Taking a Loan from your 401(k) Plan
Those employees who insist on withdrawing funds from their 401(k) plans have two options: They can take out a loan against their plans or they can ask for a hardship withdrawal.
The first option is by far the easiest, especially if the employee still works at the company that holds the 401(k) plan. That's because the vast majority of plans do allow employees to take out loans. Such a process rarely requires much paperwork; in most cases, employees simply request a loan and receive a check. Workers can usually borrow as much as half, up to $50,000, of their vested account balance.
Employees most often have five years to pay back their loans. If they pay the loan back during this period, employees do not suffer any penalties. However, when paying back the loan, employees to have to pay both their principal and interest on it.
There is an additional catch. Employees who leave their jobs or lose them have to immediately pay back any loans they made against their 401(k) plans. If these employees can't pay back their loans, they are treated as early withdrawals. This is bad: Employees will have to pay a federal penalty and taxes on the money.
Financial experts recommend that employees only resort to a 401(k) loan when they are in desperate need of funds and they have no other way to get them. Employees should not, in other words, borrow from their 401(k) plans to pay for a cruise or a home addition.