Cashing Out A 401 Is Popular But Not So Smart
Intellectually, consumers know that cashing out retirement accounts isnt a smart move. But plenty of people do it anyway. As discussed, you may be forced out of your former plan based on your account balance, but that doesnt mean you should cash the check and use it for non-retirement-related purposes. In the long run, your financial future will be better served by rolling the money over into an IRA or, if applicable, your new employers 401 plan.
A 2020 survey by Alight, a leading provider of human capital and business solutions, found that 4 out of 10 people cashed out their balances after termination between 2008 and 2017. About 80 percent of those who had an account balance of less than $1,000 cashed out, while 62 percent who had balances between $1,000 and $5,000 did the same.
Based on historical rates of return, a $3,000 cash-out at age 24 leads to $23,000 less in your projected account balance at age 67 a total of 5 percent. Even a small amount of money invested into a retirement vehicle today can make a big difference in the long run.
Roll Over Traditional Money Into The Tsp
A rollover is when you receive eligible money directly from your traditional IRA or plan and then you later put it into your TSP account. You cannot roll over Roth money into the TSP and you must complete your rollover within 60 days from the date you receive your funds. Use Form TSP-60, Request for a Transfer Into the TSP, to roll over eligible traditional money.
Follow These 3 Easy Steps
Step 1Select an eligible Vanguard IRA for your rollover*
- If you’re rolling over pre-tax assets, you’ll need a rollover IRA or a traditional IRA.
- If you’re rolling over Roth assets, you’ll need a Roth IRA.
- If you’re rolling over both types of assets, you’ll need two separate IRAs.
Note: You can roll over your assets to a new or an existing Vanguard account.
Step 2Contact the financial institution holding your employer plan
Tell them you want to make a direct rollover from your employer plan to your Vanguard IRA®, and ask what information they need
Need a letter of acceptance?
You’ll be able to create and print a letter of acceptance during our online rollover process.
Note: You may not be eligible to roll over a plan account that you’re still contributing to.
What types of assets do I have in my employer plan account?
Knowing whether you have pre-tax or Roth assets will help you figure out what type of IRA you need to open at Vanguard. If you own company stock in your plan, that may add a layer of complexity to your rollover.
What name did I use on my employer plan account?
A common situation that can delay a rollover is when a check from the current financial institution is made payable to a name that doesn’t match your Vanguard account registration. Examples include use of birth name versus married name, a missing suffix , differing middle initials , etc.
What are your rollover requirements?
Are e-signatures or faxed copies allowed?
Do you need a letter of acceptance ?
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Fidelity And/or Vanguard To Tiaa
Transfer funds from Fidelity and/or Vanguard fund into a TIAA fund
And How Do Taxes Work With An Ira
That depends. With a Roth IRA, youll pay taxes on the money when you contribute, not when you withdraw. In other words: Youll pay the taxes now, rather than later. Which is a benefit if you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket when you make a withdrawal.
If you go with a traditional IRA, expect taxes to work the same as with your traditional 401. Youll make pre-tax contributions, and youll be taxed when you make any withdrawals.
Read the fine print for your traditional 401 plan if you prefer the Roth IRA option. Some plans only allow a 401 rollover into a traditional IRA. Which means youd have to switch to a Roth IRA after the rollover and pay all the necessary taxes.
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Contact New Plan Sponsor
The first step is to talk to the new plan sponsor or human resources manager to know what new employees require when enrolling in the retirement plan. Since not all employers accept old 401 transfers, you should ask the plan sponsor if the transfer option is available to new employees. If the new employer accepts 401 transfers, you will be required to fill transfer forms to initiate the transfer.
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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Withdrawing Your Money In Cash
While getting immediate access to your money is tempting, you may face tax penalties for cashing out before age 59½. Those penalties could eat up as much as 10% of your savings.
You should consider differences in investment options, services, fees and expenses, withdrawal options, required minimum distributions, other plan features, and tax treatment. As always, you can speak with a TIAA Consultant, your tax advisor, or use Retirement Advisor to help plan for the retirement you want.
The Process Was Dead Simple
This part really surprised me. As I thought about how to start the process, I decided to call Vanguard to see what information about my Rollover IRA I would need to give Fidelity. I already had the IRA account from a rollover six years ago, but had long forgotten the actually steps needed to get the process moving.
My call was routed to a department that does nothing but handle rollovers. The rep walked me through the process, and then offered to call Fidelity with me. So he dialed up Fidelity and did all the talking. I guess Vanguard really wanted my money!
We did hit one snag. According to the Fidelity representative, my old employer still had my status as an active employee. So I had to call my employer to get my status changed. That took a few days, and then the three of us got back on the phone to complete the rollover. It took all of five minutes.
You can check out an even more detailed description of the 401k rollover process here.
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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:
What To Do With Your Old 401 When You Quit And Why It Matters
One common question when leaving a job is what to do with the old retirement plan. Whether you leave involuntarily, quit to start a new job, or see yourself switching jobs several times in the next few years, you need a plan for your former employer’s retirement savings plan. That’s your 401, 457 or 403.
One wrong move can cost a big chunk of your savings, so you need to be ready to take the right steps.
Keeping Your 401 With A Former Employer
If your ex-employer allows it, you can leave your 401 money where it is. Reasons to do this include good investment options and reasonable fees with your former employers plan. Keep in mind that you may not be able to ask the plan administrator any questions, you may pay higher 401 fees as an ex-employee, and you cant make additional contributions.
Another noteworthy thing to consider is that your former employer could decide to move your old 401 account to another provider. If your balance is between $1,000 and $5,000 and your former employer wants to close your old 401 account, your former employer can, but it is required to transfer the balance to an IRA in your name and notify you in writing. For balances under $1,000, your former employer can send you a check, which you’d need to put in a retirement account within 60 days to avoid taxes and penalties.
Option : Cash Out Your Old 401
Another option is cashing out your 401, which does exactly what you would expect provides cash. But there are many implications to consider. The cash you withdraw is considered income, and you may incur local, state and federal taxes by doing so. You will lose the benefit of giving your accounts investments time to grow, and you may need to work longer to make up the difference. Whats more, if you leave your employer prior to the year you turn 55 and are younger than 59 ½, you will be required to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on top of any taxes on the money.
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Transferring Money From A Roth 401 To A Bank Account
If you are taking a qualified distribution from a Roth 401, the IRS requires that participants must have contributed to the plan for at least five years, and have attained age 59 Â½. To make a withdrawal, send a request to the 401 plan custodian, and choose to be paid via check or direct deposit. Roth 401 withdrawals can take seven to 10 days.
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Warning: Watch Out For 401 Loans
No discussion of 401 plan rollovers would be complete without considering the implications of IRS 401 loan provisions.
Millions of people have loans through their 401 plans. You can borrow up to 50% of the value of your plan, up to a maximum of $50,000. The loan must generally be repaid within five years. However, if your employment ends and you still have a 401 loan outstanding, there may be tax consequences.
Under a typical 401 plan loan provision, the employer may allow you up to 60 days from termination to repay the loan, though some may extend that to 90 days. But if you fail to make repayment within the required timeframe, the plan administrator will declare the unpaid loan balance to be a distribution.
Once again, the distribution that will be added to your regular income, subject to ordinary income tax, plus the 10% early distribution penalty if youre under 59 Â½.
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You Have $5000 Or More In Your 401
If your 401 account balance is at least $5000, your former employer may allow you to stay vested in their plan indefinitely. Usually, the employer is required to continue holding your 401 money in their retirement plan until you provide further instructions on what to do with your retirement savings.
However, employers only consider the amount you have contributed to the 401 plan. This excludes retirement savings rolled over from previous employersâ 401 plans. For example, if you have a $10,000 401 balance, and $7,000 was rolled over into the plan, it means you only contributed $3,000. This amount falls below $5000, and the savings may be moved to a forced-transfer IRA, even if your total account balance is above $10,000.
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Leave It In Your Current 401 Plan
The pros: If your former employer allows it, you can leave your money where it is. Your savings have the potential for growth that is tax-deferred, youll pay no taxes until you start making withdrawals, and youll retain the right to roll over or withdraw the funds at any point in the future.
The cons: Youll no longer be able to contribute to the plan, and the plan provider may charge additional fees because youre no longer an employee. Managing multiple tax-deferred accounts can also prove complicated. The IRS mandates required minimum distributions annually from all such accounts beginning at age 72 . Fail to calculate the correct amount across multiple accounts, and the IRS will slap you with a 50% penalty on the shortfall.
Better Understand Your Retirement Finances
If youre taking the active steps to roll over your retirement account, youve spent at least some time thinking about how this might work. Perhaps youve even gone far enough to research the mechanics. When it comes to personal finance knowledge, more is always more, so its a good idea to learn about these transfers when you have to set one in motion.
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Investing The Money In Your Ira
Once the money is rolled over into your new IRA account, select your investments.
Index funds: You can put index funds in your IRA, which is a fund that aims to mirror the performance of a market index such as the S& P 500.
ETFs: These investments often make sense for many people because theyre a basket of assets, such as stocks or bonds, that can be bought and sold during market trading hours. ETFs are a good way to diversify a portfolio.
Stocks: Individual stocks are also an investment option for IRA accounts.
Mutual funds: These are investments that combine money from investors to buy stocks, bonds, and other assets. Mutual funds are another way to create diversification in your portfolio.
Real estate: You can hold real estate in your IRA, but you’ll need to do so by means of a self-directed IRA.
Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum are all examples of alternative investments you can choose.
Target-date funds: 401s often allocate money into target-date funds, which buy shares of other mutual funds with the goal of shifting investments automatically over time as you approach a specific date, such as retirement. If you like that approach, you probably can find a similar target-date fund for your IRA at an online broker.
Those who would rather automate the investing process can use a robo-advisor for this. When you open a new account at a robo-advisor, that robo-advisors algorithms usually will select your investments based on questions you answer.
What To Do With Your 401 When You Leave Your Job
When you leave a job or retire, you may wonder what to do with your 401. And while some things about change can be complicated, figuring out what to do with your 401 account doesnt have to be.
In general, there are four primary options for someone who already has a 401 plan through an employer. Lets take a look at each:
1) Stay in your current plan
Staying in your current 401 plan is sometimes the easiest choice. If you like the features and services of your plan and want to maintain your current investments, then staying put may be the best option for you. Generally, you can leave your money in your plan and retain its tax-deferred status. .
Considerations: Some plans have mandatory distributions for accounts with a balance of less than $5,000. You should check with your employers plan administrator to see if they require mandatory distributions.
2) Open an Individual Retirement Account
Another option is to roll over your funds to an IRA. If you want more investment options than your current plan offers, want to control your investments, or have multiple retirement accounts and want to consolidate your money, this may be the best option for you. Also, by moving your money to an IRA, it remains in tax-deferred status. And if youre in a lower tax bracket at retirement, you may pay fewer taxes then, too.Considerations: IRAs have different investment options, costs and advice offerings. Its important to choose one that fits your preferences .
4) Cash out
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