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What To Do With 401k When You Switch Jobs

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Leave The Money In Your Former Employers 401

What to Do With Your 401K When You Switch Jobs

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.

Option : Roll It Into Your New 401

If your new employer offers a 401, you can possibly roll your old account into the new one. You may be required to be with the company for a certain amount of time before youre eligible to participate in their plan.

You can choose to do a Direct Rollover, whereby the administrator of your old plan transfers your account balance directly into the new plan. This only requires some paperwork.

Or, you can choose an Indirect Rollover. With this option, 20% of your account balance is withheld by the IRS as federal income tax in addition to any applicable state taxes. The balance of your old account is given to you as a check to deposit into your new 401 within 60 days. There is one catch, though. Youll need to deposit the entire amount of your old account into your new account, even the amount withheld for taxes. That means using personal cash to cover the difference and waiting until tax season to be reimbursed by the government.

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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Focus On Details For Both Old And New Retirement Savings

There are four choices for your old plan:

  • Keep your money where its at, if allowed. Note that some plans dont allow this option if you have a low balance .
  • Move your money to your new employers plan. This is typically an option if youre joining a company that offers a retirement plan and allows roll-ins.
  • Roll your savings from your 401 into an IRA. Combining retirement accounts gives you flexibility in decision-making to ensure your assets are supporting your goals. Learn how to start a rollover IRA.
  • Cash out your account balance. It may be tempting to have the money now but there are serious downsides: Hefty taxes and penaltiesup to 30%and youll miss out on any future growth or earnings. Learn more about cashing out your 401.

For your new plan consider:

  • Can you save more to help meet your retirement goals? Did the new job come with a higher salary? says Heather Winston, assistant director of financial planning and advice at Principal. Is now a good time to consider increasing how much youre saving from each paycheck? Learn more about creating your retirement plan.
  • Does your employer offer a savings match? If so, how much will you need to defer to take full advantage of it?

Option : Keep Your Savings With Your Previous Employers Plan

What to do with your 401K When you Retire or Change Jobs

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:

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Tips On Retirement Accounts

  • Whats the right retirement plan for you? Should you roll your 401 into another employers program or an IRA? What other options might you even have? A financial advisor can provide valuable insight and guidance on this. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesnt have to be hard. SmartAssets free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If youre ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Part of what will help you decide what to do with 401 money is how far long you are in reaching your financial goal for retirement. Use this no-cost retirement calculator to get a quick estimate of how youre doing.

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.

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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 plans provide creditor protection that IRAs dont
  • Quality of your new companys retirement plan versus your former plan in terms of investment options, fees and whether or not loans are permitted
  • Options available to you in an IRA outside of your employers plan

The good news is that you do not have to make any decisions about your existing 401 immediately. You may want to speak with a financial advisor first to discuss your options.

Changing Jobs The Ins And Outs Of A 401 Rollover

What to Do With Your 401k When You Change Jobs

Thomas J Catalano is a CFP and Registered Investment Adviser with the state of South Carolina, where he launched his own financial advisory firm in 2018. Thomas’ experience gives him expertise in a variety of areas including investments, retirement, insurance, and financial planning.

If you’ve decided to leave your current job for another, you will need to decide what to do with the money that you have invested in your current company’s 401 plan. Options typically include leaving it where it is, rolling it over to a new employer’s plan, or opting for an IRA rollover.

If you are about to change jobs, here’s what you need to know about rolling over your funds into a new employer’s 401 plan and the ins and outs of other options.

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How To Handle Your 401 When You Get A New Job

If your former employer cashed out your 401 account and gave you a check, you need to roll the money into a qualified retirement account within 60 days to avoid paying taxes on it. If you didn’t get a check, and you’re able to park your 401 with your former employer for now, take some time to consider your options.

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.

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Rollover The Money Into An Ira

You could also move the money into a rollover IRA and choose your investments.If you tend to move from job to job as you climb the career ladder, a rollover IRA is a great option, because it can become the single location for the money from your old 401s and retirement plans.

If you left behind a plan at every job, you could wind up with a 401 graveyard filled with neglected investments by the end of your career. You may want to consider combining your retirement accounts instead.

When you do a direct rollover, there are no tax consequences or tax penalties involved. Rollover IRAs offer endless investment options to choose fromincluding stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and even real estateif that’s what you choose.

On the downside, you will no longer be making automatic contributions to this account, so you will lose your savings momentum. However, rollover IRAs are quite flexible. You may be able to roll the assets into a future employers plan.

Rolling Into An Ira Stay On Top Of The Move

What to Do with Your 401k When You Change Jobs

If you decide to roll over your 401 into an IRA not sponsored by your new employer, your IRA sponsor or advisor will help guide you through the process to ensure the money gets to the proper destination in a timely manner.

Be sure your new broker/advisor has experience with rollovers, especially if you have company stock in your 401. Why? Because company stock is liquidated when its rolled into an IRA, and later, when distributed, may be taxed as ordinary income resulting in a higher tax liability.

As recommended above, stay vigilant until your money is safely in its new home and that you have proof typically verified online through the IRA providers website.

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Use Old Benefits And Choose New Ones

Ask your human resources departments what dates benefits end and new ones begin.

  • Health insurance: Compare current and new coverage, and get details for anything thats continuing, such as specialty medications.
  • Dental and vision insurance: Especially if you wont have this coverage when you change jobs, schedule appointments as soon as you can.
  • Life insurance: Voluntary policies can be converted to an individual policy. Instead of being deducted from your payroll, youll pay the premium directly to the insurance company.
  • Retirement savings: Check out the options for existing funds later in this article.

You Have Options But Some May Be Better Than Others

After you leave your job, there are several options for your 401. You may be able to leave your account where it is. Alternatively, you may roll over the money from the old 401 into either your new employers plan or an individual retirement account . You can also take out some or all of the money, but there can be serious tax consequences.

Make sure to understand the particulars of the options available to you before deciding which route to take.

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Changing Jobs What To Do With Your Old 401

Today, job hopping is the norm. The average American stays at a job for 4.6 yearsonly three years for workers ages 25 to 34according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Over a 30-year period, Baby Boomers born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 12 jobs2 and Millennials are expected to follow a similar path.

While job hopping can open up advancement opportunities that may not have been possible at one company, it does have a downside that’s not often talked about: Workers are accumulating 401 accounts at a rapid pace. Leaving an old account with a former employer is an option , but it can cost you in additional fees and headaches if you aren’t careful. With that in mind, here are four things you can do with your old 401:

Unlike 401s, loans are not available from IRAs, you generally have fewer creditor protections, and you may not have access to certain investment options or lower priced share classes.

Finally, if you decide to open an IRA, be sure to specify how it should be invested. Until you provide instructions, your money may remain in cash .

Bottom line

If you’re changing jobs, there are several things you can do with your old 401. Be sure to compare the pros and cons of all your available options, including fees and expenses, investment and distribution options, legal and creditor protections, loan provisions and tax treatment. For additional information about your rollover options, please see the IRA Rollover Fact Sheet.

You Can Invest With A Wider Choice Of Funds Tailored To Your Goals Interests And Risk Appetite

Do you know what to do with your 401k after changing or leaving jobs?

Unlike the typical 401, an IRA comes with the ability to select asset typesand possibly additional investment guidance individually. A broader range of available assets and types may include individual stocks and bonds, CDs, index funds, target-date funds, goal-specific mutual funds, and real-estate investment trusts . “Pick what types of investments make sense for you and your future, says Markwell.

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Roll Your Money Into Your New Employer’s 401 Plan

Almost all 401 plans now accept rollovers from other retirement plans. You should certainly contribute to your new plan. But should you transfer your old account into it?


  • Consolidating your retirement money makes it easier to manage. When you’ve left a retirement account at a company you no longer work for, you may pay less attention to its performance or downplay its importance in your overall asset allocation.
  • The new plan may offer more attractive investment options than the old one, as well as additional services, such as financial-planning advice.


  • The new plan may offer fewer investment options or investments that dont meet your needs.

What To Do With Your Old 401

Many 401k plans offer the ability to move money from a former employers 401 into a new plan. If you like your new employers plan, it makes sense to combine accounts and reduce your total amount of investments and fees.

Moving Your Old 401 to the New PlanThe information on how to move the former 401 should be included in your new plans sign-up package, or you can ask the plan sponsor directly. Once you cash out of one plan, you only have 90 days or less to get it the assets into the new plan, otherwise it will be considered a taxable distribution.

The funds should ideally be transferred directly from one company to the next. If you get a check mailed to you personally, do not cash it. Contact the new plan manager to find out how to transfer the assets correctly.

If you dont particularly like the new employers plan, its still worth saving there to get the opportunity to invest pre-tax dollars and take advantage of the employer matching funds.

Move Your Old 401 to a Rollover IRABut your old 401 doesnt have to be part of the new plan. Instead, you can move the money into a rollover individual retirement account . Think of a rollover IRA as a catch-all account that combines all the assets from the 401s you leave behind. With a rollover IRA, you can choose from a huge selection of investments, and the money continues to grow tax-deferred until retirement.

That takes care of the 401. Now to find the good lunch places in your new office neighborhood.

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