These are unusual economic times.

Confirmation of that fact can be found in recent reports of increased retirement plan “liquidity events” – i.e., loans, withdrawals and pre-retirement distributions. For example, Fidelity Investments, which provides recordkeeping services for $700 billion of defined contribution plan assets, reported a 17% increase in withdrawals from its 401(k) plans in December. Great-West Retirement Services, a manager of 3.5 million retirement plan accounts, reported that its hardship withdrawals and loans increased in 2007 by 14% and 13%, respectively, compared to the previous year.

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