Borrow from a 401(k) plan?  Yes!  You can borrow funds from a 401(k) for personal use!

A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer.  The plan allows employees to save and invest a portion of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. While these funds are generally intended to be used during retirement, there are provisions allowing participants to borrow from their 401(k) under certain circumstances. This is true for employer-based plans as well as the Solo 401(k).  Read about the ins and outs of 401(k) plan loans, focusing on the borrowing limits, repayment terms, and potential risks.

What is a 401(k) Plan Loan?

A 401(k) loan allows plan participants to borrow money from their retirement savings account. The key feature of a 401(k) loan is that it must be repaid with interest, but unlike a traditional loan, the interest paid goes back into the participant’s own 401(k) account. This can be an attractive option for those in need of immediate funds without wanting to incur the taxes and penalties associated with early withdrawals.

Maximum Loan Amount

The IRS sets strict limits on the amount a participant can borrow from their 401(k). The maximum loan amount is the lesser of:
– 50% of the vested account balance, or
– $50,000

For example, if a participant has a vested balance of $80,000, they can borrow up to $40,000 (50% of $80,000). However, if the vested balance is $150,000, the maximum loan would be capped at $50,000, not 50% of $150,000.  A vested balance is the portion of a retirement account that an employee owns outright and cannot be taken back by their employer. Vesting can refer to retirement plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing plans, and Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs.

Repayment Terms

Repayment of the loan must occur within 5 years, and payments must be made in substantially equal payments that include principal and interest and that are paid at least quarterly. Loan repayments are not plan contributions

Interest Rates

The interest rate on a 401(k) loan is typically set by the plan administrator and is usually based on the prime rate plus an additional percentage. The interest paid is credited back to the participant’s account, effectively paying themselves interest. Generally 1% to 2% over the prime rate.

Pros and Cons of 401(k) Loans

1.  No Credit Check: Since you are borrowing your own money, there’s no need for a credit check.
2. Low Interest Rates: The interest rates are generally lower compared to credit cards and personal loans.
3. Repayment to Yourself: Interest payments go back into your 401(k) account, not to a lender.

1.  Repayment Required: Failure to repay the loan can result in it being treated as a taxable distribution, potentially incurring taxes and early withdrawal penalties.
2. Opportunity Cost: Borrowing from your 401(k) reduces the amount of money that can grow tax-deferred, potentially impacting your retirement savings.
3. Job Loss Risk: If you leave your job or are terminated, the loan must be repaid by the tax filing deadline for that year, which can be financially challenging.

 Important Considerations

Before taking a 401(k) loan, it’s crucial to evaluate your financial situation and consider alternative options. While 401(k) loans can provide quick access to funds, they should be approached with caution due to the potential risks to your retirement savings.  For more detailed information, you can refer to the IRS guidelines on 401(k) plan loans HERE.


A 401(k) loan can be a useful financial tool in times of need, offering flexibility and access to funds without immediate tax penalties. However, it’s important to fully understand the terms, repayment obligations, and long-term impact on your retirement savings. Always consult with a financial advisor to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals.

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