What is the Penalty for Early Withdrawal From 401k

Early withdrawal from a 401k typically incurs penalties unless you meet certain exceptions. In general, if you take money out of your 401k before you reach age 59½, you’ll face a 10% early withdrawal penalty on top of federal and, potentially, state income taxes. These penalties can significantly reduce the amount of money you have available for retirement. There are exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty, such as using the money for qualified medical expenses, higher education expenses, or a first-time home purchase. It’s important to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to determine if you qualify for any exceptions before making an early withdrawal.

Early Withdrawal Penalty from 401k

Withdrawing money from a 401k before age 59½ may incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty. In addition to the penalty, the withdrawn amount is added to your taxable income, potentially increasing your tax liability.

Taxable Income

  • Early withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, at your current income tax rate.
  • The penalty is calculated as 10% of the amount withdrawn, regardless of your income.
  • The penalty is not deductible from your income, further increasing your tax burden.
Withdrawal AmountTaxable IncomePenalty

Penalty for Early Withdrawal From 401k

Withdrawing money from your 401k before you reach age 59½ can result in financial penalties. The penalty for early withdrawal from a 401k is 10% of the amount withdrawn, in addition to income taxes.

Additional Penalty

In addition to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, you may also have to pay an additional 10% penalty if:

  • You withdraw funds from your 401k before age 55.
  • You do not roll over the funds to another qualified retirement account within 60 days.

The additional 10% penalty is calculated on the amount of the withdrawal that is not rolled over.

Avoiding the Penalty

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

  • Withdraw funds after age 59½.
  • Take substantially equal periodic payments.
  • Withdraw funds to pay for qualified medical expenses.
  • Withdraw funds to purchase a primary residence.
  • Withdraw funds to pay for education expenses.
  • Withdraw funds to pay for disability expenses.
  • Withdraw funds to pay for certain military service expenses.

If you are not sure whether you qualify for an exception to the early withdrawal penalty, you should consult with a tax professional.

Early Withdrawal Penalty Table
Under 5520%
55 or older10%

What is the penalty for early 401(k) withdrawals?

If you withdraw money from your 401(k) account before you reach age 59½, you will likely have to pay a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn. This penalty is in addition to any income taxes that you may have to pay on the distribution.


There are a few exceptions to the 10% penalty for early 401(k) withdrawals. These exceptions include:

  • Substantially equal periodic payments: Withdrawals that are made as part of a series of equal payments made at least once a year for at least five years or until you reach age 59½, whichever is later.
  • Disability: Withdrawals made due to a disability.
  • Death: Withdrawals made after the death of the account holder.
  • Unrecouped medical expenses: Withdrawals made to pay for unrecouped medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your gross income.
  • Higher education expenses: Withdrawals made to pay for qualified higher education expenses.
  • First-time home purchase: Withdrawals up to $10,000 made to buy a principal residence.
  • Military service: Withdrawals made while you are on active duty in the military.
  • Hurricane victims: Withdrawals made by individuals affected by a federally declared disaster.

If you meet one of these exceptions, you may be able to avoid the 10% penalty on your early 401(k) withdrawals.

Substantially equal periodic paymentsPayments made at least once a year for at least five years or until age 59½, whichever is later
DisabilityPayments made due to disability
DeathPayments made after account holder’s death
Unrecouped medical expensesPayments to cover unrecouped medical expenses over 7.5% of gross income
Higher education expensesPayments for qualified higher education expenses
First-time home purchasePayments up to $10,000 for a principal residence
Military servicePayments made while on active duty
Hurricane victimsPayments for disaster-affected individuals

401k Early Withdrawal Penalty

Withdrawing money from your 401(k) before you reach age 59½ can trigger a 10% early withdrawal penalty, plus income taxes on the amount withdrawn. This penalty can significantly reduce the value of your retirement savings, so it’s important to understand the consequences before making an early withdrawal.

401k Loan Alternative

If you need access to funds before retirement, consider a 401(k) loan instead of an early withdrawal. With a loan, you borrow money from your 401(k) and pay it back with interest. This is a less costly option than an early withdrawal because you avoid the 10% penalty and taxes.

Table: Early Withdrawal Penalty vs. Loan

Early WithdrawalLoan
10% penalty plus income taxesNo penalty, but interest charges
Reduces retirement savingsPreserves retirement savings
Can only borrow up to 50% of vested balanceCan borrow up to $10,000 or 50% of vested balance, whichever is less
Must repay loan within 5 yearsCan repay loan within 5 years or extend the term

Well, there you have it, folks. Hope that helped clear up any confusion about the penalties for tapping into your 401k early. Remember, while it might be tempting to access those funds, it’s generally a better idea to let them grow tax-deferred until retirement age. Of course, life happens, so if you really need the money, it’s there for you. Just be aware of the potential consequences. Thanks for hanging out with me today. If you have any more 401k-related questions, be sure to check back again. I’m always happy to help!