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Start A Business With Your IRA Or 401(k)

Starting your own business is part of the American Dream. But it is fraught with risk. The vast majority of new businesses fail. Yet who’s to say whether your idea could work? And not pursuing your dream could leave you regretful for life.

If you decide to take the plunge, a major challenge is financing your start-up. Banks often want no part of backing startups, and every loan payment drains capital that could have fueled growth. You might try raise funds through private investors, but they usually require a large chunk of your equity and may make other demands you’re not willing to meet.

As a last resort, you could tap money socked away in an Individual Retirement Account, 403(b) or 401(k). Spending money meant to fund your life after work is obviously dangerous. Plus, you must pay income tax when withdrawing from a traditional IRA or 401(k), and an early-withdrawal penalty is assessed if you’re under age 59½.

However, if you’re willing to risk a portion of your retirement savings to take a bet on your business idea, you can avoid taxes and penalties by structuring your company as a retirement plan investment. It’s a little-known financing technique that could work if you’re young enough to recover from a major withdrawal from your retirement account or certain that you’ll be getting an inheritance or other windfall to fund retirement.

To use your retirement funds to finance a new business venture, some technical details must be in order, and a number of consulting firms specialize in helping structure these uncommon transactions. Typically, it involves taking funds from an IRA, 401(k), or 403(b) and investing directly into your new business. The retirement essentially owns shares in your company through a “private placement transaction.” The process differs slightly depending on which type of account you tap.

To use IRA money to fund your new business:

To use 401(k) or 403(b) funds for your new business, the approach is slightly different. You don’t need IRA approval and you simply shift your retirement funds from one qualified account to another. The basics steps:

While these transactions are not very complex, it is best to speak with and consider engaging one of the handful of consulting firms specializing in this area. Expect it to cost up to $5,000 initially to tap the funds, and there will be recurring annual costs of approximately $1,500 to maintain the plan.

Finally, don’t underestimate the risk of betting your retirement savings on the success of your new company. The high stakes gamble could pay off, but you don’t want to risk your retirement savings without your eyes wide open.