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Choices For 401k at Former Employer

One common issue with a mobile workforce is that many individuals who leave their job are faced with a decision about what to do with their 401(k) or 403(b) account.

There are four choices to consider carefully with a 401(k) or 403(b) account from your previous employer.


4 doors on a tiled wall representing what you may do with your employer sponsored retirement account once you leave a company and continue your career elsewhere
Debating what to do with your 401k or 403b account at your former workplace? There are 4 choices you can make.

Choice 1: Leave It with Your Previous Employer

You may choose to do nothing and leave your account in your previous employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) plan. However, if your account balance is under a certain amount, be aware that your ex-employer may elect to distribute the funds to you.


There may be reasons to keep your 401(k) or 403(b) with your previous employer —such as investments that are low cost or have limited availability outside of the plan. Other reasons are to maintain certain creditor protections that are unique to qualified retirement plans, or to retain the ability to borrow from it, if the plan allows for such loans to ex-employees.


The primary downside is that individuals can become disconnected from the old account and pay less attention to the ongoing management of its investments.


Choice 2: Transfer to Your New Employer’s 401(k) Plan

Provided your current employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) accepts the transfer of assets from a pre-existing 401(k) or 403(b), you may want to consider moving these assets to your new plan.


The primary benefits to transferring are the convenience of consolidating your assets, retaining their strong creditor protections, and keeping them accessible via the plan’s loan feature.


If the new plan has a competitive investment menu, many individuals prefer to transfer their account and make a full break with their former employer.


Choice 3: Roll Over Assets to a Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

Another choice is to roll assets over into a new or existing traditional IRA. It’s possible that a traditional IRA may provide some investment choices that may not exist in your new 401(k) plan.


The drawback to this approach may be less creditor protection and the loss of access to these funds via a 401(k) or 403(b) loan feature.


Remember, don’t feel rushed into making a decision. You have time to consider your choices and may want to seek professional guidance to answer any questions you may have.


Choice 4: Cash out the account

The last choice is to simply cash out of the account. However, if you choose to cash out, you may be required to pay ordinary income tax on the balance plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59½. In addition, employers may hold onto 20% of your account balance to prepay the taxes you’ll owe.


Think carefully before deciding to cash out a retirement plan. Aside from the costs of the early withdrawal penalty, there’s an additional opportunity cost in taking money out of an account that could potentially grow on a tax-deferred basis. For example, taking $10,000 out of a 401(k) instead of rolling over into an account earning an average of 8% in tax-deferred earnings could leave you $100,000 short after 30 years.


Final thought.

Have you recently changed jobs and need to decide how to handle your 401k or 403b? Do you need help to get organized and see how much income you can generate from multiple retirement accounts?


If you have more than $2 million saved and need help from a wealth manager, the Peak Wealth Planning team can assist.

Peak Wealth Planning specializes in helping high-net worth individuals and families plan for the future.


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About the Author

Peter Newman is a Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA) and president of Peak Wealth Planning. He works with individuals nationwide that have accumulated wealth through company stock, ESOP shares, real estate, or running a business. Peter applies his unique background to help clients achieve their specific goals and enjoy peace of mind.


Peak Wealth Planning provides concierge services to meet your wealth management needs. Services include: financial planning, investment management, esop diversification, retirement income, insurance, and estate planning advice. Peak Wealth Planning is a fee-based financial advisor based in Champaign, Illinois, and Fraser, Colorado.




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