In the past 20 years, employers have moved away from offering employees defined benefits pension plans. The adoption of defined contribution plans, often in the form of 401(k)s, has allowed more workers to access money set aside in these accounts before actually retiring, according to a recent study from researchers at the University of Michigan's Retirement Research Center.

"If you leave people to their own devices, it's tempting for them to use their retirement savings before they retire," Frank Stafford, co-author of the study, told CNN.

People withdraw money from their retirement funds during their working years for a variety of reasons, including having to pay out-of-pocket expenses, financing home repairs and handling discretionary expenses like remodeling a kitchen, Stafford said.

Concerns surrounding loan repayment proved the most common reason people raid their pension. The study relied on data collected between 1999 and 2009. Researchers determined plan owners took out more money following financial market declines between 2001 and 2002 and 2008 and 2009, when millions of U.S. residents fell behind on mortgage payments.

Between 2007 and 2008, 5.6 percent of surveyed individuals 25 to 34 retracted money from their retirement fund. Six percent of people between the ages of 45 and 58 did the same. The highest rate of pension withdraws occurred unsurprisingly among individuals ages 59 to 61, with 15.3 percent of this pool taking money out.

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