Live chat

Carmen Wong Ulrich: Keep that 401k right where it is

Aug. 17, 2011 at 1:20 PM ET

Today Money financial expert Carmen Wong Ulrich joined us for a live Web chat Wednesday to answer your questions.

Here’s one of her answers to questions from the live chat. (See below for the full Q&A and video of Carmen’s TV appearance this morning.)

John asked:

“I have two mortgages, crushing credit card and loan debt, and my daughter is starting college in the fall via subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS loans and some scholarship. Would it be smart to use my $150k in my 401(k) to get rid of a big chunk of this debt? I'm 53.”

Carmen replied:

“Oh John, Nooooo! Pretty please don't touch that 401k. Even in bankruptcy that money is protected. Continue to protect it. That's your future. Plus, if you just pull the funds you'll end up losing nearly 1/2 to taxes and penalties. Instead, let your daughter keep on what she's doing and you can focus on your debt. Have you talked to a non-profit credit counselor? Do that (go to and see what your options are. But, promise me to keep that 401k right where it is ;-)”

Here’s the full chat archive and Carmen’s TV appearance:


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