Illustration: David Wyffels

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Why It's Important: Can't handle the mortgage? That's no reason to raid your retirement funds. When that money runs out, you'll still face foreclosure, but you'll have lost your retirement savings, too.

Do This Now: Don't cash out your 401(k) when leaving a job. In addition to an early withdrawal penalty (if you're under age 55), your shortsightedness will cost you future gains. Go to and click on the Calculator tab. Under "current principal," input the value of your 401(k). Leave "annual addition" blank. For "years to grow," enter the difference between your age and 65. For "interest rate," use a conservative 5 percent. Calculate the future value. The difference between that and the current value is what you'd give up by cashing out.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.