withdrawals from Roth IRAs after age 59½ are tax-free.
  • Rollover: Roll over 401k funds into an IRA or new employer’s 401k to avoid early withdrawal penalties.

Withdrawing from 401(k) After Leaving a Job

Leaving a job can trigger important financial decisions, including whether to withdraw funds from your employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement account. Understanding the potential consequences is crucial before making this decision.

Impact on Retirement Savings

Withdrawing money from a 401(k) can significantly impact your long-term financial security:

  • Reduced retirement income: 401(k)s are designed to accumulate savings for retirement. Withdrawing funds reduces the amount of money available for retirement expenses.
  • Loss of tax-deferred growth: 401(k) contributions grow tax-deferred, meaning you pay no taxes on the earnings until withdrawal. Withdrawing funds means forfeiting this tax advantage.

In addition, early withdrawals from a 401(k) incur the following penalties:

  • 10% early withdrawal penalty: If you withdraw funds before age 59½, you will typically pay a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn.
  • Income tax: Withdrawals from a 401(k) are taxed as ordinary income, which can increase your tax liability.

Alternatives to Withdrawal

Consider alternative options to withdrawing funds from your 401(k):

  1. Leave funds in the 401(k): Preserving your 401(k) balance ensures maximum tax-deferred growth and avoids penalties.
  2. Rollover to an IRA: You can transfer your 401(k) funds to a traditional or Roth IRA, allowing for continued tax-advantaged growth and more investment options.
Early Withdrawal Penalties
Age at WithdrawalPenalty
Under 59½10%
59½ or olderNo penalty

Thanks for sticking with me through this exploration of the 401(k) withdrawal options after you’ve bid farewell to your employer. Remember, this topic can be as complex as a Rubik’s Cube, so don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance from a financial wizard or tax specialist. Keep in mind that the choices you make now will have a ripple effect on your financial future, so tread carefully, my friend. As always, I invite you to drop by again for more financial wisdom. Until then, invest wisely and stay curious!