What Happens to your Retirement Plan when you Switch Jobs?

When switching jobs, there are a number of considerations for what to do with the money in your previous retirement plan.

Congratulations on your new job! As you navigate through a new onboarding process, you stop suddenly when you get to the discussion of retirement plans. And then you think: What about my plan at my previous employer? What do I do with the money in that account?

Good question.

You have four options for the money you’ve saved in your existing retirement account. Let’s take a look:

Option 1: Stay

Your previous employer may allow you to keep the money in your plan, an attractive option that keeps things undisturbed while allowing you to accumulate tax-deferred earnings potential. If you like the plan’s options and benefits, consider leaving things as-is. However, make sure that you won’t incur special fees to participate or restrictions to withdraw money at a future date.

Option 2: Let ‘Er Roll

You can transfer the money into your new employer’s plan, which continues your tax-deferred growth potential. However, there may be rules associated with rolling over your money. Review your new plan and restrictions carefully before selecting this option.

Option 3: Cash Out

You may elect to withdraw your money in cash, though you’ll face tax consequences: Distributions incur a 20% federal withholding as well as standard income tax. And if you’re under age 59.5, you’ll pay an additional 10% federal tax. State and local taxes may also apply, which collectively could sharply reduce the amount you retain.

Option 4: Direct Transfer into an IRA

You can also directly roll all or part of your money into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). By rolling over all, you’ll avoid both penalties and withholding taxes. An IRA offers continued tax deferral for retirement, though check whether fees or commissions will be assessed.

Depending on your circumstances, the money that you accumulate in an employer’s plan may be a major source of retirement income. How you choose to manage it can have a profound impact on your savings.

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