It’s not uncommon to move assets from a work account to an individual retirement account when leaving a job. However, the rollover can come with its fair share of troubles and if you aren’t careful it’s easy to make a mistake that can’t be easily undone. These tips will help prevent you from making a costly mistake.
The rollover process
Once you’ve decided to move your retirement savings to an IRA, it’s best to avoid receiving a check made out directly to you from the 401(k) plan, even if it is sent to you.
If you have company stock
Some retirement savers hold company stock in their 401(k) alongside other investments. In that situation, if you roll over all those assets to an IRA, you lose the potential to get a more favorable tax treatment on any growth those shares had while in your 401(k).
The rule of 55
If you leave your job in or after the year you turn 55 but before age 59½, you can take penalty-free distributions from your 401(k) (although they will still be taxable). If you move the money to an IRA, you lose that ability to tap the money early.
What spouses should know
If you are the spouse of someone who plans to roll over their 401(k) balance to an IRA, be aware that you’d lose the right to be the sole heir of that money. With the workplace plan, the beneficiary must be you, the spouse, unless you sign a waiver.
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