To answer this question in one word… YES! But before you run off and sign up for your 401(k) retirement savings plan with your employer, learn why having one is so important and how it can benefit you in the future. You never know what twists and turns your life will take, so planning ahead financially is smart and gives you security for you and your family. A 401(k) is a plan sponsored by your employer that helps you save retirement funds by taking a certain percentage from your pre-tax paycheck, in case you aren't already in-the-know. Here are the most important reasons a 401(k) is right for you.


Loan Options

While the main reason for a 401(k) is to provide for retirement, some plans allow for loans to be taken from them before you retire. For instance, Practical Money Skills explains, "Many plans allow you to borrow from your account for specific reasons, such as buying a primary residence, paying for education or medical expenses, or in case of severe economic hardship. A loan usually must be paid back with interest within five years, and as long as you remain employed by the company, you can pay it back without incurring any income tax liability. The interest you pay goes directly into your account." And Bankrate adds, "The repayment period is often extended for homebuyers."

Additionally, Bankrate advises that a loan from a 401(k) is a smart investment for career advancement. "A 401(k) loan might be useful for acquiring educational credentials needed to keep your job or advance your career. After all, if it results in a boost to your earnings, you'll be able to save more for your retirement and other worthy financial goals." Plus, you can usually pay back the loan via automatic paycheck deductions, as per Forbes.

Just be sure before you take out a loan from your 401(k) that it's the best option you can choose. If you can find another loan with a better interest rate, payback schedule, or other perks, leave your money to grow your retirement savings.


Tax Deductions

According to Kiplinger, "One key benefit of a 401(k) is the tax advantage. Your contributions aren't subject to federal or state taxes, so you can rack up substantial savings." Practical Money Skills explains, "That's because your contribution comes out of your paycheck before income taxes are deducted. That means your taxable income is less, which in turn lowers your tax bill. Thus, you "defer" or postpone paying income tax on your 401(k) savings and any investment earnings they may accumulate until you withdraw the money at retirement. For many people, their income – and therefore income tax rate – is lower at retirement, so they're paying a smaller amount of tax on the money. Plus, if you happen to retire to a state that has no or very low state income tax, you'll be that much further ahead."

Additionally, CNN Money notes a specific type of 401(k) plan called the Roth 401(k) which, "offers a tax break that essentially acts as the reverse of the traditional 401(k): You do have to pay tax on your contributions, but you won't have to pay any tax when you withdraw the money in retirement. So all the money in your account grows tax free."


Matching Contributions

Many companies will match the contribution you put into your retirement savings. U.S. News & World Report recommends taking full advantage of any company match. "Check with your company's human resources department to find out if your employer offers matching 401(k) contributions. If so, make sure you are contributing enough to take full advantage of the match. If you don't you are leaving 'free' money on the table."

Practical Money Skills gives this example, "A common match might be 50 percent of the first 6 percent of pay you save. Under that scenario, someone whose annual salary is $35,000 and who contributes 6 percent to the plan ($2,100) would receive an additional $1,050 in matching employer contributions." Not too shabby!

CNN Money adds, "The match effectively increases your income without increasing your tax bill, since you pay no taxes on matching contributions until you withdraw them in retirement." It's a win-win since "The employer's match money typically vests over 3 or 4 years, meaning you have to keep working for the company for that amount of time before all the matching funds are yours to keep."


Start Now!

As per Wall Street Journal, "Most companies allow you to enroll in a 401(k) right away, although some smaller employers might make you wait up to a year." The sooner you start, the more money you'll accrue over time. One day you'll be able to retire stress-free with money to spend on the things that make you happy – you deserve it!

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.