What to do with orphaned retirement accounts

What do you do with your retirement accounts when you change jobs? This is a common question on WCI, and the good news is that you have many options! What you choose to do depends, as always, on your goals, current situation, and priorities. I do not intend for this list to be in any kind of ranking (except for the last two). Review the below seven choices and make the one that is appropriate for you.

  1. Roll over to your new employer’s plan. Do this if:
  • Your new plan accepts rollovers
  • Your new plan has a good selection of investments and reasonable fees (I’m not as picky on the fees as I am on access to decent investments)
  • IRAs and Roth IRAs do not have creditor protection in your state and that’s important to you.
  • You want the ability to borrow from your retirement plan and your current employer plan allows loans.
  1. Leave behind with your prior employer. Do this if your plan balance is at least $5,000 and:
  • You prefer your old plan to your new plan
  • You prefer your new plan but you have a waiting period before you can participate
  • You’re not ready to move it yet because you want to set up a solo-401k first (see #3)
  • IRAs and Roth IRAs do not have creditor protection in your state and that’s important to you.
  • You want to convert your plan to a Roth the year after you retire (low income)
  1. Roll out to a solo-401k. Do this if:
    • You want to maintain control over your account
      • For example, you want to invest in choices not available in your employer’s plan
    • You have a profitable side gig or plan to start one
  2. Roll out to an IRA. Do this if:
  1. Roll out to a Roth IRA
    • You are still in training (in a low tax bracket) and have free cash flow other than your Roth to pay taxes on the conversion
    • You’re taking a gap year before starting a new job and want to roll it all into a Roth during the gap
    • You are trying to build a Roth as early in your life as possible and have free cash flow other than your Roth to pay taxes on the conversion
  2. Take a 60-day withdrawal then roll over to your new plan. This is my next-to-last choice. Do this if:
    • You need interest-free use of your money for 60 days
    • You can ensure your employer will not withhold 20% estimated taxes and/or
    • You can replace any tax withholding with your own savings until you file for a refund.
  3. Take the money and run. This is my least favorite choice. Do this if:
    • You are at least age 55 (will avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty)
    • You are desperate for money

Can you think of any other choices or reasons? Post below if you do!

 

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