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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Foreclosure-related 401(k) Withdrawals Up

by Tanta on 3/11/2008 02:22:00 PM

This is ugly:

Struggling to save their homes from foreclosure, more Americans are raiding their 401(k) retirement accounts to pay their bills — and getting slammed with taxes and penalties in the process, according to retirement plan administrators. . . .

Such hardship withdrawals began rising last year and, by January this year, had exceeded January 2007 levels. During the first month of the year, as the economic slowdown tightened pressure on mortgage holders, hardship withdrawals rose 23% at plans that Merrill Lynch (MER) administers, compared with the same period in 2007, says Kevin Crain, managing director of the Merrill Lynch Retirement Group.

The 401(k) withdrawals are rising mainly because people such as Campbell and her husband want to save their homes. Merrill Lynch found that the primary reason for the rise in hardship withdrawals was to prevent foreclosure or eviction, based on its sampling of applications filed in January.

Likewise, in the first month of the year, compared with January 2007, Great-West Retirement Services saw a 20% increase in hardship withdrawals to save a home. And Principal Financial (PFG) reports that in January it received 245 calls from participants who inquired about 401(k) withdrawals to prevent a foreclosure or eviction, up dramatically from 45 similar calls it received in January 2007.