Tips On Retirement Accounts
- Whats the right retirement plan for you? Should you roll your 401 into another employers program or an IRA? What other options might you even have? A financial advisor can provide valuable insight and guidance on this. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesnt have to be hard. SmartAssets free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If youre ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Part of what will help you decide what to do with 401 money is how far long you are in reaching your financial goal for retirement. Use this no-cost retirement calculator to get a quick estimate of how youre doing.
Move Your 401 To Your New Employer
If your new employer has a retirement plan, you can ask your former employer to automatically transfer your money to the new 401. Direct transfers may take a few days or weeks, depending on the 401 plan.
You may also opt to receive a check with your 401 balance so that you can deposit it to your new 401. In this case, you have 60 days to deposit the check into the new plan. Any delays past the 60-day deadline attract an income tax and penalty on early withdrawals.
Option : Transfer The Money From Your Old 401 Plan Into Your New Employers Plan
Moving your old 401 into your new employers qualified retirement plan is also an option when you change jobs. The new plan may have lower fees or investment options that better support your financial goals. Rolling over your old 401 into your new companys plan can also make it easier to track your retirement savings, since youll have everything in one place. Its worthwhile to talk with an Ameriprise advisor who will compare the investments and features of both plans.
Some things to think about if youre considering rolling over a 401 into a new employers plan:
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How Long Can A Company Hold Your 401 Funds When You Withdraw
When you leave a job, you can decide to cash out your 401 money. Generally, when you request a payout, it can take a few days to two weeks to get your funds from your 401 plan. However, depending on the employer and the amount of funds in your account, the waiting period can be longer than two weeks.
Each company has different time frames for making distributions when you request a payout. Check the waiting period of your employerâs 401 plan by checking the summary plan description given by the company. The waiting period starts when you request a payout up to when you receive the cash distribution, or funds are rolled over to an IRA or 401.
Transfer Your 401 To Your New Employer
If you’re changing jobs and your new employer offers a 401, you don’t have to worry about what happens to 401 if you leave your job â you can create a new account and transfer your funds to it.
Your new employer 401 plan might be flexible and work well with your investment options and financial goals. Also, since it is easier to track your investment accounts when they are in one place, moving your money to your new 401 account can be a good option. 401-to-401 transfers are seamless and don’t include taxes or penalties.
Learn how to transfer your old 401 to your new one before you leave your job. If you receive your proceeds from your old employer via check or cash, a mandatory 20% tax is applied to the savings. If you fail to deposit the money to your new retirement account within 60 days, you are subject to penalties and taxes.
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How To Transfer 401 To A New Job
If you want to transfer your 401 to your new employer then you must contact both your old and new 401 plan administrator. Your new 401 plan administrator can confirm if they will accept the transfer, and can give you the details you need for the rollover. You will likely need to fill up a rollover form with your old 401 plan administrator to initiate the transfer.
Option : Cash Out Your 401k
Cashing out your 401k is another option for an old 401k. While this option allows you to gain access to your funds, it usually carries a penalty if you dont meet certain qualifications. If you withdraw the money from your 401k and do not meet the required qualifications for a withdrawal you will be required to pay a penalty for the early withdrawal. In addition to the early withdrawal penalty, income tax may also need to be paid on the withdrawal.
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How To Cash Out 401 From An Old Job
To cash out your 401, you must contact your plan administrator for the paperwork, fill it out, send it to the financial institution that manages your 401. Once it is approved, you should receive a check in the mail within a couple of weeks. Please be aware that this will generate lots of taxes and a 10% penalty.
Option : Keep Your Savings With Your Previous Employers Plan
If your previous employers 401 allows you to maintain your account and you are happy with the plans investment options, you can leave it. This might be the most convenient choice, but you should still evaluate your options. Each year, American workers manage to lose track of billions of dollars in old retirement savings accounts, so you should make sure to track your account regularly, review your investments as part of your overall portfolio and keep the beneficiaries up to date.
Some things to think about if youre considering keeping your money in your previous employers plan:
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Option : Leave It Where It Is
In most cases, you can leave your 401k in the former employers plan. This option requires the least amount of work since there is no additional paperwork needed. Also, your account is still able to grow tax-deferred until you withdraw funds.
While this option might be an easier option it may not be the most advantageous. One of the limits of a 401k plan is that there can be fewer investment options. Also, 401k maintenance fees may be passed on to you, which can increase the expenses of the 401k plan. Another restriction is that you cannot contribute to a 401k once you no longer work for that employer. Finally, it can be complicated to keep track of where you have funds if you have multiple 401k with past employers.
How The Rollover Is Done Is Important Too
Whether you pick an IRA for your rollover or choose to go with your new employer’s plan, consider a direct rolloverthats when one financial institution sends a check directly to the other financial institution. The check would be made out to the bank or brokerage firm with instructions to roll the money into your IRA or 401.
The alternative, having a check made payable to you, is not a good option in this case. If the check is made payable directly to you, your employer is required by the IRS to withhold 20% for taxes. As if that wouldn’t be bad enoughyou only have 60 days from the time of a withdrawal to put the money back into a tax-advantaged account like a 401 or IRA. That means if you want the full value of your former account to stay in the tax-advantaged confines of a retirement account, you’d have to come up with the 20% that was withheld and put it into your new account.
If you’re not able to make up the 20%, not only will you lose the potential tax-free or tax-deferred growth on that money but you may also owe a 10% penalty if you’re under age 59½ because the IRS would consider the tax withholding an early withdrawal from your account. So, to make a long story short, do pay attention to the details when rolling over your 401.
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Keep Tabs On The Old 401
If you decide to leave an account with a former employer, keep up with both the account and the company. People change jobs a lot more than they used to, says Peggy Cabaniss, retired co-founder of HC Financial Advisors in Lafayette, California. So its easy to have this string of accounts out there in never-never land.
Cabaniss recalls one client who left an account behind after a job change. Fifteen years later, the company had gone bankrupt. While the account was protected and the money still intact, getting the required company officials and fund custodians to sign off on moving it was a protracted paperwork nightmare, she says.
When people leave this stuff behind, the biggest problem is that its not consolidated or watched, says Cabaniss.
If you do leave an account with a former employer, keep reading your statements, keep up with the paperwork related to your account, keep an eye on the companys performance and be sure to keep your address current with the 401 plan sponsor.
Keeping on top of how the plan is performing is very important as you may later decide to do something different with your hard-earned money.
Your 401 Plan When You Change Employers
Your employer can remove money from your 401 after you leave the company, but only under certain circumstances, as the Internal Revenue Service explains.
If your balance is less than $1,000, your employer can cut you a check for the balance. Should this happen, rush to move your money into an individual retirement account . You typically have just 60 days to do so or it will be considered a withdrawal and you will have to pay penalties and taxes on it. Note that the check will already have taxes taken out. You can reimburse your account when you reopen it.
If your balance is $1,000 to $5,000, your employer can move the money into an IRA of the companys choice.
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Leaving 401 With Old Employer
When you change jobs and you have a 401 account managed by your soon-to-be former employer, you can choose to do nothing and let the employer continue managing the retirement assets. You can choose this option if you have a substantial amount in your retirement account, and you are comfortable with the plan portfolio. You must have at least $5,000 invested in your 401 account if you decide to leave it with the employer. The 401 balance must be from money deposited into the plan from earnings from the job. Rollovers from previous employers are excluded in determining the qualified 401 balance.
If your 401 balance is below $5,000 but more than $1,000, the employer will transfer the 401 assets to an IRA of its choice. The transfer can take up to 60 days depending on the events surrounding the exit. Once the funds are transferred to the new retirement account, you can access the money the same way you would access your 401. For 401 balances below $1000, the employer will automatically cash out the money and send you a check with your balance.
Leave It With Your Former Employer
If you have more than $5,000 invested in your 401, most plans allow you to leave it where it is after you separate from your employer. If it is under $1,000, the company can force out the money by issuing you a check, says Bonnie Yam, CFA, CFP, CLU, ChFC, RICP, EA, CVA, and CEPA for Pension Maxima Investment Advisory Inc. in White Plains, N.Y. If it is between $1,000 and $5,000, the company must help you set up an IRA to host the money if they are forcing you out.
If you have a substantial amount saved and like your plan portfolio, then leaving your 401 with a previous employer may be a good idea. If you are likely to forget about the account or are not particularly impressed with the plans investment options or fees, consider some of the other options.
When you leave your job and you have a 401 plan which is administered by your employer, you have the default option of doing nothing and continuing to manage the money as you had been doing previously, says Steven Jon Kaplan, CEO of True Contrarian Investments LLC in Kearny, N.J. However, this is usually not a good idea, because these plans have very limited choices as compared with the IRA offerings available with most brokers.
If you leave your 401 with your old employer, you will no longer be allowed to make contributions to the plan.
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Indirect Rollovers Can Be Complicated To Manage
With an indirect rollover, you receive a check for the balance of your account that is made payable to you. That might sound good, but as a result, you are now responsible for getting it to the right place. You have 60 days to complete the rollover process of moving these assets to your new employer’s plan or an IRA.
If you dont complete the rollover within this 60-day window, you will owe income taxes on the amount you failed to roll over. If you’re under 59 1/2, you will also face a 10% penalty tax. Indirect rollovers can be made once a year.
Your old employer is required to withhold 20% from your distribution for federal income tax purposes. To avoid being taxed and penalized on this 20%, you must be able to get enough money from other sources to cover this amount and include it with your rollover contribution.
Then, youll have to wait until the following year, when you can file your income tax return to actually get the withheld amount back.
Suppose the 401 or 403 from your prior employer has a balance of $100,000. If you decide to take a full distribution from that account, your prior employer must withhold 20%. That means they keep $20,000 and send you a check for the remaining $80,000.
Even if you have an extra $20,000 on hand, you still must wait until you file your income tax return to get the withheld $20,000 returnedor a portion of it, depending on what other taxes you owe and any other amounts withheld.
Option : Leave Your Money Where It Is
Usually, if your 401 has more than $5,000 in it, most employers will allow you to leave your money where it is. If youve been happy with your investment options and the plan has low fees, this might be a tempting offer. Before you decide, compare your old plan with any retirement plans offered at your new job or with an IRA of your own.
Your new employer-sponsored plan might have more limitations on it than your previous plan or other available options. Maybe there are fewer investment choices/options. Maybe it doesnt have an employer match or higher management fees. So youll want to look closely.
Also consider how often you tend to stay at jobs. If you change jobs every few years, you could end up with a trail of 401 plans at all the different places youve worked. Consolidating might be easier in the long run.
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What Happens When You Borrow
The rules about 401 plans can seem confusing to workers. While employers aren’t required to offer the plans at all, if they do, they are required to do certain things but also have discretion over how they run the plan in other ways. One choice they have is whether to offer 401 loans at all. If they do, they also have some control over which rules to apply to repayment.
According to Michelle Smalenberger, CFP, Your employer may refuse to let you contribute while repaying a loan. Smalenberger is the cofounder of Financial Design Studio, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm. When an employer chooses what plan they will offer or make available to their employees, they have to choose which provisions they will allow.
If you cant contribute while repaying, remember that your employer is giving you a benefit by allowing the loan from the plan in the first place, Smalenberger adds.
And if you cant make contributions while youre repaying your loan, be aware that a higher amount of your paycheck will go to income taxes until you resume contributions.
If your employer does allow plan loans, the most you can borrow is the lesser of $50,000 or half the present value of the vested balance of your account, minus any existing plan loans. You must repay the loan within five years. And taking a loan puts you at risk of facing the obligation to repay it within a narrow time limit, typically 60 days or less, if you are laid off or quit.
Is Rolling A 401 Into An Ira A Better Option
When it comes to the 401 advice she gives most often, Priya says it comes down to one thing. “Roll your old 401 into a traditional IRA. This is where you walk away with the biggest win. All of your old retirement accounts are consolidated into one place, you are working with fewer fees because of the lack of employee sponsorship, and your investment options are nearly unlimited.”
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