A recent survey from American Century showed that nearly one-third of the investors surveyed said they would consider pulling money out of their retirement accounts early if they lost their jobs.

Despite the fact that 94% of the respondents said they understood that such withdrawals would result in taxes and penalties, 32% said they would consider tapping their retirement accounts if their jobs dried up.

The results left executives at American Century, which provides mutual funds and other investment products, shaking their heads.

"Dipping into retirement savings should be a last resort if you lose your job since as much as half that money could be lost to early withdrawal penalties and federal and state taxes," said Doug Lockwood, a VP of shareholder education at the Kansas City-based firm.

The firm, which oversees nearly $90 billion in assets, surveyed 1,007 adults via telephone.

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