Thinking of Borrowing from Your Retirement Fund? Think Again

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Don’t take money out of your future self’s pocket.

As a part of the US government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act was passed to open up a few extra avenues of financial support to those who have had their cash siphoned out by expenses. The first and most obvious benefit of the CARES Act is the extra $600 a week those currently on unemployment receive, which is definitely a boon. In addition to that, however, the CARES Act allows anyone under the age of 59 to withdraw funds from a retirement account without any penalties, as well as take out retirement account loans with a three-year payback. The thing is, however, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, as the old wisdom goes. Getting money into your retirement fund is hard enough when things are all green; money you take out now is going to be twice as hard to get back in there. If it’s your only option and you desperately need money, fine, but based on your circumstances, you may have a few other options.

The clearest option is taking out a home equity loan. If you own your home and have some equity, you can take out a loan and get some cash. It’s actually a great time for this method, as current circumstances have pulled interest rates way down. Alternatively, instead of a cash loan, you can get home equity credit, which you can draw from exactly as much as you need it. The downside to equity credit, though, is that interest rates are a little more volatile, so you may end up paying back more than you expect.

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If you don’t need an especially large amount of money, a personal loan is probably a better option, since you can get one without collateral. How much you can actually get depends on your credit history and income, though if your line of work has been impacted by the pandemic, your bank may be willing to cut you a break and defer the payments. If you’re more confident in your income stream, you could try applying for a 0% APR credit card. As long as you’re careful with it and keep track of exactly what’s going in, you won’t have to pay it back with interest later. This can be a very risky maneuver, however, because if you get the numbers mixed up, you could saddle yourself with debt you won’t be able to pay back.

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