401k - Should You Cash It Out to Pay Off Debt?

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

When I shared my monthly financial update last week (Big Decisions Involving Big Dollars), I said I had big news: Among other changes, I’d decided to cash out my 401(k) from my former full-time job.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and it isn’t without some serious ramifications. And here at Man Vs. Debt, it ranks among the most frequent decisions on which people seek our input: Should I cash out my retirement fund  (or other savings vehicle) to pay down my debt?

So, since I now have first-hand experience doing so, I thought it made sense to talk in depth about this topic – and to share some thoughts I have. Warning: If you’re expecting traditional financial advice, you might be disappointed. But if you want to know why I made the choice I did – and what we tell readers who ask us about this hot-button topic – read on!

[What do you need to know if you're considering this move?]

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john-corcoranThis is a guest post by John Corcoran, an attorney and former Clinton White House writer who blogs about how to network effectively at Smart Business Revolution. He recently released a free ebook, “How to Create Your Personal Networking Plan,” full of networking tips.

I’m kind of a networking dork. I love going out to events to meet new people.

In fact, I first met Baker in person at a networking event, which he told me about after I had interviewed him about the release of “I’m Fine, Thanks.”

But there’s one thing I hate about networking: How expensive it can be. The costs can really add up. Conference admission fees, organization annual membership fees, lunches, and even local happy hours can often mean spending a lot of your hard-earned cash on meeting people.

These costs are even harder to swallow if you are unemployed, or looking for work. Even if you recognize the value of networking, it can be difficult to justify these costs that often don’t have an immediate return.

In my case, I’m self-employed, so any money I spend on networking ultimately comes out of my take-home pay. However, because I work in a referral-based business, the cost of not networking would be even more expensive than the cost of networking.

In other words, if I didn’t spend money on networking, it is likely many of my referrals would dry up, meaning my business would suffer. Not good.

[So how can you get connected without breaking the bank?!]

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Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

After several months of, well, not much to report, I’ve decided to make up for it all in one month.

Let’s see…

  • My husband gave his notice at his job of 13 years – and is strongly considering taking some time to freelance and explore some alternative opportunities, rather than a traditional office job.
  • Meanwhile, I’m strongly considering a return to full-time office work.
  • We cashed out a good chunk of money from my former 401(k).

Yeah, I’d say we’ve made, or are in the process of making, some pretty big decisions.

[Find out what led up to this... and what's next.]

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Headshot for BioCurrently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, newlyweds Chris and Angela Scott sold everything and paid off thousands in debt in order to trade the corporate grind in the United States for a location-independent lifestyle. They help guide prospective expats toward simpler lives abroad at Tieland to Thailand. You can also keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Why we weren’t fulfilled by the nine-to-five

We used to work the conventional nine-to-five when living in northern Virginia, USA.

We thought we were successful and measured it by our nice corner unit apartment, the accumulation of toys and home decor, and the expensive dinners we treated ourselves to at upscale restaurants from time to time.

But we slowly realized that our lifestyle wasn’t as fulfilling as it was when we first started making good money together as a couple. We found ourselves becoming content in life, settling for what we had, simply going through the motions of the daily grind, and looking forward only to the next weekend or the next vacation.

After a two consecutive vacations to the Caribbean, we got the travel bug. We couldn’t imagine spending the rest of our adult lives (the next 40 years!) in a cubicle or to wait until the conventional retirement age to explore the world. That is when our eyes opened wide and we had our aha moment…

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…why the heck should we work 50 weeks a year in exchange for a mere two weeks of vacation when we could take control of our lives, set out on our own, and go on a permanent vacation?

[Find out what motivated us... and how we made the leap!]

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Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

I’ve got a couple of really bad habits.

Specific to Man Vs. Debt, I have a habit of buying things – “little” things – to make myself feel better when I’m upset.

But more personally, I have an incredibly hurtful bad habit.

This is a story I’ve never shared publicly before, but as we’ve started our final You Vs. Debt session, the stories shared by my classmates in the forums make me realize how much baggage ALL of us carry into our financial lives. It’s not about money – not really. It’s about mindfulness.

It’s about the pain of changing vs. the pain of doing what you’ve always done, the decision to do one thing or another.

And this is the best example I can give of that decision as it’s played out in my life.

“I barely felt a thing…”

I first remember it happening while I was sitting in 10th-grade history class. I was bored, I think. Maybe a little down about some kind of high-school drama. As the teacher lectured, I took the second finger of my left hand and scratched absently at the back of my right. Up, down, up, down… for a 90-minute class period. At the end of class, my good friend Phil leaned over and gasped, “What did you do?” He looked down, horrified.

I’d left an inch-long gash in the back of my hand, so deep that I could see bone. I was bleeding everywhere. And I had barely felt a thing.

[And that was only the beginning...]

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Note: This is a post from Oli Lewington. Read more about Oli.

Almost two months have passed since my last (and introductory) post on here. The Top 4 Things Everyone Man vs Debt Reader Should Know About Me should really have been five things. Number 5? I’m going to disappear for two months without so much as a whisper.

What actually happened was that a surgery I’d spent almost a year on the waiting-list for finally came around, literally as I joined the Man vs. Debt team. Not great timing.

(Side note: It wasn’t anything major, but since it was on my stomach and involved damage to my stomach muscles and diaphragm, it did mean a long, slow recovery, which has gone well.)

What better way, then, to bring myself back into the fold than by examining how you can go about looking after your financial health while managing your physical health?

[There are a lot of things to think about!...]

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