3 Reasons to Roll Over Your 401K

by Guest

To roll or not to roll, that is the question.You have been working long and hard for many years now. You could be at the same employer or perhaps you have worked for several different ones over the years. While working you made it a point to take advantage of the 401k because of the match they were giving you.

Now that you have left your employer (career change or possible retirement), you have an important choice to make. You can either leave the money with your previous employer in the 401k plan or you can do what’s called a 401k rollover. The former seems like the easy option but let me give you some reasons why you want consider rolling over to your own personal Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

First things first, what can you rollover?

Any old retirement plans are fair game.  That would include any old 401k’s, SEP IRA’s, Simple IRA’s, 403b’s, or 457 plans.   Basically, if you no longer work there, you should be able to roll it over.

One word of caution:  be careful if you are with an employer that uses an annuity product for their retirement plan.   I had a client who was trying to rollover her Simple IRA when she changed jobs. Since her employer used an insurance company for the plan, she had an annuity and was faced with a 5% surrender charge to transfer it even though she didn’t work there.  For her that was a $4,000 tab that she wasn’t too thrilled about.

1. Variety in Your 401k is the Spice of Life

If you had a choice between a world class buffet or a menu with 3 choices, what would you choose? Personally, I’m going with the buffet (in moderation of course). With a 401k you are mostly limited to mutual funds. On top of that, you may only have 8 mutual funds to choose from.

I have seen 401k’s with as little as 8 up to 40 choices.That may seem like enough, but when you roll over your 401k to an IRA you have now opened the doors to hundreds of other mutual fund companies and thousands of other choices.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can also invest into individual stocks, bonds, Etf’s, annuities, CD’s, and on and on and on.

In fact, if you wanted to take all your money and put it all in one stock you could. (Warning: Please do not do this.This will make your financial advisor very nervous)

2. Stretch Out the 401k

Up until recently, any non-spouse beneficiary on a employer retirement plan was forced to cash out over a 5 year period upon inheriting.Thanks to the Pension Protection Act that has changed…..kind of. An “inherited IRA“ has to be open and the money has to be rolled into that for it to work. So why not take the safe route and roll it into an IRA?

What a Stretch IRA does is allows your beneficiaries to take smaller portions out based on your life expectancy. That it turns means that the bulk of the money will still grow tax deferred and stretch out what you pass on to your kids.

3. Simplify and Consolidate

I have had clients with up to six different 401k plans. He was getting 6 separate statements and was having trouble trying to keep track of them all.  Why not consolidate into one IRA to make sure that all the investments are working together and complimenting each other?

Also, at age 70 ½ the IRS steps in and starts making you take out a percentage each year in the form of Required Minimum Distributions.This figure would have to be done on each retirement plan and if for some reason you miss it, the IRS imposes a pretty hefty penalty (50% of the amount that was required to be withdrawn).

Rolling over your retirement plan can be a simple process.  Make your life simple and consolidate your retirement accounts today.

Jeff Rose, is an Illinois Certified Financial Planner who authors the blogs Good Financial Cents and Soldier of Finance.   He is a father of 3 awesome boys, husband to the coolest chick on the planet, In-N-Out Burger junkie and Crossfit addict.

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shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet December 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

My previous company (also C’s previous company) had their 401k system set up so that if you left the company, after X months it auto-rolled over into an IRA. This means C and I both have IRAs and we have my current 403b

Jeff Rose December 16, 2011 at 11:44 am


I see pros and cons with the auto-rollover feature. Pro’s is that it’s done for you. Cons in that 1. Typically fees with mutual funds are cheaper in your 401k. 2. How do they decide how to invest your money?

Congrats on having multiple buckets of retirement income!

Dr. Dean December 17, 2011 at 4:53 am

You laid out the pros and cons very nicely. They are an important part of the retirement plans for most of the people I talk to.

Sheila December 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

One thing not mentioned was rolling over into an IRA while you’re still employed. The company you work for must allow it, but it gives you more investment options.

Corey @ Passive Income to Retire December 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I can’t imagine having 6 different 401k’s. I prefer it simple… Great tips. Will keep that in mind when I have to roll over my retirement fund when I leave my employer.

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