been with company 27 years, letting go of 90% of the staff
Typically, not. If the balance is in a 401k and you are separating from service, you can by pass the 59 1/2 rule associated with IRAs, etc. Just don't roll it to an IRA, take your distribution directly from the 401k
The answer is that it depends on the employer plan that your money is in as well as your specific situation. If it is a qualified employer plan, such as a 401(k), then you would need to meet one of several circumstances to not pay an early withdrawal penalty. Some of these circumstances are things like you have become disabled, gone thru a qualifying hardship, you have allowable medical expenses, or the withdrawal is related to a domestic order. Also some plans will allow you to set up equal periodic payments for at least 5 years, or until you reach age 59 1/2, whichever is longer. The best course of action for you is to contact the human resources or personnel department of your company and ask them what your options are with the plan in question. Best of luck to you! Luke
Generally, separating from service after age 55 (or in the year in which you turn age 55, as long as you'll be 55 by the end of the year) is an exception to the early withdrawal penalty for a withdrawal from a 401(k). So given the limited information here, it appears you would be eligible for the exception and not be subject to the penalty.
However, bear in mind that even if you're not subject to a PENALTY, receiving the funds will still be taxable income, and you will owe taxes at the end of the year associated with this withdrawal if you take the money out.
You can "roll over" the funds to an IRA to preserve the tax deferral, though note that if you roll the money over to an IRA the early withdrawal penalty will apply once again until you turn 59 1/2. To preserve access to the funds without a penalty, you would want to leave them in the 401(k) plan for now (if you can do so).