401k Loans: Will They Survive Bankruptcy?

401k Loans: Will They Survive Bankruptcy?

Submitted by Jen Jones on Tue, 01/19/2010 - 5:02pm

401k Loans: Will They Survive Bankruptcy?

So you're drowning in debt and desperate for a way out. A friend or relative asks if you've considered a 401k loan. “They're quick, simple to qualify for, and here's the best part: you're paying the interest to yourself.” Sounds like a brilliant solution, right? Why pay 25% interest to a credit card company when you could be paying 6% interest to yourself? Stop. You want to think long and hard before you take out a 401k loan, especially if you're already in debt.

Fayetteville debt relief, the most important thing to know is that, in bankruptcy, your retirement savings – 401k accounts, pensions, 403b accounts, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and even plans for small business owners and the self employed – are protected from your creditors. That bears repeating. If you declare bankruptcy, you keep all the money in your retirement accounts. If you've taken the money out in the form of the loan, however, your creditors can take that money. Moreover, failure to pay back a 401k loan comes with serious drawbacks. If you lose or change jobs, you have to pay back the entire sum within 60 days. If you're unable to make payments on the loan – or the lump payment in the case of changing jobs – you're required to pay all taxes on the outstanding money, plus a 10% penalty.

In addition, recent court cases have determined that because you're paying the money to your own account, a 401k loan cannot count as debt, and is not part of the Means Test. This means that you could be tipped into a Chapter 13 plan even if you're spending significant amounts of money repaying a 401k loan. If you've already borrowed the money, though, don't despair. It's true that it might bump you into filing Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7.
 
However, while the Means Test is very similar to the disposable income formula in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there's one important difference and that's the 401k. You're allowed to both contribute to your 401k in a Chapter 13 plan, and to repay your 401k loan, and take both as a deduction on the means test. This means your plan payment may actually be lowered if you are making a 401k repayment. T
 
here may be times when 401k loans aren't a terrible idea, even if you're facing bankruptcy. It might make sense, for example, to take out the loan in order to catch up with mortgage payments before you file bankruptcy. But this is a situation where you should really discuss the pros and cons of your actions with a bankruptcy attorney before undertaking the loan. One important rule of thumb: it doesn't make sense to take the loan out to repay unsecured debt, debt that will most likely simply be dismissed in bankruptcy. One final note: not every 401k plan permits loans for any reason. Some plans restrict them to specific purposes, such as first time home loans, medical expenses, college tuition or mortgage payments. Before even considering this option, you need to make sure it's available to you.

 

 

 

 

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