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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Consumers Use the 401(k) ATM

by Calculated Risk on 12/13/2007 04:33:00 PM

From Employees Raiding 401(k)s, CFOs Say (hat tip Lyle)

The latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey, which polls 573 finance chiefs in the U.S. and 1,275 globally, finds that year-end employee bonuses will fall by 10 percent this year compared to 2006. That decline could be especially painful at a time when more employees are dipping into their retirement accounts in order to pay bills.

The survey finds that nearly 20 percent of companies have seen increased hardship withdrawals from 401(k) accounts, often to cover mortgage payments or to avoid personal bankruptcy.

"In the last four or five months we have seen an absolute onslaught of people trying to do hardship withdrawals and loans out of 401(k)s," Mark Anderson, CFO of Granite City Electric, told CFO magazine in October. "What has happened with housing and the economy has really blown up for people at the lower end of the spectrum."

CFOs attribute the 401(k) withdrawals to the effects of the shaken credit markets and higher costs of living, among other reasons. Those concerns have affected companies from top to bottom. Nearly a third of CFOs polled in the survey said their firms have been directly hurt by credit conditions.
This article is from last week. With home equity extraction slowing, consumers are turning to other sources for cash, like credit cards and 401(k) withdrawals. Whatever the source, it appears - at least in November - that they are still spending.