Most of the rules come from the IRS. You just can't whimsically withdraw the $$ before 59 1/2 years old and take the additional 10% tax hit. You have to fall into 1 of 6 "hardship" type categories (medical expenses, mortgage relief, etc..) as laid out by the IRS. You HAVE TO take out a loan against your 401k before you can even apply for the withdrawal. These are IRS rules. Sorry, but 100% of that money is MINE, not my company's. The moment they deposit it into my account, I am the rightful owner.