Bankruptcy filing – or the prospect of it – usually puts Wynn at Law LLCclients in full-out panic mode. One of the most alarming, last-ditch, hail-Mary ideas coming from this desperation is to cash out a retirement plan to avoid bankruptcy court. In some cases, people can ‘borrow’ against their company retirement plan, usually a 401(k). This is as dangerous as cashing out to cover the financial struggle.

Don’t. Touch. This. Money.

Retirement money is tax-exempt until you touch it. If you touch it too early, you’ll be subject to taxes and penalties. Here’s a primer on a few of those consequences:

·     If you put the money in after paying taxes on it – like in a Roth IRA – you’ll pay tax on the earnings and a 10 percent penalty if the IRA is less than five years old and the owner is younger than age 59 ½.
·     If you put the money in tax-free – like in a regular IRA or a 401(k) – the entire distribution is subject to income tax at your current rate, plus the 10 percent IRS penalty if the owner is younger than age 59 ½.

A tax specialist or accountant will give you clearer instruction on your particular situation’s consequences. Wynn at Law LLC is concerned about those immediate consequences, and the long-term ones. It’s your retirement income you’re putting in jeopardy. You’re mortgaging your entire future! If you leverage this nest egg to avoid bankruptcy filing today, you may have just kicked the can down the road, facing potential bankruptcy in your retirement years.

In almost every case, your qualified retirement plan is EXEMPT from your bankruptcy filing anyway. You get to keep the plan, your creditors don’t. But this goes back to a message from an earlier Wynn at Law LLC article on honesty: You have to disclose that your own a retirement account. It’s still going to be your retirement nest egg, they can’t touch it, but you can’t hide it.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

 Photo by Barbara Reddoch, used with permission.

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