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Fill Out The Paperwork
Contact your ex-employers 401 administrator to ask about the procedure for a direct rollover to your new account. They may refer you to your new account administrator or brokerage to initiate the rollover from their end.
Either way, plan on filling out a few forms including your basic details and Social Security number, and whether you want to liquidate your positions or transfer them as-is.
Choose Your Own Investments
Employer-sponsored retirement accounts are managed by a plan administrator, chosen by your employer. They provide a limited list of available investments, and you cant draw outside those lines.
By rolling over funds to an IRA however, you can choose among virtually any investment on the planet. That includes alternative investments in a self-directed IRA if you choose, rather than just publicly traded assets like stocks and bonds.
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An Ira Is The Best Option For Anyone Unsure When Theyll Return To Work
An IRA is an individual retirement account that can allow you to keep saving for retirement, even without an employer. This type of investment account can be opened on your own through a brokerage firm of your choice.
We have seen a relatively large uptick of people rolling over 401s into their IRAs, says Bobby Glotfelty, a senior licensed financial professional with Series 7, 24, and 65 licenses at Betterment. A lot of these cases are people who are no longer employed or are still looking for employment.
Leaving your old 401 at your old employers provider wont do much to help your money grow. By moving into an IRA, you generally have more investment options than you would with a 401. Often, 401s restrict you on what you can invest in, Glotfelty says. With more investment options, like index funds and ETFs, you can invest more specifically to your goals.
By switching to an IRA, a lot of times youll find lower fees, Glotfelty says. Its easier to figure out the fees you actually pay within an IRA.
Lastly, your IRA is a good tool to keep retirement money in one place, which can be especially helpful after youve had several jobs. Keeping all of your retirement money in one place can help you better assess where you are in relation to your goal, and how much more you need to save plus, one retirement savings account is easier to keep track of than multiple.
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Rolling 401 Assets Into An Ira
When you retire or leave your job for any reason, you have the right to roll over your 401 assets to an IRA. You have a number of direct rollover options:
Rolling your traditional 401 to a traditional IRA. You can roll your traditional 401 assets into a new or existing traditional IRA. To initiate the rollover, you complete the forms required by both the IRA provider you choose and your 401 plan administrator. The money is moved directly, either electronically or by check. No taxes are due on the assets you move, and any new earnings accumulate tax deferred.
Rolling your Roth 401 to a Roth IRA. You can roll your Roth 401 assets into a new or existing Roth IRA with a custodian of your choice. You complete the forms required by the IRA provider and your 401 plan administrator, and the money is moved directly either electronically or by check. No taxes are due when the money is moved and any new earnings accumulate tax deferred. Earnings are eligible for tax-free withdrawal once the IRA has been open at least five years and you are at least 59½.
Rolling your traditional 401 to a Roth IRA. If your traditional 401 plan permits direct rollovers to a Roth IRA, you can roll over assets in your traditional 401 to a new or existing Roth IRA. Keep in mind youll have to pay taxes on the rollover amount you convert.
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Keep Your 401 With Your Previous Employer
In this instance, you wont change a thing. Just make sure that you actively monitor your investments in the plan for performance and remain aware of any significant changes that occur.
If you really like your current investment options and are paying low fees on the investments, this might be the right choice for you.
Reasons You May Want To Wait To Roll Over Your 401
- Temporary ban on contributions. Some plan sponsors impose a temporary ban on further 401 contributions for employees who withdraw funds before leaving the company. You’ll want to determine if the gap in contributions will significantly impact your retirement savings.
- Early retirement. Most 401s allow penalty-free withdrawals after age 55 for early retirees. With an IRA, you must wait until 59 ½ to avoid paying a 10% penalty.
- Increased fees. IRA investors may pay more fees than they would in employer-sponsored plans. One reason: The range of more sophisticated investment options you may choose can be more expensive than 401 investments. Your advisor can help identify what extra cost a rollover may incur and if the benefits of the rollover justify those additional costs.
- Can take loans out. Your 401 may permit you to take out a loan from the account, but this is typically only for active employees. And you may have to pay in full any outstanding loan balances when you leave the company. You cannot take loans from IRAs.
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Withdrawals After Age 72
Many people continue to work well past age 59 1/2. They delay their 401 withdrawals, allowing the assets to continue to grow tax-deferred. But the IRS requires that you begin to take withdrawals known as required minimum distributions by age 72.
Those who are owners of 5% or more of a business can defer taking their RMDs while theyre still working, but the plan must have made this election. This only applies to the 401 of your current employer. RMDs for all other retirement accounts still must be taken.
When To Roll Over Your 401 To An Ira
Rolling over your 401 to an IRA is possible only if you’re leaving your current employer or your employer is discontinuing your 401 plan. It is an alternative to:
- Leave your money invested in your existing 401
- Rollover to your new employer’s 401
- Withdrawal from your 401, which would trigger a 10% penalty if you aren’t 59 1/2 or older
A rollover or IRA) does not have tax consequences. This would not be the case if you do a rollover to a Roth IRA.
Rolling over a 401 to an IRA provides you with the opportunity to choose which brokerage you want to hold your retirement funds. It may be the right choice if:
- Your new employer doesn’t offer a 401 plan
- You cannot keep your money invested in your current workplace plan because your plan is being discontinued or your 401 administration won’t allow you to stay invested for some other reason
- Your new employer’s 401 plan charges high fees, offers limited investments, or has other drawbacks
- You’d prefer a wider choice of investment options
However, there are some downsides to consider:
- While 401 loans allow you to borrow against your retirement funds, no such option exists with an IRA.
- Transferring company stock can be complicated account, read up on an “NUA strategy” that could save you a lot of money.)
If these downsides aren’t deal breakers for you, the next step is figuring out how to roll over your 401 to an IRA.
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Defining Terms: What’s A 401
A 401 plan is a tax-advantaged retirement account typically sponsored by an employer.
The traditional form of the 401 works much like a traditional IRA: Your contributions in a given year reduce taxable income for that year. In a simplified example, if you earn $75,000 and contribute $10,000, your earnings fall to $65,000, saving you tax dollars up front. Your withdrawals will eventually be taxed, though.
401s differ in a few meaningful ways from IRAs:
- Contribution limits: 401s have much higher contribution limits. These typically change annually, but generally you can contribute about three times as much money to a 401 as an IRA.
- Investment options: 401s typically provide limited investment options, with most offering a dozen or fewer mutual funds. In IRAs opened at brokerages, you can invest in virtually any stock exchange-traded fund , or mutual funds.
- Matching funds: Many employers match employee 401 contributions up to a certain percentage of pay.
How To Transfer Old 401s To An Ira
As you get near the point where you will need income from your retirement accounts, it is likely you will want to transfer old 401s to an IRA to simplify the process of managing your retirement money.
Many people are not aware that they can combine most of their retirement accounts into a single IRA.
If you have a 401 plan that you need to transfer to an IRA, here are the four steps to take.
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How To Transfer From Your 401 To An Ira
When youre ready to make the transfer, you need to do three things:
Unfortunately, you typically have to go through your former employer or a vendor they use. With many 401 plans, you cannot request a transfer using paperwork from the receiving IRA custodian.
Who to Contact
If you work for a large company, you can most likely contact your 401 provider directly. For example, contact Fidelity, Vanguard, or whatever website you use to manage your account. Alternatively, call whoever prints your 401 statements. If you work for a small company, you may need to contact the human resources department, which might just be the person who hired you. Either way, you eventually need one of the following:
A financial advisor like me can guide you through the process if you have questions.
What to Say
Where to Deposit
Indirect vs. Direct Rollovers
Signs It Makes Sense To Roll Your 401 Into A Roth Ira
If youre thinking of rolling your 401 into a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA, you have plenty of reasons to do so. Not only do Roth IRAs let you invest your dollars in the same investments as traditional IRAs, but they offer additional perks that can help you save money down the line. Here are four signs that a Roth IRA might actually be your best bet.
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How Do I Roll Over My 401 To An Ira
When you leave your job for any reason, you have the option to roll over a 401 to an IRA. This involves opening an account with a broker or other financial institution and completing the paperwork with your 401 administrator to move your funds over.
Usually, any investments in your 401 will be sold. The money will then be deposited into your new account or you will receive a check that you must deposit into your IRA within 60 days to avoid early withdrawal penalties.
How To Roll Over Your 401 To An Ira
The easiest and safest way to roll over your 401 into an IRA is with a direct rollover from the financial institution that manages your 401 plan to the one that will be holding your IRA. Your plan administrator can guide you through the process, and the financial institution where your money is going will usually be more than happy to assist. In many cases, your plan administrator will give you a check made out to your new IRA custodian for you to deposit there.
Another optionbut a far riskier oneis to have the check made out to you and take possession of the money yourself. If you do that, you typically have just 60 days from the date you received it to roll it over into an IRA. If you fail to meet that deadline, the distribution will be treated as a withdrawal, and you’ll be subject to income taxes and possibly penalties on the full amount.
A further complication of receiving the distribution yourself is that your ex-employer will be required to withhold 20% of it for taxes. If you then want to deposit your full balance into an IRA, you’ll have to come up with other money to make up for the 20% that’s been withheld.
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Can I Take Money Out Of My Ira Before I Reach Retirement
Yes. And you don’t have to pay it back like you would with a loan from your employer-sponsored plan.
However, withdrawals you make before age 59½ may have consequences:
- Roth IRA: There’s a 10% federal penalty tax on withdrawals of earnings before age 59½. Withdrawals of your contributions are always penalty-free.
- Traditional IRA: There’s a 10% federal penalty tax on withdrawals of contributions and earnings before age 59½.
There are some exceptions** to the 10% penalty, so be sure to check the IRS website for details.
What Happens If I Dont Make Any Election Regarding My Retirement Plan Distribution
The plan administrator must give you a written explanation of your rollover options for the distribution, including your right to have the distribution transferred directly to another retirement plan or to an IRA.
If youre no longer employed by the employer maintaining your retirement plan and your plan account is between $1,000 and $5,000, the plan administrator may deposit the money into an IRA in your name if you dont elect to receive the money or roll it over. If your plan account is $1,000 or less, the plan administrator may pay it to you, less, in most cases, 20% income tax withholding, without your consent. You can still roll over the distribution within 60 days.
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Tips For Retirement Investing
- Consider finding a financial advisor to steer you in the right direction in terms of savings and investments. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesnt have to be hard. SmartAssets free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in 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.
- When youre starting to plan for retirement, you should consider the tax laws of the state you live in. Some have retirement tax laws that are very friendly for retirees, but others dont. Knowing what the laws apply to your state, or to a state you hope to move to, is key to getting ahead on retirement planning.
You Expect To Earn More Money In The Future
If you plan to earn lots of money in the future or earn a high income now you should consider rolling your funds into a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA. For single filers in 2016, the maximum income allowable for contributions to a Roth IRA starts at $117,000 and ends at $133,000. Learn more about Roth IRA rules and contribution limits here. For married filers, on the other hand, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA begins phasing out at $184,000 and halts completely at $194,000 for 2016. The more you earn in the future, the harder it will become to contribute to a Roth IRA and secure the benefits that come with it.
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How To Complete An Ira To 401 Rollover
The first step is checking whether your employers 401 plan accepts IRA rollovers. Not all plans will allow you to roll over IRA assets. If they do, youll want to request a direct transfer to avoid any income tax or the 10% early withdrawal penalty.
If a direct transfer isnt an option, your IRA provider will send you a check for 80% of your accounts value and withhold the remaining 20% for taxes. You must deposit 100% of the value of your IRA into your 401 within 60 days or the transaction will be treated as an early distribution, triggering the 10% penalty and income taxes. The 20% that your IRA provider withheld will serve as a tax credit when you file your tax return.