5 Questions to Ask Clients Who Are Considering a 401(k) Loan

Presented by Douglas W. Greene CFP® CLU®

Advisors may suggest to their clients that they never take a loan from their 401(k) plan, but things happen, and happen more often than you might think.  According to Morningstar, at the end of 2012, 21% of 401(k) plan participates who were eligible had loans outstanding against their 401(k).  50% of people who borrow against their 401(k) will do so more than once.

Here are five key questions to ask clients:

  1. Does your intended use of funds promise a higher rate of return than leaving the money be?
    – Steering borrowed funds to an investment with an uncertain payoff is much less compelling than paying off high interest debt.
  2. Is your job secure?
    – If you leave your employer with a loan outstanding, you will usually be forced to pay back the loan soon, usually within 90 days.
  3. Can you realistically pay this back?
    – Because there is no credit check, the client is the one responsible to deciding if the loan is financially viable.  Make sure household budget is considered as interest will increase the payments.
  4. Are you prepared to lose the benefit of your tax deductions?
    – A 401k provides an employee federal and state income tax deductions on contributions.  If a loan is taken, it must be paid with after-tax dollars thus offsetting the benefit of the deductions.
  5. Do you feel like you can afford to delay your retirement saving?
    – Their budget may not be able to support the loan repayment and current 401(k) savings.  Also, the money withdrawn does not have the opportunity to grow with the market.