401(k)s

Ex-Workers Get More Time to Repay 401(k) Loans

If you leave your job while you have an outstanding 401(k) loan, Uncle Sam now gives you extra time to repay it -- thanks to the new tax law.

Question: I heard that the new tax law changed the amount of time I have after leaving my job to pay back a 401(k) loan. What are the rules now for borrowing from your 401(k)?

Answer: The new tax law changed the deadline for repayment after you leave your job starting in 2018. In the past, you generally had only 60 days to repay the loan or else you’d have to pay income taxes on the money as if it was a withdrawal (and a 10% early-withdrawal penalty if you left your job before age 55).

But under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you don’t have to pay taxes or the penalty if you repay the loan by the due date of your tax return for the year when you leave your job (including extensions). For example, if you leave your job in 2019, you’d have until April 15, 2020, to repay the loan (or October 15, 2020, if you file an extension). However, taking advantage of this extended time frame to repay could lead to complications if you’d like to roll over your 401(k) balance to a new employer’s plan, says Michael Weddell, director of retirement at benefits consultant Willis Towers Watson.

You can generally borrow up to half of your 401(k) balance, but no more than $50,000. Most plans charge the prime rate plus 1 percentage point for the loan, which as of mid February would add up to 6.50%. You generally have five years to pay back the loan while you’re still working for that employer or longer if the 401(k) loan is to buy your primary residence. Most plans give employees 10 to 15 years to repay a loan for a primary residence, although some plans have deadlines as short as five years or as long as 30 years, says Weddell.

If you do take a 401(k) loan, try to keep contributing to your 401(k) while you’re paying back the loan so you can continue to receive any employer match and to minimize the hit to your long-term savings. You borrow your own money and pay the interest back into your account. But you will lose the opportunity for investment gains on the borrowed money while it’s out of the account. Just because you had to take a loan, Weddell says, is no reason to give up on saving for retirement and earning an employer match.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022
tech stocks

The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022

The best tech-sector picks for the year to come include plays on some of the most exciting emergent technologies, as well as several old-guard mega-ca…
January 3, 2022
How to Know When You Can Retire
retirement

How to Know When You Can Retire

You’ve scrimped and saved, but are you really ready to retire? Here are some helpful calculations that could help you decide whether you can actually …
January 5, 2022

Recommended

12 Questions Retirees Often Get Wrong About Taxes in Retirement
retirement

12 Questions Retirees Often Get Wrong About Taxes in Retirement

You worked hard to build your retirement nest egg. But do you know how to minimize taxes on your savings?
January 21, 2022
Nearing Retirement? Ditch ‘Hidden’ 401(k) Fees
401(k)s

Nearing Retirement? Ditch ‘Hidden’ 401(k) Fees

Your 401(k) may be costing you more than you realized. An in-service direct transfer to an IRA could be a game changer – if you qualify.
December 29, 2021
Biden Extends Suspension of Student Loan Payments
loans

Biden Extends Suspension of Student Loan Payments

The president gave borrowers another 90 days until May 1 before they have to start paying back their student loans.
December 22, 2021
Meet the Architect of the 401(k) Plan
Financial Planning

Meet the Architect of the 401(k) Plan

Ted Benna tells Kiplinger how savers can make the most of their 401(k) plans - and how these plans could be better.
December 22, 2021