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Once you set up a 401 retirement plan, prior to using it for retirement income, your options for getting at that money are limited. Generally, most plans require that you use the money only for a financial hardship. So-called "safe harbor hardship" withdrawals are limited to certain medical expenses for you, your spouse or your dependents, purchase of a primary residence, payments of certain post-secondary education expenses for the next year for you, your spouse or your dependents, or to prevent eviction from or foreclosure on your primary home.