How To Use Retirement Savings for a Down Payment

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Published March 29, 2023
Couple reviews finances to see if they can afford a down payment.
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Even though it’s a minor percentage of the total cost of buying a home, rising prices have made affording a down payment increasingly difficult for aspiring buyers to save up for. One way to bridge the gap between your savings and what you need to buy a home is to use retirement savings.

Here’s how you can use retirement savings for a down payment on a house, as well as the pros and cons of doing so.

Can I Use My Retirement Funds for a Down Payment?

Yes, it is possible to use retirement funds for a down payment on a home. The trade-off is that while it may help you buy a home sooner instead of continuing to save for a down payment, you also deplete your retirement investment.

“In some cases, homebuyers may be able to use their retirement funds, such as a 401(k) or IRA, to cover a down payment,” says Nathan Claire, a Realtor and founder of Buying Jax Homes in Jacksonville, Florida. “However, this can have significant financial implications, including early withdrawal penalties and taxes. Homebuyers should consult with a financial advisor before using retirement funds for a down payment.”

What Types of Retirement Funds Can I Use?

Here’s how you can use the funds from a retirement account for a down payment on a house. It’s a good idea to consult a financial advisor or tax expert before withdrawing funds from your retirement accounts.

Individual retirement account

If you want to use funds from a traditional, SIMPLE, or Roth individual retirement account to make a down payment, you can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty. If you’re younger than 59 1/2 years old, you typically have to pay a 10% tax penalty for an early withdrawal. However, the IRS makes an exception when this money is withdrawn to buy, build, or rebuild a home.


If you’re looking to use funds from a 401(k), then either you can make a standard withdrawal and pay taxes and any penalties, or you can borrow up to 50% of your vested account balance, up to $50,000.

With the latter option, you’re essentially taking out a loan against your account balance. You’ll need to repay it within five years, but repaying it won’t count against your debt-to-income ratio. If you leave your job before the loan is repaid, the remaining balance must be paid immediately, or it will be treated as a distribution.

How Can I Access My Retirement Funds for a Down Payment?

There are a couple of different ways to access your retirement funds. The right selection for you will depend on your situation and your priorities.


When you take out a 401(k) loan, you’re borrowing against your own asset. A 401(k) loan may be preferable to a 401(k) withdrawal for several reasons:

  • You can avoid paying a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
  • The money won’t be taxed as income.
  • The loan won’t count toward your debt-to-income ratio.
  • The loan won’t hurt your credit.

However, there are some drawbacks to this option:

  • The maximum amount you can withdraw is $50,000.
  • You have to pay the loan back with interest, which usually is 1% to 2% above the prime interest rate, with after-tax dollars.
  • Your reduced retirement savings can’t make as much money as a larger amount.
  • If you fail to repay the loan, you face taxes and penalties.
  • Not all employers offer a 401(k) loan option.


Instead of taking out a loan against your 401(k), you can make a straight withdrawal. However, if you’re younger than 59 1/2, you will pay a 10% penalty on that money unless the withdrawal is needed to meet “an immediate and heavy financial need.”

Whether a home purchase qualifies is up to your employer. In most cases, you’ll have to pay the early withdrawal penalty, so you’d need to take out 10% more than you need and then kiss it goodbye.

Pros and Cons of Using Retirement Funds for a Down Payment

Here are some of the benefits of using retirement funds for a down payment:

  • You get to own a home sooner.
  • It’s possible to access money to make a down payment without paying interest.
  • It’s your money.

Some of the drawbacks of using your retirement funds for a down payment include:

  • You deplete your savings.
  • Your savings won’t grow as quickly.
  • 10% early withdrawal penalty on a 401(k) if you’re under 59 1/2 years old.
  • You’ll need to pay interest on the money you borrow from your 401(k).


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using retirement funds for a down payment.


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