Federal government makes changes to retirement savings use during COVID-19

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has made changes to how those affected by COVID-19 could use their retirement savings during financial hardships.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package allows those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, had a spouse or dependent diagnosed with it, or experienced adverse financial hardship due to the pandemic, to possibly use retirement savings.

“We are getting a lot of calls as what the options are and the changes,” said Stacey Bartelson, an Edward Jones financial advisor in Eagan. "We start with what their immediate needs are and their longterm goals and how it will affect them."

Qualifying COVID-19 relief individuals could withdraw up to $100,000 from certain retirement accounts without the 10% early-withdrawal penalty, but the taxes will now be spread over three years instead of the current year.

Instead of a permanent withdrawal, taking a loan from qualified retirement accounts has now been increased from $50,000 to $100,000 due to the CARES Act.

Financial experts say to check with your retirement plan provider to see how the CARES act applies to your specific situation.

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"So, maybe someone has a need immediately right now and need the funds, but know they can pay it back over the next five years, it’s a good option," Bartelson said.

"I think it’s time for people to know what they can do, but I would be careful as they proceed with taking money out of their 401k," said Paul Stein, CEO at Advanced Retirement Resources in Minneapolis.

Stein said tapping retirement funds shouldn’t be your first option in the pandemic, but added if there’s no other way, you need to be strategic to minimize possible losses.

"If they can, take money out, liquidate things that are down less or have held up, try to not take money out of the assets that are down right now, that would be an important tip,” Stein said. “Try to minimize your losses by taking money out of the parts of your 401k that have held up the best."

Talking to a financial expert or tax accountant can help make sense of all possible options with those feeling COVID-19 financial concerns, the experts said.