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Should you drain your 401(k) to start a business?


Jun. 23, 2014 CNN Money

Eric Schneider followed it diligently during his 25 years selling commercial insurance. But two years ago, he emptied his nest egg to launch Headrush Roasters Coffee & Tea in Kansas City, Mo.

“I took a big risk, but I don’t regret it at all,” said Schneider, 49, who co-owns the business with his wife Nancy.

Schneider left his six-figure job in 2010 with $250,000 in his 401(k) and $100,000 in savings. In 2011, he found a vacant building that he thought would be perfect for his coffee shop and roastery. He hoped to lease it, but the owner only wanted to sell.

“I’m a big believer in no debt,” he said. “I had paid off my house, my cars. I didn’t want to take out a loan to buy the building.”

As he researched financing options, he came across ROBS, or Rollovers as Business Startups. These allow people to use the money in their 401(k) to start a business (or buy an existing one) without paying taxes on the withdrawn funds or getting hit with an early withdrawal penalty.

The process can be pretty complicated, however. First, you must incorporate a business and open a new 401(k) plan under it. Then you roll your existing 401(k) funds into the new plan. Since both accounts are tax-exempt, you avoid taking the tax hit.

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