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Your Views: Ability to pull 401(k) savings would help now
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Dear Mr. President: I am a 54-year-old single woman. I have been working in the corporate world for more than 30 years, the past eight with a Fortune 500 technology company, and before that with a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company.

I have a 401(k) that has dropped by more than one-third in the past three months; I have a home with a mortgage balance of under $164,000; my 12-year-old car is paid off; and I have a credit card balance below $2,400.

Here is a concern. All in my department have been advised, due to reorganization within my employer and the new business model, that jobs are going offshore to India and Argentina. Other jobs that were once virtual offices spread about the U.S. are now being relocated to Boulder, Co., Dubuque, Iowa, and Fishkill, N.Y.

With that move, many of us face the possibility of being released within the next 12 months. I will lose my job, my current level of income, and be unable to afford my home.

Yet, I planned and I have a 401(k), but I cannot touch it to pay my mortgage and be debt-free without paying the penalty of a high tax bill.

Your plan to help industry is grand and may assist some in the long run, but there are many like myself that will not benefit. Our needs are here in the present and many of us will lose everything we have.

If we had the ability to withdraw the money we have so wisely saved over the past 20 or 30 years to use now without tax penalties or tax payments due, many of us would be able to pay down our mortgages and outstanding credit debt. That alone would be a salvation for some of us.

I only ask that you think in small terms as they may help more people quicker.

Shari Heinz

School crossing guards are more vital than some jobs
Have you noticed when a company cuts back on personnel or salaries, they usually cut those at the bottom of the employee pay ladder. Eliminating jobs that pay the least. They take the cowards' way out and eliminate employees most easily eliminated. Often these are the employees who will be missed the soonest and the most.

It is assumed these folk being eliminated will affect production the least. Often they are getting minimum wage and only work part time each day. The saving ratio is two low-rung salaries equals one salary at the next step up the salary ladder.
The assumption that these employees are not valuable to the overall health of the company is wrong.

A case in point. Is it wise to lay off school crossing guards? They are at the bottom of the pay scale and can't fight back. They quietly go about their work in rain, shine, sleet or snow. They wear bright yellow slickers and reflectors, but they are invisible to the person who is foolish enough to eliminate these heroes.

How about starting on up the pay scale to save money? There are many persons working in the school system in nonteaching positions. Their loss would not affect the safety of children or help to lessen congestion when parents and buses drop their precious cargo each morning and pick them up each school-day.

Lee S. Bowers