Retirement raiders: More tap 401(k) early

Retirement at bay
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Retirement at bay

A lot of people want -- or need -- their 401(k) money now.

That's the clear conclusion from figures from Fidelity, the mutual fund giant that administers 11 million 401(k) accounts. As of the second quarter, 2.2 percent of Fidelity's 401(k) holders had made hardship withdrawals in the previous 12 months, even though these withdrawals carry a 10 percent penalty on top of taxes.

Meanwhile, a record 22 percent of Fidelity's 401(k) customers had outstanding loans against their plan.

We asked Bankrate's newsletter readers who were accessing 401(k) plans early -- in most cases you must wait until age 59½ -- or were borrowing against them, to tell us their stories. Their answers were unsettling, but insightful. Unemployment, financial emergencies and out-of-control credit card debts were among the most-cited reasons.

What about retirement? In today's economy, many of them say retirement planning is a luxury they can't afford.




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