How Much of a Penalty to Cash Out 401k

When you cash out your 401(k) before age 59½, you’ll typically have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount withdrawn. This penalty is in addition to any income taxes you owe on the withdrawal. For example, if you withdraw $10,000 from your 401(k) at age 55, you’ll owe $1,000 in early withdrawal penalties and an additional amount in income taxes, depending on your tax bracket.

Early Withdrawal Fees

Withdrawing money from a 401(k) before reaching age 59½ can trigger early withdrawal fees, which are imposed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and not by the 401(k) plan itself. These fees are designed to discourage premature withdrawals and encourage saving for retirement.

The early withdrawal fee is a 10% penalty tax on the amount withdrawn, in addition to any regular income tax you may owe on the distribution. This means that if you withdraw $10,000 from your 401(k) before age 59½, you will owe a $1,000 penalty fee, plus any income tax due.


  • Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPPs): Withdrawals made as part of a SEPP are not subject to the early withdrawal penalty if certain requirements are met.
  • Birth or Adoption Expenses: Withdrawals up to $5,000 for qualified birth or adoption expenses are exempt from the penalty.
  • Medical Expenses: Withdrawals used to pay uninsured medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income are not penalized.
  • Disability: Withdrawals made by individuals who are permanently disabled are not subject to the penalty.
  • Financial Hardship: Withdrawals due to financial hardship may qualify for a waiver of the penalty.

Reducing Early Withdrawal Penalties

There are a few ways to reduce the impact of early withdrawal penalties:

  • Roth 401(k): Contributions to a Roth 401(k) are made with after-tax dollars, which means withdrawals are not subject to income tax or the early withdrawal penalty.
  • 401(k) Loan: If your 401(k) plan allows, you can take a loan against your account instead of withdrawing funds. Loans are not subject to early withdrawal penalties, but you will need to pay interest on the loan.
Age at WithdrawalEarly Withdrawal Penalty
Under 59½10% plus income tax
59½ or olderNo penalty

Tax Consequences of Cashing Out 401(k) Funds

Cashing out a 401(k) before reaching age 59½ typically triggers a 10% early withdrawal penalty from the IRS. This penalty is not a tax on the earnings, but rather on the amount of the principal you withdraw.

  • For example, if you cash out $10,000 from your 401(k) at age 50, you will owe $1,000 in early withdrawal penalty.

In addition to the penalty, you will also need to pay income tax on the amount you withdraw. This is because 401(k) contributions are made pre-tax, so the money you withdraw is considered taxable income.

The amount of income tax you will owe depends on your tax bracket. For example, if you are in the 22% tax bracket, you will owe $2,200 in taxes on a $10,000 withdrawal.

There are some exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty. You can avoid the penalty if you:

  • Are at least age 59½
  • Have a disability
  • Are taking out a loan from your 401(k)
  • Are paying for qualified medical expenses
  • Are paying for higher education expenses
  • Are using the money to buy your first home
AgePenaltyIncome Tax
Under 59½10%Variable
Age 59½ and over0Variable

Loss of Investment Growth

Cashing out your 401(k) early means you’re giving up the potential for tax-deferred investment growth. Over time, this can amount to a significant loss. For example, if you cash out $10,000 from your 401(k) at age 30 and invest it in a taxable account earning 7% annually, you’ll have about $26,600 at age 65. However, if you had left the money in your 401(k) and it had grown at the same rate, you would have about $46,900.

That’s a difference of $20,300, or about 37% of your original investment. And that’s just over 35 years. The longer you leave your money invested in a 401(k), the greater the potential for growth.

## What to Expect When Cashing Out Your 401(k)

Cashing out your 401(k) before retirement can have serious financial consequences. Here’s a breakdown of the penalties and taxes you’ll face:

### Contribution Limits

The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) each year is limited by the IRS. For 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 for employees under age 50 and $30,000 for those age 50 and older.

### Penalties

* **Early withdrawal penalty:** If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before you reach age 59½, you’ll typically pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount you withdraw.
* **Income tax:** The money you withdraw from your 401(k) is taxed as ordinary income. This means you’ll owe income tax on the amount you withdraw, plus any applicable state income taxes.

### Taxes

In addition to the penalties, you’ll also need to pay income tax on the amount you withdraw from your 401(k). The tax rate you pay will depend on your tax bracket. For example, if you’re in the 24% tax bracket, you’ll pay $24 in taxes for every $100 you withdraw.

### Example

To illustrate the financial impact of cashing out your 401(k) early, let’s say you’re 40 years old and have $100,000 in your account. If you withdraw the entire amount, you would pay the following:

* $10,000 early withdrawal penalty (10%)
* $24,000 income tax (24% tax bracket)

This means you would only receive $66,000 from your withdrawal.

### Alternative Options

If you’re considering cashing out your 401(k), you should explore other options first, such as:

* Taking out a loan from your 401(k)
* Borrowing against your 401(k)
* Rolling your 401(k) over to an IRA or another employer’s plan

These options can allow you to access your money without having to pay the penalties and taxes associated with a withdrawal.

**Remember, cashing out your 401(k) is a serious decision that can have long-term financial consequences. Be sure to consider all of your options before making a decision.**
Hey there, thanks for hanging out with me while we explored the world of 401(k) withdrawals. I know it’s not the most thrilling topic, but I hope you found some valuable info. Remember, cashing out your 401(k) before you’re 59½ comes with penalties and taxes, so weigh your options carefully. Keep visiting our corner of the internet for more money-related insights. We’ll be here, ready to chat about all things personal finance!