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401K Late in Game prior to ER?
Old 05-18-2008, 06:04 PM   #1
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401K Late in Game prior to ER?

Here’s the situation: 43 yrs old w/ COLA’d pension that is $43K this year.
My new job offers a 401K (not something I ever though much about before) and they’ll match half my contribution up to 6% of my salary (slightly over $100K). So if I contribute $6K they add $3K. If I don’t contribute at least $6K, I therefore lose that “free” $3K by default.
BUT, if I contribute, that money is tied up until I’m 65 –or, from what I’ve read, I understand that at 55 maybe I could start withdrawing it in substantially equal payments over some time period. That idea doesn’t excite me. Why complicated the gamesmanship and doling out over time? Is it my money or isn’t it? Why the different rules for different ages? The whole system looks to me like a government scheme to penalize me if I elect to maintain maximum flexibility and options in terms of how I use my money – as if the govt is my parent, doling out my allowance.
My 2 children will both be college age in ten years – I’ll be 53. Plans are not yet firm (see, I really do like flexibility) but our general direction (wife does not work – homeschools the kids) is for me to stop working in 5 years or less and do something a little different for a while – with no need to return to work. This may strike some as an imprudent philosophy – but I figure by the time I’m 65, I’ll have less use for the money than I will in a few years when my family is still young and I (hopefully) still have health and energy and time.
So 401K late in the game prior to ER, – any thoughts from anyone whose thought this through before?

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Old 05-18-2008, 06:38 PM   #2
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I have never heard of 401K's being tied up until age 65. The usual age for the earliest withdrawal from a 401K is 59 1/2. Some companies, if you retire from them at age 55 or later, allow you to immediately withdraw from their 401K (not sure why this is allowed).

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Old 05-18-2008, 07:48 PM   #3
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statsman, if you have decent investment choices in your 401k I'd contribute the $6k to get the $3k match. You might not be able to spend it until you are 59 1/2, but your plans sound like you'll fund retirement well before then, and it will just be a pool a money you can start spending a few years into your retirement.

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Old 05-19-2008, 11:34 AM   #4
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50% match - 10% penalty for early withdrawal = 35% gain. No reason not to take the match. If you are in a reasonable tax bracket (say 25%+) I would suggest thinking hard about maxing out your 401k. There are a number of ways to pull money out, and the tax flexibility may be very valuable in the future.
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