Nearly one third of retirement plan participants have borrowed against their savings, according to a survey released Wednesday by TIAA-CREF.

The Charlotte-based financial services firm found that 43% of workers who have borrowed from their retirement plans have done so at least twice. Additionally, almost half of all borrowers have taken loans worth more than 20% of their total savings.

"Too many people have struggled since the 2008 financial crisis and have looked at loans from their retirement plans as a way to ease financial stress," said Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of TIAA-CREF's institutional business, in press release accompanying the survey.

Survey respondents cited paying off debt as the top reason for borrowing from their accounts. Other reasons included paying for an emergency expenditure and renovating a home.

The motivation behind retirement plan borrowing, however, varied by income. The survey found that respondents who make less than $35,000 were more likely to cite paying bills following a job loss as their primary reason for taking out a loan.

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