Millennials willing to tap retirement savings to cover basic expenses, study finds

Expert warns there are a number of reasons that is a bad idea.

While many Americans have little to no retirement savings at all, even young savers who do are perhaps too willing to draw from that stash to cover unrelated expenses.

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A new survey from TD Ameritrade showed that millennials were more likely than either Generation X or Baby Boomers to tap retirement funds for non-pressing expenses, like vacations or taking a sabbatical from work.

More than half of millennials (53 percent) said they would draw from retirement savings to spend during a job loss, cover medical bills (52 percent) or cover their child's education (52 percent). Just shy of half said they would take pull from retirement savings to pay down credit card debt (48 percent), buy a house (47 percent), cover living expenses during a sabbatical (45 percent), cover living expenses during parental leave (45 percent) or make a move (45 percent).

More than 40 percent said they would do so to buy a car, pay for a vacation, cover wedding expenses or pay down education debt.

MILLENNIALS MAY SOON BECOME THE RICHEST GENERATION EVER 

Molly Passantino, senior retirement specialist at TD Ameritrade, noted there are a variety of reasons why it is not advisable to withdraw funds if you can avoid it.

"There is typically a 10 percent penalty on the withdrawal (i.e. if you take out $100k, you really only get $90k)," Passantino said in a statement.

The penalty can be avoided if someone is permanently disabled and cannot work, has certain medical expenses, or has a divorce settlement requiring the division of funds with a spouse or paying an IRS levy. Even under these circumstances, however, individuals will be taxed unless they are pulling from a Roth IRA.

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Americans overall said they were most likely to withdraw from their retirement accounts to cover medical bills (49 percent). That was followed by job losses (42 percent), as well as paying down credit card debt and covering a child's education (38 percent each).

Baby Boomers were the least likely to say they would withdraw from their retirement savings – though the top expense was medical bills (48 percent). Only 30 percent of respondents said they would do so to cover a job loss or credit card debt, which were the next two likely expenses.

A majority of behind millennials (72 percent) thought they would be able to catch up on retirement savings, with about six in 10 expecting to be able to retire by the age of 65.

The survey was conducted among 1,015 U.S. adults aged 23 and older with at least $10,000 in investable assets.

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Passantino recommends that individuals who anticipate having to withdraw from retirement funds for other expenses consider investing in an IRA, which allows withdrawals for certain payments. She noted, however, that people shouldn't make a habit of withdrawing from retirement accounts for other expenses.