FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – As the market fluctuates, many Americans may be alarmed to see drastic changes in their 401k plans, but financial experts say the worst thing savers can do is make rash decisions.
“‘Freaking out’ is a good way to put it,” said Derrick Kinney, a certified financial educator, who suggests leaving your 401k alone for now.
That’s because early withdrawals could result in a 10% penalty fee for people under the age of 59-and-a-half.
The sum withdrawn also becomes taxable income.
“For most people, the best course of action is sit tight, double buckle the seat belt, keep adding money while stocks are lowering and keep accumulating more shares.”
As long as you are not facing an immediate financial hardship, Kinney suggested that increasing contributions could possibly pay off in the long run whenever the market stabilizes.
“At some point, the sun does come back up again and the seeds you planted do blossom down the road,” Kinney said.
But COVID-19 does pose a real financial threat to Texans who need assistance making ends meet.
Many people may have no choice but to dip into their retirement funds.
Investment advisor Spencer McGowan said if possible, only turn to retirement funds as a last resort.
“The 401k loan provision is something people might keep in mind if they’re temporarily furloughed due to the crisis,” McGowan said.
Some plans let enrollees make hardship withdrawals for emergencies.
Congress is currently working on a bill that would waive the early withdrawal fee and allow people to take out up to $100,000, which is typically twice the amount that plans permit users to borrow.
But before panicking, experts said the 401k balance you see today may change tomorrow.
“The current value doesn’t reflect what it looks like a month from now, certainly six months from now,” McGowan said.
Even if the proposed coronavirus bill passes, check with your employer or HR department before withdrawing any money.
Every plan is subject to different rules.