How Do I Cash Out My 401k After I Quit

When you leave your job, you have several options for your 401(k) account. You can keep it with your former employer, roll it over to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or cash it out. If you choose to cash out, you’ll pay income tax on the amount you withdraw, plus a 10% penalty if you are under age 59½. However, if you roll over your 401(k) to an IRA, you can avoid paying taxes and penalties until you start taking withdrawals in retirement.

Types of 401k Distributions

There are different ways to cash out your 401k after you quit your job. The type of distribution you choose will affect the amount of taxes you owe. Here are the most common types of 401k distributions:

  • Lump-sum distribution: This is a single payment of your entire 401k balance. You will owe taxes on the entire amount of the distribution.
  • Partial distribution: This is a payment of a portion of your 401k balance. You will owe taxes on the amount of the distribution.
  • Annuity: This is a series of payments that you will receive over a period of time. You will owe taxes on the amount of each payment.

In addition to these three main types of distributions, there are also several other less common types of distributions. You should talk to a financial advisor to learn more about your options.

Type of DistributionTax Treatment
Lump-sum distributionTaxed as ordinary income
Partial distributionTaxed as ordinary income
AnnuityTaxed as ordinary income as payments are received

Tax Implications of 401k Withdrawals

Withdrawing funds from your 401k account before retirement can have significant tax implications. Here’s a breakdown of the tax implications you should be aware of:

  • Early withdrawal penalty: If you’re under age 59½, you’ll incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount you withdraw.
  • Income tax: The amount you withdraw is considered taxable income and will be subject to your ordinary income tax rate.
  • Medicare surtax: If you’re under age 65, you may also face a 1.45% Medicare surtax on early withdrawals.

To avoid these tax penalties, it’s recommended to only withdraw funds from your 401k account after you reach retirement age. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • Retirement: You can withdraw funds from your 401k account after you retire without incurring any tax penalties.
  • Hardship withdrawals: You may be able to withdraw funds from your 401k account without paying a penalty in case of financial hardship, such as a medical emergency.
  • Roth 401k: Withdrawals from a Roth 401k account are not subject to income tax or the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, you must have held the account for at least five years to qualify.
Tax Implications of 401k Withdrawals
Withdrawal AgeEarly Withdrawal PenaltyIncome TaxMedicare Surtax
Under 59½10%Yes1.45% if under age 65
59½ or olderNoneYesNone
Roth 401k (after 5 years)NoneNoNone

Cashing Out Your 401k After Quitting

When you leave your job, you may have the option to cash out your 401k. This can be an attractive option if you need the money right away, but it’s important to be aware of the potential penalties and consequences.

Early Withdrawal Penalties

If you take money out of your 401k before you reach age 59.5, you will usually have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. This penalty is in addition to the income taxes you will owe on the money you withdraw.

There are some exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty. For example, you can avoid the penalty if you use the money to:

  • Pay for qualified medical expenses
  • Buy a first home
  • Pay for higher education expenses

Other Consequences of Cashing Out

In addition to the early withdrawal penalty, cashing out your 401k can have other negative consequences. For example, you will lose out on the potential tax-deferred growth of your investments. You may also have to pay state income taxes on the money you withdraw.

Alternatives to Cashing Out

If you need money after you quit your job, there are other options besides cashing out your 401k. You could:

  • Take out a loan from your 401k
  • Roll your 401k into an IRA
  • Leave your 401k with your former employer


Cashing out your 401k after you quit your job can be a quick way to get your hands on cash, but it’s important to be aware of the potential penalties and consequences. Before you make a decision, be sure to talk to a financial advisor to weigh your options.

Withdrawal OptionAge RequirementPenalty
Early withdrawalUnder 59.510% plus income taxes
Qualified medical expensesAny ageNo penalty
Buy a first homeAny ageNo penalty (up to $10,000)
Pay for higher education expensesAny ageNo penalty

Cashing Out Your 401(k) After Quitting

After leaving a job, you have several options for accessing the money in your 401(k) retirement plan. Cashing out the funds is generally not recommended due to the significant tax penalties and potential loss of long-term investment growth. However, there are some scenarios where cashing out may be necessary.

Direct Rollover Options

Instead of cashing out your 401(k), you can consider a direct rollover, which allows you to move the funds into another qualified retirement account without incurring taxes or penalties. Here are the three main direct rollover options:

  • Rollover IRA: Transfer your 401(k) funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). There are two types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.
  • New Employer’s 401(k) Plan: If your new employer offers a 401(k) plan, you can roll over your old 401(k) funds into the new one.
  • 403(b) Plan: If you’re working in the nonprofit sector or public education, you may be able to roll over your 401(k) funds into a 403(b) plan.

A direct rollover is the most straightforward and tax-advantaged way to manage your retirement savings after leaving a job. It allows you to preserve the tax-deferred status of your funds and avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59½.

Tax and Penalty Implications of Cashing Out

Cashing out your 401(k) before retirement age 59½ will trigger both income taxes and a 10% premature withdrawal penalty on the taxable portion of the distribution. The amount of taxes you pay will depend on your income tax bracket and whether the funds were traditional or Roth contributions.

Tax Implications of Cashing Out a 401(k)
Contribution TypeTax Consequences
Pre-tax (Traditional)The amount withdrawn is taxed as ordinary income, plus a 10% penalty.
After-tax (Roth)The portion of the withdrawal that represents earnings is taxed as ordinary income. The portion representing contributions is not taxed. There is no 10% penalty.

In addition to the tax consequences, cashing out your 401(k) early can have a significant impact on your long-term financial goals. The money you withdraw does not have the potential to grow and compound over time, which can erode your retirement savings.

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