My spouse and I are 60 yrs old.

We paid for our first 3 children's higher education (in state 4 yrs $100,000) and launched them into adulthood without student loan debt, with the understanding they are on their own financially.

We must do the same for the fourth child.

My spouse and I have a few IRA's ($400,000) and a 401K ($200,000).

May we pay off the parent plus loan with any of these funds?

  • 1
    Do you have a Roth IRA? – Hart CO Dec 10 '20 at 15:27

Since you are over 59 1/2, you can withdraw money from your IRA for whatever purpose you like without the 10% penalty. You'll still need to pay income tax on the amount though, as the withdrawal will count as income. So be careful that you don't take out so much that you can't afford to pay the tax (and/or get a penalty for underpayment) when you file. It may push you into a higher tax bracket. Not to mention the opportunity cost of future gains from this money.

There generally aren't ways to avoid paying the tax on Traditional IRA withdrawals. There are cases for avoiding the penalty, but paying student loans is not one of them. Paying qualified education expenses is, though, so if you had paid the tuition from the IRA instead of borrowing, you would have avoided the penalty (but not the tax) before age 59 1/2.

If your IRA is a Roth IRA then you can also take out the money for whatever you like without penalty, and there's no tax consequence. The only consequence is again the opportunity cost of lost growth.

If you are still employed, you probably can't tap your 401(k), but check with your employer to see if you an do an "in-service" withdrawal, either in general or specifically to pay off student loans.

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    I know it wasn't asked, but I think it's worth pointing out that $600k is not a lot of retirement savings at age 60. Withdrawing $100k plus taxes from that may have an outsized impact on when the OP can actually retire. – Eric Dec 10 '20 at 21:32
  • @DStanley I was more curious than making a point, I assumed they were quite common but had never looked into it. – Hart CO Dec 10 '20 at 21:34
  • @Eric I considered mentioning that - not to sacrifice your retirement to pay for your kids college without some understanding of that sacrifice (and perhaps and agreement to pay it back). But it sounded too preachy (even for me :-D) – D Stanley Dec 10 '20 at 21:37
  • @HartCO I can't find any stats with a quick search - my assumption was that the tax break make traditionals more popular (more money today) – D Stanley Dec 10 '20 at 21:39

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