The Million Dollar Question: 401K Loans vs. Second Mortgages vs. HELOCs

Getting a loan from your 401k, getting a second mortgage, or getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC) each have their own set of pros and cons. It's important to carefully consider all of your options before making a decision about which route to go.

401k Loan

A 401k loan is an option if you have a 401k account with an employer. You can borrow up to 50% of the value of your account, up to a maximum of $50,000. The interest rate on a 401k loan is usually low, and you're essentially borrowing from yourself, so there's no credit check required. However, if you leave your job, you typically have to repay the loan within 60 days or it will be considered a withdrawal and subject to taxes and penalties.

Second Mortgage

A second mortgage is a loan that's secured by your home equity. Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and how much you still owe on your mortgage. You can typically borrow up to 80% of your home equity, but the interest rate is usually higher than for a first mortgage. Another downside of a second mortgage is that if you can't make the payments, you could lose your home to foreclosure.


A HELOC is a home equity line of credit. Like a second mortgage, it's a loan that's secured by your home equity. But with a HELOC, you can borrow only what you need, when you need it. You'll only be charged interest on the amount you borrow, and you can typically take up to 10 years to repay the loan. However, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable and could increase over time, so you need to be prepared for that possibility.

When you're considering taking out a loan, whether it's a 401k loan, second mortgage, or HELOC, it's important to compare interest rates, fees, and repayment terms. You also need to think about the risks involved with each type of loan. Carefully consider all of your options before making a decision about which loan is right for you.

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