ReservePlus allows people to withdraw funds from their 401(k)s with a kind of debit card. That might sound pretty good, but many experts say it makes borrowing too easy and can put Americans' nest eggs at risk.
ReservePlus might appeal to people like Stuart Burgher, who bought a house in Ames, Iowa, for $89,000 in 1997, putting about half down with help from money that his wife had inherited from her father. At first, he managed to make the $400 payments on his mortgage every month -- but refinancing and an adjustable rate soon pushed those up to stifling quantities.
Strapped with his loan bills and determined to keep his home, Burgher drained around $5,000 from his 401(k) a couple of years ago. That didn't get him far.
His mortgage payment has soared since to above $900 month and again he's worried about losing his house in the weeks ahead. Already working 60 hours a week as a mechanic to pay all his bills, the 59-year-old doesn't know how to keep making ends meet."I'm not able to work all these hours," Burgher says. The 401(k) "bailed me out for a while, but it was a Band-Aid."
If Burgher participated in ReservePlus, he could tap into some of the $20,000 or so remaining in his 401(k). He could sign some paperwork and, taking the terms and conditions of his plan into account, decide how much he wanted to use of the money available to him for borrowing. Within weeks, he'd get a ReservePlus Loan card in the mail for withdrawing cash from an ATM. He could then take out as much or as little of the loan whenever he needs it, for as long as it lasts.
Once a ReservePlus customer decides how much money to set aside for future loans against their 401(k)s, the amount is held within the plan in a money market fund until it's taken out. The program, which is provided by Reserve Solutions, has signed up thousands of people since it started in 2003.