Forty-six percent of those leaving a job in 2008 tapped into their 401(k), maintaining an “alarmingly high” rate of people cashing in since 2005, Hewitt Associates said. Sixty-percent of those cashing in were in their 20s, and 33% were in their 50s.

However, those with more money saved tended to appreciate the importance of its purpose, with only 8% of those with balances of $100,000 or more dipping into the pot, and 85% of those with balances of $1,000 or less running with the money.

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