Tuesday, July 16, 2024

What Do I Do With My Old 401k

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How To Set Up Your New Ira

What Should I Do with My Old 401k?

Setting up an IRA is easy and should not take too much of your time. First, youll want to browse the different accounts available. The main thing to look at are transaction, commission, and management fees, as these can vary greatly between providers.

Once youve found the right account, the next step is filling out paperwork. This will require your personal details and contact information.

After the account is open, get in touch with your old employer to have them initiate the transfer into the IRA. Make sure not to get a check for your funds, as this might count as cashing out the money.

Next, youll have to pick the right investments for you. You can create a mix of index funds, ETFs, and more to meet your needs. Finally, your money should be happily settled in its new home!

Pros And Cons: 401 Vs Ira

401 Pros

  • Offer protection from creditors under federal law, and funds cannot be seized in bankruptcy proceedings
  • Depending on the plan, you may be able to borrow money from your account
  • Required minimum distributions dont begin until you retire
  • Usually offer fewer investment options
  • Less control over your savings
  • Not all plans offer a Roth option
  • Can sometimes involve high management and administrative fees
  • Usually offer a wider variety of investment options
  • More control over your money
  • Option to choose between Roth IRA and traditional IRA
  • No required minimum distributions for Roth IRAs
  • Rollovers from 401s are protected in bankruptcy, though protection from other types of creditors varies by circumstances and state
  • Cannot borrow money from IRA accounts
  • Traditional IRAs require you to take minimum distributions beginning at age 72
  • In most circumstances, you must be 59 ½ to avoid the premature distribution penalties

What Are The Advantages Of Rolling Over A 401 To An Ira

Doing a 401 rollover to an IRA offers perks that can include more diverse investment selections than a typical 401 plan, perhaps cheaper investments and lower account fees. It’s also a way to keep your retirement funds organized and ensure you have easy access to them. And while some 401 plans pass account management fees along to the employees, many IRAs charge no account fees.

In summary, it’s a good way to save money, stay organized and make your money work harder.

Recommended Reading: How To Find Out If You Have An Old 401k

The Cons Of Leaving Your 401 Behind

Risk of Losing Track of Old 401s

Rolling over an old 401 or managing your savings during a job transition can be stressful and chaotic. Some people end up leaving behind an old account with the intention to revisit it later, only to forget about it or lose track of it as they are faced with other aspects of their job transition. This will make it difficult to put your savings to good use in a way that promotes your financial stability in the future.

As of now, if you have less than $5,000 in any old accounts, your previous employers will likely either cut you a check for the remaining balance or move the money into an IRA. Its up to you to find it, though.

Missing Out on Investment Opportunities

Do you know when you forget your old 401 accounts, you miss out on a chance for a solid investment plan? You were wise enough to set up a retirement plan to secure your financial freedom for the future. But, when you leave behind any amount of savings, it leads to loss of earning capacity.

Leaving behind money in an old retirement account also means that your savings dollars may not be invested in the most beneficial way possible for you. Staying on top of old accounts or rolling them over into your current plan can help you ensure you are investing every dollar with purpose, efficiency and your unique goals in mind.

Your Four Main Options For Your Old 401k

What Should I Do with My Old 401k?

Your 401k is an investment vehicle for retirement offered by many employers. You have four primary options when it comes to handling a 401k you can no longer contribute to. These include:

  • Leaving it with your old employer
  • Rolling over your plan to your new job
  • Cashing it out
  • Rolling it into an IRA

While each of these options are possibilities, theres only one real option we recommend, and thats rolling your old 401k into an IRA. Still, well cover all the options below so you can make the choice thats right for you. But first, let’s discuss why you shouldn’t leave your old 401k with your old employer.

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What To Do With An Old 401

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When a friend of mine changed jobs recently, she discovered she had half a dozen old 401s trailing her from her past jobs. She wanted to get on top of her financial planning, but wasn’t sure what to do with all those old investments. she asked me for advice.

Truth is, I wasn’t sure either. I cashed out my one 401 to buy a house several years ago. I know that was a dumb move in the larger financial story of my life. Saving early for retirement is one of the best ways to build wealth. I can’t undo it now, though, and I’ve been so focused on paying off debts I haven’t thought much about retirement planning for years.

As my debt burden shrinks, it’s time to start thinking about my own investment strategy. So I looked into my friend’s question: What should she do with those old 401Ks?

Option : Roll Over Your Old 401 Into An Individual Retirement Account

Still another option is to roll over your old 401 into an IRA. The primary benefit of an IRA rollover is having access to a wider range of investment options, since youll be in control of your retirement savings rather than a participant in an employers plan. Depending on what you invest in, a rollover can also save you money from management and administrative fees, costs that can eat into investment returns over time. If you decide to roll over an old 401 into an IRA, you will have several options, each of which has different tax implications.

Recommended Reading: How To Open A 401k With Fidelity

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:

Direct Rollover Vs Indirect Rollover: Whats The Difference

What Do I Do With My Old 401K?

Okay, once you decide to roll money from one account to another, you have two options on how to do the transfer: a direct rollover or an indirect rollover. Spoiler alert: You always want to do the direct transfer. Heres why.

With a direct rollover, the money in one retirement accountan old 401 you had in a previous job, for exampleis transferred directly to another retirement account, like an IRA. That way, the owner of the account never touches it, and you wont have to pay any taxes or penalties on the money being transferred. Once its done, its done!

Indirect rollovers, on the other hand, are a bit more complicatedand needlessly risky. In an indirect rollover, instead of the money going straight into your new account, the cash goes to you first. Heres the problem with that: You have only 60 days to deposit the funds into a new retirement plan. If not, then youre going to get hit with withholding taxes and early withdrawal penalties.

Now you should see why the direct rollover is the only way to go. Theres just no reason to take a chance on an indirect rollover that leaves you open to heavy taxes and penalties. Thats just dumb with a capital D!

Also Check: How Much Money Should I Put In My 401k

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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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What Should I Do With My Old 401 Money

So lets say you realized you have 401 money sitting in an old employers retirement plan.

Or even better: lets say that you are just about leaving your employer to work somewhere else and you have some money stashed away in the soon-to-be old employers 401 plan.

What do you do?

I know when I first started in my company 401 plan, not knowing anything about finance, I was afraid I would lose any money I invest in my 401 plan.

I thought that if I left my employer, they would take my 401 savings.

Thats a fallacy that is a mistaken belief.

Transferring Your 401 To Your Bank Account

What Should I Do With My Old 401k

You can also skip the IRA and just transfer your 401 savings to a bank account. For example, you might prefer to move funds directly to a checking or savings account with your bank or credit union. Thats typically an option when you stop working, but be aware that moving money to your checking or savings account may be considered a taxable distribution. As a result, you could owe income taxes, additional penalty taxes, and other complications could arise.

IRA first? If you need to spend all of the money soon, transferring from your 401 to a bank account could make sense. But theres another option: Move the funds to an IRA, and then transfer only what you need to your bank account. The transfer to an IRA is generally not a taxable event, and banks often offer IRAs, although the investment options may be limited. If you only need to spend a portion of your savings, you can leave the rest of your retirement money in the IRA, and you only pay taxes on the amount you distribute .

Again, moving funds directly to a checking or savings account typically means you pay 20% mandatory tax withholding. That might be more than you need or want. Most IRAs, even if theyre not at your bank, allow you to establish an electronic link and transfer funds to your bank easily.

Recommended Reading: How To Transfer 401k From Old Job

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.

Other Options To Roll Over Your 401

Keep your old 401: If your new employer’s 401 plan charges unreasonably high fees, but you want to keep your IRA accounts empty to preserve the backdoor Roth IRA option, your best alternative may be to keep the funds in your old 401 account. However, not all ex-employees are eligible to maintain their old 401 accounts. At some point, the plan administrator may require you to take a cash distribution or roll over the funds into another IRA or 401.

Open a solo 401: Another option available to some is to open a solo 401. A solo 401 is only available to small business owners with no other full-time employees besides themselves and a spouse. While owning a business might sound daunting, you likely qualify if you have a small side hustle and file a Schedule C when you pay your taxes. Your side hustle could be any number of activities such as driving for ride-sharing services or reselling used items online.

While your contributions to your solo 401 are limited by your small business income, you can still roll over any amount from another 401 or IRA. Compared with most employer-sponsored plans, solo 401s are typically associated with lower fees and more investment options. The only major downside of a solo 401 versus an IRA is that solo 401s require extra reporting to the IRS when the account exceeds $250,000.

While a solo 401 isn’t an option for everyone, it’s a great strategy for those who qualify.

Recommended Reading: How To Rollover 401k When Changing Jobs

Leave Your Old 401k At Your Previous Employer

The first option we will discuss is doing nothing. You can leave your 401k money at your old employer. It will stay invested in whatever funds you have picked out . You can manage the investments just like you were able to do before but are restricted to whatever funds your old employer makes available to you.

You cant contribute any additional dollars into the plan and depending on the amount of money you have in the 401k, they might be able to force you to move it. Make sure to check with your previous HR department to see if there will be an increase in the administration fees to maintain the account since you no longer work there.

Rollover Dos And Don’ts

What do I do With My Old 401(k)?

Don’t have the check sent to you. “It makes no sense to do that and there is no benefit,” Hanson said. “In fact, it complicates matters.”

First, you’ll have yet one more item on your to-do list: making sure you mail the check within the 60 days to a new account, otherwise the government treats it as a taxable distribution. Second, if you don’t request the funds precisely as needed, you’ll come up short for the amount you want to roll over because of the mandatory withholding.

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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.

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