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Investing Specialists

Where to Turn for Emergency Cash

We rank consumers' options, from best to worst.

Even some financially secure households have been hit hard by the current economic and market downturn. But the convergence has been a nightmare for consumers who were on shaky financial footing to begin with. As a result, an increasing number of individuals are maxing out credit cards, tapping their 401(k) plans, and taking out reverse mortgages just to make ends meet.

Some of these options are decidedly better than others. So, if you find yourself in a similar financial pinch--bills to pay but no available cash to do so--it's worth taking a moment to assess your options.

Here's a discussion of some of the options available for those in need of emergency cash. Although individuals' own circumstances will affect the attractiveness of these sources of financing, I've ranked them from the ones that are generally the most palatable to the least attractive.