Do you still have a 401k balance in a plan at a former employer? Are you unsure of what you should do with it? When you leave a job, you often have a lot on your mind, such as starting a new job, finishing up outstanding work, and making sure you collect all of your personal effects. It's easy to forget that you need to do something your vested benefits, such as a 401k balance. You have a few options available for your vested 401k balance, so it's important that you consider each one carefully. Here are four possible solutions for your 401k at your old job:
Leave it there. You may be able to leave your balance in the plan at your former employer. In some plans, if the balance is small, they'll automatically close it after a certain period of time and send you a check. However, if the balance isn't small, you may be allowed to keep the money in the plan for as long as you'd like.
However, if you do decide to keep the money there, make sure you're loved ones know about it. If you pass away, there should be a death benefit available. If your loved ones don't know about the plan at the old employer, they may not file for a death benefit claim.
Cash it out. Another option is to cash the plan out and receive a lump sum payment for the balance. This could be an effective solution if you have a need for immediate cash. However, there are a couple of things to consider. One is that you will likely have to pay taxes on the distribution. The other is that if you haven't yet reached retirement age, you may have to pay an early distribution penalty. That could take a big bite out of your balance.
Roll it into your new plan. Did your leave for a job at a new company that has a 401k plan? If so, you may be able to roll the balance in your old plan into the 401k plan at your new job. The primary benefit to doing this may be simplicity. You would have all of your 401k funds in one place, which may be easier for you to keep track of and may make it easier for your beneficiaries should they ever need to make a claim.
Do an IRA rollover. Finally, another option is to roll the funds out of your 401k and into an IRA, which stands for Individual Retirement Account. By doing a rollover, you can get the funds out of the 401k without exposing yourself to any taxes or penalties. You can then put the funds in your own retirement account, where you may have more investment options and more control over how the money is allocated.
For more information, contact a financial advisor who has experience with IRA rollovers. They can help you decide which option is best for you.