Can You Withdraw From a 401k

Withdrawing funds from a 401(k) plan before you reach the age of 59½ typically results in a 10% penalty tax, in addition to income taxes on the amount withdrawn. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, you can take penalty-free withdrawals if you use the money to cover qualified expenses such as medical costs, college tuition, or a down payment on a first home. You can also take hardship withdrawals to cover certain financial emergencies, but these withdrawals may still be subject to income taxes. It’s important to carefully consider the tax implications and future financial needs before making a withdrawal from your 401(k).

Early Withdrawal Penalties

Withdrawing funds from a 401(k) before age 59½ typically incurs a 10% early withdrawal penalty imposed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This penalty applies to both regular withdrawals and loans, unless you meet specific exceptions.

  • Regular Withdrawals: Withdrawals made before age 59½ without an exception are subject to the 10% penalty.
  • 401(k) Loans: Loans that are not repaid timely are considered withdrawals and thus subject to the 10% penalty.

Exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty include:

  • Disability
  • Qualified medical expenses
  • Higher education expenses
  • First-time home purchase (up to $10,000)
  • Substantially equal periodic payments (SEPPs)
  • IRS levy
Withdrawal TypePenalty Exception
DisabilityMust be permanently and totally disabled
Qualified Medical ExpensesMust exceed 7.5% of AGI
Higher Education ExpensesMust be for qualified expenses of the taxpayer, spouse, or dependents
First-Time Home PurchaseMust be a qualified first-time home purchase
Substantially Equal Periodic PaymentsMust be calculated based on life expectancy or joint life expectancy and cannot be changed
IRS LevyLevy imposed by the IRS to satisfy a tax debt

It’s important to note that withdrawing funds from a 401(k) prematurely can have significant financial implications. Not only will you face a 10% penalty, but you will also lose out on potential investment growth over time.

While it’s generally not advisable to withdraw from a 401(k) account before retirement age, there are a few exceptions to the rule:

Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPPs)

You can take withdrawals from your 401(k) through SEPPs. These are regular, equal payments made over your lifetime, your life expectancy, or a period of up to 10 years.

Birth or Adoption of a Child

You can withdraw up to $5,000 for the birth or adoption of a child. This amount is not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, but it is taxed as income.

Higher Education Expenses

You can withdraw from your 401(k) to pay for qualified higher education expenses for yourself, your spouse, or your children.

First-Time Home Purchase

You can withdraw up to $10,000 for a first-time home purchase. This amount is not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, but it is taxed as income.


If you become disabled, you can withdraw from your 401(k) without paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

  • Age 59½ or Older
  • Retirement
  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Certain Hardships
ExceptionWithdrawal Limit
Birth or Adoption of a Child$5,000
Higher Education ExpensesNot specified
First-Time Home Purchase$10,000

Tax Implications of Early Withdrawal

Withdrawing funds from a 401(k) before age 59½ typically results in a 10% early withdrawal penalty, which is added to your federal income tax bill. The funds are also subject to income tax at your ordinary tax rate.

In addition, if you withdraw more than $10,000 in a year, you may be subject to an additional 10% tax on the excess amount. This tax is known as the “additional 10% tax on early distributions.”

Qualifying Exceptions

There are a few exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty, including:

  • Withdrawals made after age 59½
  • Withdrawals made due to disability
  • Withdrawals made to cover certain medical expenses
  • Withdrawals made to pay for qualified higher education expenses
  • Withdrawals used to purchase a first home (up to $10,000)

If you qualify for an exception to the early withdrawal penalty, you must still pay income tax on the withdrawn funds.

Tax Implications of Roth 401(k) Withdrawal

Withdrawing funds from a Roth 401(k) is generally more tax-advantaged than withdrawing funds from a traditional 401(k). Qualified withdrawals from a Roth 401(k) are not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty or income tax.

However, if you withdraw funds from a Roth 401(k) before age 59½ and the funds have not been in the account for at least five years, the earnings portion of the withdrawal may be subject to income tax.

Withdrawal TypeEarly Withdrawal PenaltyIncome Tax
Traditional 401(k), before age 59½10%Yes
Roth 401(k), before age 59½ and less than 5 yearsNoneOn earnings only
Roth 401(k), after age 59½ or at least 5 yearsNoneNone

Can You Withdraw From a 401k?

Withdrawing funds from a 401k account can be a complex and costly process, especially if done before reaching the age of 59½. However, there are instances where early withdrawals may be necessary, and understanding the options available is crucial.

Alternative Ways to Access Funds


401k Loans:

  • Permitted by most 401k plans.
  • Limits on the loan amount, typically up to 50% of the vested balance.
  • Repayment is made through payroll deductions, usually within 5 years.
  • Interest is paid back to the 401k account.


Hardship Withdrawal:

  • Can be taken for specific financial emergencies, such as medical expenses, home repairs, or education costs.
  • May require documentation of the hardship.
  • Subject to income and withholding taxes.
  • May reduce future 401k contributions.


Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP):

  • Allows for regular, predetermined withdrawals from the 401k.
  • Based on the account balance and the life expectancy of the participant.
  • Subject to income and withholding taxes, but tax penalties are avoided.

Table: Withdrawal Options and Consequences

Withdrawal MethodTax ConsequencesPenaltiesImpact on Future Contributions
Regular WithdrawalIncome tax + 10% penaltyYesReduced future contributions
401k LoanNone (if repaid)NoneMay reduce amount available for future withdrawals
Hardship WithdrawalIncome tax + 10% penaltyMay applyMay reduce future contributions
SEPPIncome taxNoneMay reduce future contributions

It’s important to consider the long-term implications of withdrawing from a 401k. Early withdrawals may reduce potential retirement savings and result in additional taxes and penalties. It’s always advisable to consult with a financial professional to explore all options and make informed decisions based on individual circumstances.

Well, there you have it, folks! Now you know all there is to know about withdrawing from your 401k. I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact your financial advisor or 401k plan administrator. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more articles on personal finance and investing.