A. You can usually borrow half of your balance in a 401(k), up to $50,000, and you may be allowed up to 15 years to repay the loan if you're borrowing for a home purchase. But if you lose or leave your job (say, because you retire), you generally have just 60 to 90 days to pay back the loan or it will be considered a distribution and subject to taxes. (Borrowers who are under age 55 when they leave their job must also pay a 10-percent early-withdrawal penalty.)
Even after you've saved enough for a down payment, you may want to set aside some money regularly in a liquid account so you have access to it in case of an emergency or for an investment opportunity or even a splurge purchase (after all, you've already got retirement covered). The best financial planning means diversifying not just within accounts but also among different types of accounts with varying levels of liquidity and tax treatment, Maurer says.
Maurer also points out another option: taking a distribution from your IRA accounts. You may withdraw your contributions to a Roth tax-free and penalty-free for any reason and at any age; but because you've reached 59 1/2, you may withdraw earnings penalty- and tax-free as well (as long as you've had the Roth for at least five years). You'll still have to pay taxes on withdrawals from traditional IRAs (except for any nondeductible contributions), but, as with a Roth, you won't be subject to early-withdrawal penalties because you've reached 59 1/2.
(Kimberly Lankford is a contributing editor to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the author of Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, $18.95). Send your questions and comments to email@example.com.)