What To Do With Your 401 When You Leave A Job
You’ve landed your dream job, or you’ve been laid off, and you’re ready to say goodbye to your current employer. But before you go, you have some decisions to make about your 401.
While there may be some guidance from human resources, is generally up to you to decide what you should do with your retirement savings when you change jobs. So, what happens to your 401k plan when you leave a job?
Flexjobs Is So Much More Than Just A Job Board
In addition to helpful articles like this one, members get unlimited access to:
- Highest Quality Remote & Flexible Jobs
- 200+ Expert Skills Tests
- Weekly Career Coach Q& As
- And so much more
- 100% Remote JobFull-Time ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, MN, IA, MO, AR, LA, WI, IL, KY, MS, AL, MI, IN, TN, GA, FL, OH, NC, SC, WV, VA, PA, DC, CT, NJ, NY, RI, NH, ME, MD, DE, VT
Will You Owe Taxes Probably Yes
You will pay income taxes at your current tax rate on distributions from your 401. Plus, if you are under the age of 59½, your distribution will be considered premature, and youll lose 10% of it to an early withdrawal penalty.
If you have an outstanding loan from your 401, you will have to repay it within a certain time frame, or the amount will be treated as a distribution for tax purposes.
You May Like: What Is Asset Allocation In 401k
More From The New Road To Retirement:
Heres a look at more retirement news.
Also be aware that if your balance is low enough, the plan might not let you remain in it even if you want to.
If the balance is between $1,000 and $5,000, the plan can transfer the money to an in the name of the individual, Hansen said. If its under $1,000, they can cash you out.
Its up to the plan.
Your other option is to roll over the balance to another qualified retirement plan. That could include a 401 at your new employer assuming rollovers from other plans are accepted or an IRA.
If under $1,000, they can cash you out. Its up to the plan.Will HansenExecutive director of the Plan Sponsor Council of America
Be aware that if you have a Roth 401, it can only be rolled over to another Roth account. This type of 401 and IRA involves after-tax contributions, meaning you dont get a tax break upfront as you do with traditional 401 plans and IRAs. But the Roth money grows tax-free and is untaxed when you make qualified withdrawals down the road.
If you decide to move your retirement savings, you should do a trustee-to-trustee rollover, where the transfer is sent directly to the new 401 plan or IRA custodian.
Also, while any money you put in your 401 is always yours, the same cant be said about employer contributions.
What You Can Do With A 401 Balance When You Leave
If youre quitting, like I did that first time, or suffering a lay-off like my second time, you have either 3 or 4 options, depending on your account balance.
So, which should you choose?
There is no answer thats right for everyone. As I like to say, personal finance is just that personal. Whats right for me now may not be right for you, and may even be wrong for me at a different time.
Below well look at the pros and cons of each option.
But first, note that if your balance is under $1000, your old employer may simply make the choice for you, withholding 20% toward your possible tax liability and sending you a check for the rest. See below for more details of what that could mean.
If your balance is over $1000 but less than their threshold for allowing the money to stay in the plan , your old employer must give you at least 30 days notice about your right to withdraw the balance. If you fail to respond, they will most likely establish a rollover IRA for you.
Roll Over The Money To An Ira
You can roll over the funds to an IRA with a bank or brokerage firm. This IRA can be used every time you need to roll over a 401 without having to open a new account each time. The money will continue growing tax deferred and will be available for you in retirement. Some 401s allow for a post-tax Roth contribution. If your former contributions were going into the Roth, you can roll the money into a Roth IRA.
IRAs offer you more investment choices than 401s as you can invest in anything from stocks, bonds, mutual funds and more. There are many online platforms that enable investors to buy and sell investments on their own. But if this sounds like it is outside your comfort level, you can find a financial adviser who will help you manage your investments while planning for retirement.
Also Check: Can You Rollover A 401k Without Leaving Your Job
You Can Roll Your Old Plan Into Your New Employer’s Plan
If you don’t want to keep your money in your previous employer’s plan, you can choose to roll over your 401 account to your new employer’s plan.
Check with the administrator of your new plan to find out if you can roll it over right away, or if you have to wait until you’re eligible to participate in the plan to do so.
This option lets you keep all of your 401 money together in one account.
Dont Roll Over Employer Stock
There is one big exception to all of this. If you hold your company stock in your 401, it may make sense not to roll over this portion of the account. The reason is net unrealized appreciation , which is the difference between the value of the stock when it went into your account and its value when you take the distribution.
Youre only taxed on the NUA when you take a distribution of the stock and opt not to defer the NUA. By paying tax on the NUA now, it becomes your tax basis in the stock, so when you sell itimmediately or in the futureyour taxable gain is the increase over this amount.
Any increase in value over the NUA becomes a capital gain. You can even sell the stock immediately and get capital gains treatment.
In contrast, if you roll over the stock to a traditional IRA, you wont pay tax on the NUA now, but all of the stocks value to date, plus appreciation, will be treated as ordinary income when distributions are taken.
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.
Can You Leave Your Money In A 401k After Retirement
Generally speaking, retirees with a 401 are left with the following choices: Leave your money in the plan until you reach the age of required minimum distributions convert the account into an individual retirement account or start cashing out via a lump-sum distribution, installment payments, or …
Repay Any Loans From Your 401
When you leave your job, make sure that you have no outstanding loans from your 401. If you do, pay them off as soon as possible after your last day of work.
You have until the due date of your tax return to repay any loans you have taken from the plan, or you will default on the loan because your method of paying back the loan–your paycheck–stops when you stop your employment.
If you default on the loan, you can expect your former plan to notify the Internal Revenue Service via an IRS Form 1099-R, which will report the unpaid amount.
That amount will be treated as taxable income subject to income tax. If you’re under age 59.5, you’ll have to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, as well.
Read Also: How Much Can I Convert From 401k To Roth Ira
Leave The Money In Your Former Employers 401
Many companies will let former employees stay invested in their 401 plan indefinitely if there is at least $5,000 in the account. However, if there is less than $5,000 in your account, your old company can cash you out of the account .
In any case, unless your former employers plan has outstanding investment options or unique benefits, leaving your 401 behind rarely makes sense. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. worker changes jobs 12 times throughout a career.
If you leave a 401 plan behind at each job, you will have to sort through a trail of plans to figure out what you have at retirement. Additionally, you risk overpaying for too many unnecessary investments.
To be sure, if you have been through a layoff and are not sure of your next move, keeping your 401 funds with a former employer may make sense in the short-term.
How We Make Money
You have money questions. Bankrate has answers. Our experts have been helping you master your money for over four decades. We continually strive to provide consumers with the expert advice and tools needed to succeed throughout lifes financial journey.
Bankrate follows a strict editorial policy, so you can trust that our content is honest and accurate. Our award-winning editors and reporters create honest and accurate content to help you make the right financial decisions. The content created by our editorial staff is objective, factual, and not influenced by our advertisers.
Were transparent about how we are able to bring quality content, competitive rates, and useful tools to you by explaining how we make money.
Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We are compensated in exchange for placement of sponsored products and, services, or by you clicking on certain links posted on our site. Therefore, this compensation may impact how, where and in what order products appear within listing categories. Other factors, such as our own proprietary website rules and whether a product is offered in your area or at your self-selected credit score range can also impact how and where products appear on this site. While we strive to provide a wide range offers, Bankrate does not include information about every financial or credit product or service.
Read Also: How Can You Get Money From Your 401k
Roll It Over Into An Ira
If youre not moving to a new employer, or if your new employer doesnt offer a retirement plan, you still have a good option. You can roll your old 401 into an IRA. Youll be opening the account on your own, through the financial institution of your choice. The possibilities are pretty much limitless. That is, youre no longer restricted to the options made available by an employer.
The biggest advantage of rolling a 401 into an IRA is the freedom to invest how you want, where you want, and in what you want, says John J. Riley, AIF, founder, and chief investment strategist for Cornerstone Investment Services LLC in Providence, R.I. There are few limits on an IRA rollover.
One item you might want to consider is that in some states, such as California, if you are in the middle of a lawsuit or think there is the potential for a future claim against you, you may want to leave your money in a 401 instead of rolling it into an IRA, says financial advisor Jarrett B. Topel, CFP for Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management LLC in Berkeley, Calif. There is more creditor protection in California with 401s than there is with IRAs. In other words, it is harder for creditors/plaintiffs to get at the money in your 401 than it is to get at the money in your IRA.
If you have an outstanding loan from your 401 and leave your job, youll have to repay it within a specified time period. If you dont, the amount will be treated as a distribution for tax purposes.
Things You Can Do With 401 After Leaving Your Job
Many employers offer 401s as a way to help employees save for retirement. When you leave your job, youll need to decide what to do with your 401. Depending on what you do once you leave your job, you have several options. In this article, we describe four options you have when deciding what to do with 401 when you leave a job.
Read Also: How To Transfer 401k To Bank Account
Read Also: What Percent To Put In 401k
Your Old Employer Might Become Unstable
Fortunately, US law prevents a company from simply dissolving a 401k and taking your money. Still, that doesnt mean your old 401k is insulated from problems with your old employer. And lets face it, Covid-19 has taught us how fragile some employers can actually be.
If your old employer goes under, it will be a royal pain to access your retirement funds. Youll get the money eventually, but that could be a long time. An even bigger concern occurs if your old 401k account contains a large amount of the old employers stock. If you own shares of your old employer and that employer gets into trouble, undoubtedly, the price of that stock will decrease, perhaps plummeting if a bankruptcy filing is needed.
Move The 401 To Your New Employers 401
If you change companies, its typically no problem to rollover your old retirement plan into your new employers 401. With a little bit of paperwork, the old plan administrator can simply shift the contents of your account directly into the new plan account with a direct transfer. This custodian-to-custodian transaction is not considered taxable.
Another option is to elect to have your balance distributed to you in check format, which you can then deposit into your new 401 account within 60 days, without paying the income tax. If you are a sole proprietor, freelancer, or entrepreneur, you may also consider setting up your own Solo 401 for yourself at this point. If you are in the middle of a lawsuit or worry about future claims against your assets, leaving your money in a 401 is going to offer better protection against liquidation.
You May Like: How Much Tax On 401k Withdrawal
Consider Your Options Carefully
There is no one right 401 move for everyone, but by exploring your options, you can determine what is right for you.
Consider your choices carefully before deciding. Talk to human resources representatives and plan administrators at your old job and your new job. You may also want to discuss options with financial advisor.
Most importantly, if you do decide to move the money from one plan to another, pay attention to asset transfer rules to avoid missing a deadline or creating an unexpected taxable distribution.
Option : Roll It Over To Your New Employers Account
One of the job perks your new company may offer is a 401 or a similar tax-advantaged retirement account. If youd rather not have to keep up with two employer-sponsored plans or your new jobs plan is more attractive, a transfer may be the answer.
With this type of transfer, youre taking the assets from your previous retirement account provider and investing them with a new one. Theres a bit of paperwork involved to complete the process, but there are some definite benefits you might appreciate.
Aside from keeping your savings tax-deferred, youre able to add to it by making contributions to the new plan. If the fees for the new plan are lower than the old one, that means youre holding on to more of your returns year over year. Your employer may offer access to financial planning professionals, tools, or resources to help guide your investment and saving decisions. If your plan allows for loans, youd have a last resort source of cash you could tap in an emergency.
Of course, its important to evaluate the new plan before transferring. A transfer may lose some of its appeal if there are fewer investment choices, the available investments dont exactly align with your goals and preferences, or the plan is more expensive. Youll also need to know whether transfers from other plans are allowed and what conditions, if any, you have to meet before you can invest the funds.
Don’t Miss: How Can I Find My Lost 401k
Your Roth 401 Options
A Roth 401 works like a traditional 401 plan in that contributions are made through paycheck deferrals and assets held within the plan are tax-deferred until they are withdrawn in retirement. However, a Roth 401 plan is a post-tax option contributions provide no upfront reduction to taxable income. Instead, Roth 401 contributions and earnings are tax-free when taken out after age 59½.
Once you leave your job with an employer offering a Roth 401 plan, you potentially have four options about what to do with your plan:
- You can maintain it as is with the plan sponsor.
- You can transfer it to a new employer plan.
- You can roll it over into an individual Roth IRA.
- You can take a lump-sum cash distribution.