Why You Might Not Want To Combine Your Ira With Your 401
On the flip side, there are plenty of areas where a traditional IRA has a leg up on a 401 that is, of course, why so many people roll a 401 into an IRA. Here are the biggest you should know:
Wider investment selection: Within an IRA, you can invest in nearly anything under the sun not just the mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds that show up in 401 plans, but also individual stocks and even options . You can also shop around for the absolutely lowest-cost funds, which can save you money. As noted above, you should look closely at your 401 plan and its investments to see if youd save money by leaving your funds in your IRA.
More loopholes for early withdrawals: Aside from the aforementioned loans, a 401 may allow hardship withdrawals in certain situations the IRS defines hardship as an immediate and heavy need, which means things like unreimbursed medical expenses, funeral expenses or disability. Those will waive the 10% penalty on early distributions youll still owe income taxes on the withdrawal. But a traditional IRA casts a wider net, allowing early distributions without penalty but with taxes still owed for higher education expenses and a first-time home purchase .
Low-cost options for investment management: If your 401 plan doesnt come with anything in the way of investment advice, and you want that sort of thing, youll have more options for getting it on the cheap within an IRA if youre open to a robo-advisor. .)
Should You Roll Over Your 401 Into Another 401
There are some situations that might make an IRA rollover the wrong move for you. Heres what to consider before completing a 401 rollover.
Retirement account protection. In general, 401 accounts offer better protections from creditors than IRAs.
Rule of 55. With a 401, you can actually start withdrawing funds at age 55 penalty-free if you leave your job. You dont have that advantage when you roll your 401 to an IRA, though you can emulate it by taking subsequently equal periodic payments from your IRA
Performance. If you like your current plan, and its performing well, theres no reason to complete a rollover.
You can always choose to roll your old 401 balance into your new employers 401 plan. If you value the simplicity of having everything in one place, you like the features of the plan at your new job or you want to maintain the legal protections of a 401, it may make more sense to roll your old 401 into a new 401.
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.
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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.
Transfer Of A 401 To An Ira To An Rrsp
If your 401 plan isnt eligible for a rollover directly to an RRSP , it can be rolled into an IRA that qualifies for a transfer to an RRSP. Subsequent to this, the new IRA can be transferred to an RRSP on a tax-deferred basis provided the conditions required for a transfer from an IRA to an RRSP, as outlined above, are satisfied.
Read Also: How To Open A Self Directed 401k
What Are The Benefits Of A Roth Ira
A major benefit of a Roth individual retirement account is that, unlike traditional IRAs, withdrawals are tax free when you reach age 59½. You can also withdraw any contributions, but not earnings, at any time regardless of your age.
In addition, IRAs typically offer a much wider variety of investment options than most 401 plans. Also, with a Roth IRA, you dont have to take required minimum distributions when you reach age 72.
Keeping The Current 401 Plan
If your former employer allows you to keep your funds in its 401 after you leave, this may be a good option, but only in certain situations. The primary one is if your new employer doesn’t offer a 401 or offers one that’s less substantially less advantageous. For example, if the old plan has investment options you cant get through a new plan.
Additional advantages to keeping your 401 with your former employer include:
- Maintaining performance:If your 401 plan account has done well for you, substantially outperforming the markets over time, then stick with a winner. The funds are obviously doing something right.
- Special tax advantages: If you leave your job in or after the year you reach age 55 and think you’ll start withdrawing funds before turning 59½ the withdrawals will be penalty-free.
- Legal protection: In case of bankruptcy or lawsuits, 401s are subject to protection from creditors by federal law. IRAs are less well-shielded it depends on state laws.
You might want to stick to the old plan, too, if you’re self-employed. It’s certainly the path of least resistance. But bear in mind, your investment options with the 401 are more limited than in an IRA, cumbersome as it might be to set one up.
Some things to consider when leaving a 401 at a previous employer:
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 does protect up to $1.25 million in traditional or Roth IRA assets against bankruptcy. But protection against other types of judgments varies.
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John Doe has been employed with ABC Widgets, Inc. for 35 years. At age 62, John is three years away from retirement and wants to decrease risk in his 401. John’s 401 plan does allow for In-Service Distributions, so he decides to diversify and take advantage of this option. John and his adviser determine to allocate 35% of his 401 to an outside investment. They agree upon and choose a lower-cost, lower-risk fixed indexed annuity and rebalance the 401 in order to accomplish this goal.
Advantages and Disadvantages of In-Service Distributions
Weighing the Pros and Cons
My client had a tough decision to make. His company plan offered many advantages to him as an employee, but as he learned more about IRAs and assessed his needs approaching retirement, the best choice became clear. He could remain employed and keep contributing to his employer plan, while also diversifying his assets and laying the groundwork for his future retirement plan by taking advantage of an In-Service Distribution. As we all know, the needs of each individual are unique. Understanding your company’s ERISA plan, the options available to you and when they can be used can make a real difference in your personal retirement planning.
About the author: Greg Storen is president and founder of Storen Tax & Financial Group and a member of Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM. For more information about this group, or to find a member near you, visit www.irahelp.com.
60 Second Tips onTheStreet:
How To Transfer A 401 To A Traditional Ira
If youre retiring or moving to a new job and want to take your employer-sponsored 401 balance with you, youll need to roll it over to another account. You could, of course, choose to cash your savings, but that could potentially trigger a massive tax liability that may erode a significant portion of your retirement nest egg.
Even if you chose not to cash it all in, moving from one retirement plan to another could be risky. If handled incorrectly, what should otherwise be a simple move could cost you thousands of dollars in penalties and taxes.
To help you avoid some of those costly mistakes, well simplify the process of rolling over your 401 balance into a traditional IRA account. Our step-by-step guide not only shows you how to make the transfer, but also highlights important considerations.
Regardless of which type of account you use to save for retirement, 401, Roth IRA or Traditional IRA, its important to understand one simple fact: The sooner you start saving, the earlier youll be able to reach your retirement goals.
Learn more about the best time to start saving for retirement.
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Rolling Over Your 401 To An Ira
You have the most control and the most choice if you own an IRA. IRAs typically offer a much wider array of investment options than 401s, unless you work for a company with a very high-quality planusually the big, Fortune 500 firms.
Some 401 plans only have a half dozen funds to choose from, and some companies strongly encourage participants to invest heavily in the company’s stock. Many 401 plans are also funded with variable annuity contracts that provide a layer of insurance protection for the assets in the plan at a cost to the participants that often run as much as 3% per year. IRA fees tend to run cheaper depending on which custodian and which investments you choose.
With a small handful of exceptions, IRAs allow virtually any asset, including:
- Real estate investment trusts
If you’re willing to set up a self-directed IRA, even some alternative investments like oil and gas leases, physical property, and commodities can be purchased within these accounts.
Direct Vs Indirect Rollovers
A direct rollover is when your money is transferred electronically from one account to another, or the plan administrator may cut you a check made out to your account, which you deposit. The direct rollover is the best approach.
In an indirect rollover, the funds come to you to re-deposit. If you take the money in cash instead of transferring it directly to the new account, you have only 60 days to deposit the funds into a new plan. If you miss the deadline, you will be subject to withholding taxes and penalties. Some people do an indirect rollover if they want to take a 60-day loan from their retirement account.
Because of this deadline, direct rollovers are strongly recommended. In many cases, you can shift assets directly from one custodian to another, without selling anything. This is known as a trustee-to-trustee or in-kind transfer.
Otherwise, the IRS makes your previous employer withhold 20% of your funds if you receive a check made out to you. It’s important to note that if you have the check made out directly to you, taxes will be withheld, and you’ll need to come up with other funds to roll over the full amount of your distribution within 60 days.
To learn more about the safest ways to do IRA rollovers and transfers, download IRS publications 575 and 590-A and 590-B.
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Is It Time To Start Your Rollover
If youre certain that a gold IRA rollover is appropriate for you, start by looking for the best gold IRA company. We recommend GoldCo.
Generally, the custodian you appoint to your precious metal account will have a list of people theyve worked with before and who can best assist you in achieving your goal.
GoldCo is a well-established, well-respected firm with years of experience in the gold and silver markets.
Theyve helped everyone from the most financially knowledgeable to the most inexperienced achieve their investment stability goals by purchasing physical precious metals. Their clients testimonies make them one of the most reliable resources.
The news and editorial staff of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this posts preparation.
Roth Ira Income Limits
Anyone can contribute to a traditional IRA, but the IRS imposes an income cap on eligibility for a Roth IRA. Fundamentally, the IRS does not want high-earners benefiting from these tax-advantaged accounts. In 2021 and 2022, the annual contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older.
The income caps are adjusted annually to keep up with inflation. In 2021, the phaseout range for a full annual contribution for single filers is a modified adjusted gross income ranging from $125,000 to $140,000 for a Roth IRA. For , the phaseout begins at $198,000, with an overall limit of $208,000.
In 2022, the income phaseout range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA increases to $129,000 to $144,000 for singles and heads of households. For married couples filing jointly, the income phaseout range is increased to $204,000 to $214,000.
And this is why, if you have a high income, you have another reason to roll over your 401 to a Roth IRA. Roth income limitations do not apply to this type of conversion. Anyone, regardless of income, is allowed to fund a Roth IRA via a rolloverin fact, it is one of the only ways. The other way is converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, also known as a backdoor conversion.
Each year, investors may choose to divide their funds across traditional and Roth IRA accounts, as long as their income is below the Roth limits. But the maximum allowable contribution limits remains the same.
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What To Consider When Choosing A Broker
If youre planning to roll over your 401 into an IRA, youll likely be most concerned with a broker that can do the following things best. Most brokers do offer an IRA, but some popular ones do not, but the brokers below all offer IRAs. We also considered the following factors when selecting the top places for your 401 rollover.
- Price: Trading commissions for stocks and ETFs have fallen to $0 at most online brokers, and thats great for investors. But there are other costs, too, perhaps most notably account fees, such as fees for transferring out of your account.
- No-transaction-fee mutual funds: The brokers in the list below offer thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee. If youre rolling over your 401 and you like the mutual funds you have already, these brokers may allow you to buy and sell the same one without a fee.
- Investing strategy: While a 401 may limit your investing options to a pre-selected group of mutual funds, an IRA gives you the ability to invest in almost anything trading in the market. So we considered how each broker might fit an investors needs.
Avoid These Costly Mistakes When Rolling Over A 401 To An Ira
- Before you move your money, be sure you know the rules that differ between 401 plans and IRAs.
- If the rollover process is done incorrectly, it could be considered a distribution, which would make it subject to taxation and, possibly, an early withdrawal penalty.
- There are also some situations that call for caution before embarking on the rollover.
So you’ve left your job and want to move assets from your workplace savings plan to an individual retirement account.
You may want to pause before doing the rollover. If you’re not careful, you could make costly errors or lock yourself into a move that can’t be easily undone.
Both 401 plans and IRAs have the common purpose of letting you put away tax-advantaged savings for retirement. However, there are some rules that differ between the two. Even the rollover process itself can come with snags if you’re not careful.
More from Smart Tax Planning:
Here are some things to be aware of before initiating a rollover. These apply to traditional 401 plans and IRAs, whose contributions are generally made pre-tax.
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Ask Your 401 Plan For A Direct Rollover Or Remember The 60
These two words âdirect rolloverâ are important: They mean the 401 plan cuts a check directly to your new IRA account, not to you personally.
Here are the basic instructions:
Contact your former employers plan administrator, complete a few forms, and ask it to send a check or wire for your account balance to your new account provider.
The new account provider gives you instructions for how the check or wire should be made out, what information to include and where it should be sent. You can opt for an indirect 401 rollover instead, which essentially means you withdraw the money and give it to the IRA provider yourself, but that can create tax complexities. We generally recommend a direct rollover.
If you do an indirect rollover, the plan administrator may withhold 20% from your check to pay taxes on your distribution. To get that money back, you must deposit into your IRA the complete account balance including whatever was withheld for taxes within 60 days of the date you received the distribution. .)
For example, say your total 401 account balance was $20,000 and your former employer sends you a check for $16,000 . Assuming youre not planning to go the Roth route, youâd need to come up with $4,000 so that you can deposit the full $20,000 into your IRA.
At tax time, the IRS will see you rolled over the entire retirement account and will refund you the amount that was withheld in taxes.