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‘Smart’ Money Moves That Aren’t So Smart

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The odds of winning a lottery are infinitesimal. Yet inevitably, someone does. Inspired by the idea of a huge payoff, millions of people burn money on lottery tickets.

The financial strategies below aren’t as much of a long shot as the lottery. More than a handful of people may actually benefit. But many who are tempted to use them don’t understand how high the odds are stacked against success. What seem like smart money moves on the surface may hide perils underneath.

Using a 401(k) loan

The pitch: Retirement fund loans may be cheaper than other loans, and borrowers pay themselves interest instead of paying a lender.

The problem: The risk of a loan turning into a withdrawal is huge.

A study published by the National Bureau of Economic...

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