Youll Halt Compound Interest In Its Tracks
Compound interest is another way of saying interest on interest it results in exponential account growth over time. By cashing out your 401 early, youll be giving up somewhere around 30% of your balance to taxes and penalties. This will substantially reduce your asset base and limit the degree to which your account can grow via compound interest into the future.
Roll The Money Into An Individual Retirement Account
Another option is to open what is known as a rollover IRA, a retirement account that exists to consolidate other retirement accounts in one place. Its like a basket into which you can throw all of your old 401s. Money moved into a rollover IRA remains tax-deferred for retirement, and you can invest it in any way you choose.
You can only complete one IRA rollover in a one-year period, per IRS regulations.
Within a rollover IRA, savers have access to countless investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate investment trusts. If that sounds overwhelming, you could instead opt for a lifecycle fund that chooses investments for you according to your target retirement date.
Determine If You Have Received The Entire Match You Are Owed
If employers match contributions, they usually deposit their portion right away. However, sometimes your contribution rate exceeds the limit they can match per paycheck. This may happen if you frontload your account at the beginning of the year, or increase your match to catch up towards the end. On an annual basis, you employer will reconcile the difference with a true up contribution. Find out whether your employers total match has been deposited, or if you need to wait.
Keep in mind that you may be charged a fee to close your 401 account. This is important if you think you are entitled to a true up contribution. If so, wait until the contribution is posted before initiating a rollover, transfer or distribution. Otherwise, the true up contribution will re-open your account and youll find yourself paying a second closing fee and doing twice the paperwork.
Leaving one job for another is a big decision, and shouldnt be taken lightly. Be sure that you not only factor in your 401 and employer match when weighing your options, but determine if youre leaving before taking advantage of all benefits due to you. If nothing else, learn from my mistake: make sure that youre not resigning a mere day sooner than you should, leaving thousands of dollars in employer contributions on the table.
Im still kicking myself in the butt for that one.
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Rollover Your 401 Into An Ira
If you leave a job, you have the right to move the money from your 401k account to an IRA without paying any income taxes on it. This is called a rollover IRA.
If you decide to roll over your money to an IRA, you can use any financial institution you choose you are not required to keep the money with the company that was holding your 401.
Ask the mutual fund company, bank or brokerage that will manage your IRA for an IRA application. Make sure your former employer does a direct rollover, meaning that they write a check directly to the company handling your IRA. If they write the check to you, they will have to withhold 20% in taxes.
Option : Cash Out Your 401
When you leave your employer and return to your home country, you can also cash out your 401. But if you do are not 59 ½, the withdrawal will be taxable and you may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the distribution.
Between all three options, we recommend that individuals returning to their home countries pursue Options 1 or 2: leave their 401s with their former employer or do a rollover to an IRA.
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Should I Cash Out My 401
In most circumstances, its best to avoid cashing out your 401. If you do it, youll be on the hook for taxes and/or penalties, and youll severely cut into the growth potential of a valuable tax-deferred retirement account.
However, if you do find yourself up against an immediate and emergent expense, you always have the option of cashing out early to regain access to your money. While its not the financially optimal decision, it may be the necessary one should you find yourself in this position.
Again, cashing out your 401 is not the same as rolling over your 401, which is, in many cases, a good idea. In fact, a forgotten 401 can have a seriously detrimental effect on your retirement savings . Be sure to know the location of each retirement account you own and take the active steps to optimize their respective positions.
What Options Do I Have For My Current 401
When you leave an employer, you have several options:
- Leave the account where it is
- Roll it over to your new employers 401 on a pre-tax or after-tax basis
- Roll it into a traditional or Roth IRA outside of your new employers plan
- Take a lump sum distribution
The truly smart move for you depends on your own individual circumstances and goals.
Some items to consider include:
- Your current account balance
- Whether you fear collection actions, because workplace retirement plans provide creditor protection that IRAs dont
- The quality of your new companys retirement plan versus your former plan in terms of investment options, fees and whether loans are permitted
- Investment options available to you in an IRA outside of your employers plan
The good news is that you dont have to make any decisions about your existing 401 immediately. You may want to speak with a financial advisor first to discuss your options.
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The Costs Of Early 401k Withdrawals
Early withdrawals from an IRA or 401k account can be an expensive proposition because of the hefty penalties they carry under many circumstances.
The IRS allows penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts after age 59 ½ and requires withdrawals after age 72 . There are some exceptions to these rules for 401ks and other qualified plans.
Try to think of your retirement savings accounts like a pension. People working towards a pension tend to forget about it until they retire. There is no way they can access it before retirement. While that money is locked up until later in life, it becomes a hugely powerful resource in retirement. The 401k can be a boon to your retirement plan. It gives you flexibility to change jobs without losing your savings. But that all starts to fall apart if you use it like a bank account in the years preceding retirement. Your best bet is usually to consciously avoid tapping any retirement money until youve at least reached the age of 59 ½.
If youre not sure you should take a withdrawal, you can use this calculator to determine how much other people your age have saved.
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Next Steps To Consider
This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.
Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917
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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
You May Be Able To Leave Your Account With Your Former Employer At Least Temporarily
Changing jobs is stressful, even in the best of circumstances. If youve lost a job and are scrambling for re-employment, youre likely focused on that. But eventually you will need to figure out what to do with your 401.
If your balance is $5,000 or more, you can leave the money right where it is which will give you time to decide the best course of action for you.
What you should do right away, regardless of the 401 balance in your old plan, and as early as your first day at the new job, is to sign up for your new companys 401 plan. Even if your new employer has an automatic opt-in feature that does not kick in for one to three months and if you rely on that, rather than taking the initiative you can miss 30 to 90 days of contributions and matching funds, Bogosian advises.
After six months, youve got a handle on the job, know youre going to stay and have some experience with your new plan. Youre now in a better position to compare your last 401 plan with this new one, including the diversity of the investments and the costs.
But what happens if the balance in your old 401 is less than $5,000? Your former employer may force you out of the plan by placing your funds in an IRA in your name or cashing you out and sending you a check.
Some companies have recently adopted auto portability meaning your small balance may automatically transfer to your new employers plan. Check with your HR Department or plan sponsor to see if this applies.
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How To Do A Rollover
The mechanics of rolling over 401 plan are easy. You pick a financial institution, such as a bank, brokerage, or online investing platform, to open an IRA with them. Let your 401 plan administrator know where you have opened the account.
There are two types of rollovers: direct and indirect. 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. Nowadays, in many cases, you can shift assets directly from one custodian to another, without selling anythinga trustee-to-trustee or in-kind transfer. If, for some reason, the plan administrator cant transfer the funds directly into your IRA or new 401, have the check they send you made out in the name of the new account care of its custodian. This still counts as a direct rollover. However, to be safe, be sure to deposit the funds within 60 days.
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Option : Roll Over Your 401 Into An Ira
Instead of keeping your funds in a 401, you may also choose to roll over your plan into an IRA. Youll do this with a bank or brokerage firm separate from your employer. This is a common choice for people who are leaving the workforce or for those who dont have an employer that offers a 401 plan.
The main benefit of an IRA versus a 401 is more flexibility in withdrawing money penalty-free before reaching the age of 59 ½. You also have direct access and more control over your investment options. You may have other investments and can now move this money to the same brokerage so that everything is in one plan, which consolidates logins.
If you choose to withdraw money from a rollover IRA, it may be used for a qualifying first-time home purchase or higher education expenses in addition to the exceptions for 401s.
The drawbacks of an IRA is that youll lose some hardship distribution options as well as qualified status, which means less protection of your assets. For example, if you were to be sued, some states would allow money in IRAs to be collected but not if it was in a 401.
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Take Distributions From The Old 401
After youve reached age 59½, you may withdraw funds from your 401 without paying a 10% penalty.
Its possible that youve decided to retire and are considering withdrawing funds from your account. If youre retiring, it may be a good time to start drawing on your savings for income. Youll have to pay tax at your regular rate on any distributions you take out of a traditional 401. Annuities are a solid tool for spending your 401 without running out of money.
If you have a designated Roth 401, any payments you take after youre 59 1/2 are tax-free if youve held the account for at least five years. Only the earnings portion of your distributions is taxed if you do not fulfill the five-year requirement.
When you reach age 72, you must begin taking RMDs from your 401 if you leave your employment. The amount of your RMD is determined by your expected life span and 401 account balance.
I Still Have A 401k From My Last Job What Do I Do About That
As you move ahead from job to job, dont make the mistake of leaving a trail of old savings accounts behind you. Put your hard-earned savings to work for you by looking at all the options. If youve left a job and a 401k, here are the options available to you for those funds.
- Leave your balance
- Rollover to new 401 plan.
- Rollover to an IRA.
- Cash out your 401.
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Medical Expenses Or Insurance
If you incur unreimbursed medical expenses that are greater than 10% of your adjusted gross income in that year, you are able to pay for them out of an IRA without incurring a penalty.
For a 401k withdrawal, if your unreimbursed medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year then the penalty will likely be waived.
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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.
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Roll It Over To A New 401
Another option is to roll over your 401 into your new employer’s retirement plan, assuming the plan allows it. You’ll want to examine the fees and investment options to be sure they’re satisfactory. Otherwise, rolling the balance into an IRA or keeping it with your old employer are better options.
As with rolling the balance into an IRA, always ask for a direct rollover. In this case, you’d want your old plan to send the money directly to your new 401 provider. Otherwise, you could face a mess of mandatory withholding, taxes, and fines.
You Have $1000 To $5000 In Your 401
If you had contributed more than $1000 but below $5000, the plan administrator is required to roll over the funds to a new retirement plan instead of transferring the funds as a lump sum. The employer transfers the funds to a retirement plan of their choice, and this type of transfer takes a longer duration to complete, usually up to 60 days.
A retirement saver must wait until the forced transfer is complete to access the funds. If you are 59 Â½ and older, you can withdraw the funds from the IRA without paying a penalty tax on the distribution. However, you will still owe income tax on the distribution, and you will be required to report the distribution in your taxable income for the year. If you don’t want the employer to decide for you, you should instruct your plan administrator what to do with your 401 money.
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