So you’ve landed a new career, eh? Congratulations! Soon you’ll be fighting off the first-day jitters, filling out paperwork and getting to know a new cohort of coworkers. But, before you finish packing it in at your old job, don’t forget to make a new plan for your 401(k).
There are several avenues you can take with your old 401(k). Let’s take a moment to review each of them while exploring why some choices may be smarter for your future financial well-being than others.
Roll it into a Retirement Account.
Your 401(k) savings doesn’t have to remain in a 401(k) to avoid early withdrawal penalties from the IRS. In fact, you can open a retirement account instead. In doing so, you may broaden your investment options since you’ll have more individual securities or mutual funds to choose from, as 401(k)s usually offer fewer options. Need help choosing the right retirement account for you? Consider speaking with a financial advisor who can help weigh all of your options.
If you choose an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), keep things simple by asking your 401(k) provider to initiate and manage the rollover instead of trying to withdraw the funds and complete the rollover yourself. This could help you avoid early withdrawal fees and tax time headaches.
Roll it over into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.
If your new employer offers a 401(k), you may want to consider rolling your old 401(k) into it, if that option is available. This is a great route to take if your new employer offers better investment choices or if you’re interested in keeping things simple since you’ll have fewer 401(k) statements to keep an eye on. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to continue growing your savings without incurring a tax penalty.
Keep your old 401(k) where it is.
If you prefer the investment options of your old 401(k) program then, by all means, keep it there. Just verify that they don’t charge annual penalties to those not actively contributing to their account. Also, don’t forget about it decades down the road when you’re getting ready to retire.
(Don’t) Take the money and run.
As enticing as it may sound to take that fat stack of cash and use it for your present-day needs and dreams, this will not serve you or your money well if you’re under the age of 59 (the early 401(k) withdrawal threshold set by the IRS).
The first hits you’ll take on the early withdrawal of your 401(k) are federal income taxes, a 10 percent IRS early withdrawal penalty, and any additional penalties charged by your 401(k) provider — all subtracted from your savings before you even see a dime. The second hit may be even more significant. Once you withdraw this money, it quits working for you because it’s no longer earning interest or dividends.
At the end of the day, the best choice for you depends on your personal situation, the options you’re offered by your employers and your current financial needs.