Considering Taking a Hardship Distribution from Your Retirement Plan?
The coronavirus pandemic is leaving millions of Americans on furlough or out of a job, dealing with reduced hours or workload… but NOT with reduced monthly bills to pay. For many, this is a time of financial hardship. Sadly, according to a 2018 Federal Reserve report, 40 percent of adults cannot cover a $400 emergency expense and the current situation goes far beyond that.
Sometimes, individuals consider dipping into one’s retirement plan to cover short-term expenses. Among the emergency expenses that may qualify for such a withdrawal are tuition/education expenses; down payment or repairs on a primary residence, rent or mortgage payments (to thwart possible eviction or foreclosure); out-of-pocket medical expenses; and funeral costs.
- The withdrawal amount has been limited to the amount of the emergency expense
- The plan participant pays income tax on the withdrawal plus a 10 percent penalty if under 59½ years old
- If a 401(k) design allows for loans (not all do), people taking loans against their 401(k) plans must repay the full loan amount with interest; lack of repayment can trigger additional penalties
- In addition, participants’ contributions from their paychecks into their 401(k) plans are suspended for at least six months after taking the hardship distribution
Changes with the CARES Act
This stimulus package has loosened the rules around taking hardship withdrawals from retirement plans, and loans from 401(k) plans. A CARES Act provision allows individuals who are facing adverse financial consequences due to COVID-19 to withdraw funds from their retirement accounts without penalty (regardless of age). This applies to IRAs and 401(k) plans.
The withdrawal must be made before December 31, 2020 and can be up to $100,000. Tax payments on this income are extended out three years. For those taking loans against their 401(k)s, that amount is also raised to $100,000. Note that there are no loans from IRAs.
Why gamble with your retirement savings?
Many financial experts argue against taking out a hardship loan from one’s 401(k) plan to avoid reducing any retirement savings, when there are other loan options available (such as a home equity loan, SBA loan, or other lines of credit). And, all good intentions aside, it may be difficult to replace the funds from a hardship distribution from an IRA or other retirement plan—and then rebuild on that money for retirement.On top of that, the stock market has suffered a tremendous downturn, with subsequent volatility almost daily, as a result of COVID-19 and the economic stressors stemming from lockdowns.
Weathering market volatility through self-direction
Self-directed investors have greater leeway when it comes to hedging against that stock market volatility. That’s because of the many alternative assets that can be held in a self-directed retirement plan. Investing in real estate, precious metals, private equity, or other non-publicly traded assets give savvy investors many more ways to build a more diverse retirement portfolio that have stronger potential to weather the COVID-19 storm (and other times of economic uncertainty). One reason is because the returns on nontraditional investments in a self-directed IRA do NOT directly correlate with stock market returns.
You can even loan funds from your self-directed IRA to someone who is dealing with a cash flow shortage, with the terms worked out between both parties, and receive interest and principal paid back to your IRA.
As always, it is best to consult your trusted financial adviser about how to navigate financial hardship as it relates to your retirement plan. At Next Generation, we’re here to answer any questions you have about self-direction as a retirement strategy, or about the many alternative assets allowed in these plans. You can schedule a complimentary educational session to learn more or contact us directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.
Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2020
The 2020 contribution and benefit limits were announced in early November by the IRS. The annual limit for IRAs remains the same at $6,000 with the catch-up contribution for individuals aged 50+ also remaining at $1,000.
There are slight increases for other retirement plans, as follows:
For 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans, plus the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, the limit is bumped up $500, from $19,000 to $19,500 annually. For individuals aged 50+, the catch-up contribution also goes up $500, from $6,000 to $6,500.
In addition, SIMPLE retirement accounts now have an increased contribution limit of $13,500, up $500 from the current $13,000.
Retirement plan account holders should also be aware of annual limitations and income phase-outs for defined contribution and defined benefit plans in the workplace.
There are new income ranges for determining eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA and to claim the Saver’s Credit, which all increased for 2020. The income phase-out in 2020 for individuals contributing to a Roth IRA went up for singles, heads of households, and married couples filing jointly. Additionally, taxpayers may be able to deduct contributions from a Traditional IRA if they meet certain criteria. A list of those figures is available in IRS Notice 2019-59.
As always, this new information is strictly for one’s own knowledge, and we encourage individuals to consult their trusted advisors regarding their specific financial situations to determine what works best for them.
Boost your retirement savings with alternative assets
Whether you’re already in the real estate market, invest in precious metals, or are interested in putting private equity in your retirement plan, nontraditional investments are a powerful way to build a more diverse retirement portfolio that provides a hedge against stock market volatility. What many people don’t know is that there are many different types of accounts that can be self-directed to include those nontraditional investments within them. So, if you’ve reached your annual contribution limit on an employer sponsored plan, or an IRA with a brokerage firm, you can still open and fund an account with Next Generation through a transfer or a rollover. Our self-directed IRA specialists are happy to review your options with you.
The deadline to contribute to your retirement plan for the 2019 tax year* is April 15, 2020, but it’s always the right time to contact Next Generation to open your self-directed IRA. You can arrange a complimentary educational session if you have questions about self-direction as a retirement strategy. Alternatively, you can contact our helpful team of professionals directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com. You can always read more about the many options and benefits of self-direction on our FAQs page.
*Please visit our website for 2019 contribution limits.