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You must wait to withdraw from your 401(k) until you are at least 59½ years old to take the distribution without penalty. The 10% penalty for withdrawing early is applied if you withdraw before you are at least that age.
Traditional 401(k)s are tax-deferred on the front end, meaning that you don’t pay tax until you withdraw the amount. If you withdraw early, the 10% penalty is added to any taxes you owe.