Ask Terry Questions Paying off credit cards with 401K

Paying off credit cards with 401K

By Terry Savage on March 05, 2015 | Credit/Debt

Dear Terry,
I sent you a this question a few minutes ago and realized I didn’t give you enough details of my financial situation.
I’m 61 and work 2 jobs. I have 65K in my 401K. I’m married and my 66 year old husband is getting social security but doesn’t have a 401K. Between the two of us through the years we have incurred about 20K in credit card debt. We no longer use the credit cards but are having a difficult time paying them down. We pay on time but with such high interest rates it seems that they are going down at a snails pace. I worry about retirement with owing so much money. I’m wondering if taking 20K from my 401K to pay off these debts would be advisable. We have a home that is worth about 280K but we owe 200K and plan on selling within the next 10 years but notice that our neighbors are having a hard time selling their homes so I’m thinking we can’t count on that for the equity for paying off the bills.
Thanks in advance for your help!

Terry Says:  OK, you have the right idea — but the wrong solution!  You are absolutely correct that paying only the minimum monthly payment will pay this off at a snail’s pace — and likely it will take at least 30 years!  The secret to paying down credit card debt is to take this month’s minimum monthly payment, write it down — and then double it!  Keep paying that same “double amount”  (not doubling the new minimum) but double the current minimum, EVERY month.  You will pay off the balance in less than three years!  Do that with every card — or pay off the lowest balance or highest interest rate cards first, then start on the others.

If you add up the current “double the minimum” amount due on all your cards, what is the total?   Can you do it on all the cards starting now?

Now, where  will you get the money to do that?  NOT from your 40l(k).  You are already working two jobs.  What is your husband doing?  Seriously, at age 66 he has at least a 20 year life expectancy.  He obviously took SS early — thereby diminishing his income.  He needs to pick up the slack — whether driving a UBER car or some other kind of work.  (You mentioned that both of you incurred the debt, so he has to help pay it off!)  Unless you write back and tell me that he is completely incapacitated, this is the ONLY ANSWER to your problem.  And it’s the only way you will be able to enjoy your well-deserved retirement when it comes!



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