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To Roll or Not to Roll?

At some point in almost everyone’s lifetime they have gone through the process of changing jobs. Many times those jobs offered retirement plans such as 401(k)s 403(b)s, etc. Conventional wisdom would say that for most employees it may make sense to roll their employer sponsored plan into an IRA. Based on a request from a reader (thanks David!), I thought I would go over some of the issues to consider before rolling your employer sponsored plan to an IRA.

RMD Avoidance Scheme: Birthdate Makes All The Difference

As you may recall from this previous article, it is possible to use a rollover into an active 401(k) plan as an RMD avoidance scheme. Of course, this will only work as long as you’re employed by the employer sponsoring the 401(k) plan and you’re not a 5% or greater owner of the company. In addition, the rollover must be done in a timely fashion, prior to the year that you will reach age 70 1/2 in order to avoid RMD. An example of where timing worked against a taxpayer (at least temporarily) recently came to me via the ol’ mailbag: 

Types of Rollovers Not Subject to the Once-Per-Year Rule

In a previous article we discussed the changes to the IRA One-Rollover-Per-Year rule.  There are certain types of rollovers that are not included in that restriction, detailed below. As mentioned in the earlier article, trustee-to-trustee transfers are not considered “rollovers” by the IRS regarding this rule.  So you are allowed to make as many trustee-to-trustee transfers in a year as you like – no restrictions on these kinds of transfers at all.  This includes trustee-to-trustee transfers from or to IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or any eligible plan. In addition, a rollover from an IRA into a 401(k) or other Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP) is not impacted by this rule.  This means that you can roll funds out of your IRA and into your employer’s 401(k) plan with no restriction – regardless of whether or not you have already made an IRA-to-IRA rollover in the previous 12 months. Similarly, a rollover from […]

When Rolling Over a 401(k) to an IRA Isn’t a No-Brainer

Oftentimes when folks are considering leaving employment, the decision to rollover 401(k) to an IRA is a no-brainer.  After all, why would you leave your retirement funds at the mercy of the constricted, expensive investment choices and other restrictions of your old company’s 401(k) administrator, when you can be free to invest in any (well, most any) investment you choose, keeping costs down, and completely within your own control in an IRA? Well, for some folks this decision isn’t the straightforward choice that it seems to be, for the very important reason of access to the funds before reaching age 59½ (see this article for more info about The Post-55 Exception to the 10% Penalty for Withdrawals from 401(k)).  Since only within a 401(k) (or other employer-sponsored plans) can you take advantage of this early withdrawal exception, it might be in your best interests to think about your rollover choice […]

Exceptions to the 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty from IRAs and 401(k)s

When you take money out of your IRA or 401(k) plan (or other qualified retirement plan, such as a 403(b) plan), if you’re under age 59½ in most cases your withdrawal will be subject to a penalty of 10%, in addition to any taxes owed on the distribution.  There are many exceptions to this rule though, and the exceptions are not the same for all types of plans.  IRAs have one set of rules, and 401(k)s have another set of rules. The exceptions are always related to the purpose for which the money was withdrawn.  The exact same dollars withdrawn do not have to be used for the excepted purpose, just that the excepted expense was incurred. IRA Exceptions It is important to know that all distributions from your traditional IRA are subject to ordinary income tax, but some distributions are not subject to the early withdrawal penalty.  The list […]

Rolling Over a 401(k) into a New Employer’s Plan

When you change jobs you have a choice to make regarding your retirement plan at former employer.  If the plan is a 401(k), 403(b), or other qualified plan of that nature, you may have the option to roll the old plan into a plan at your new employer. The new employer’s plan must allow rollovers into the plan – this isn’t always automatic.  Most plans will allow rollover of former employer’s plans, but not all.  Once you’ve determined that the plan will accept a rollover, you should review the new plan to understand whether or not it makes sense to roll your old plan into it, or choose another option.  Other options may be: rollover the old plan into an IRA, convert the old plan to a Roth IRA, leave the old plan where it is, or take a distribution from the old plan in cash. In this article we’ll […]

What Options Are Available for a Surviving Spouse Who Inherits an IRA?

First Spouse Program bronze medal (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When the owner of an IRA dies and leaves the IRA to his or her spouse as the sole beneficiary, there are some unique options available for handling this inherited IRA.  Keep in mind that these options are only available to a spouse a beneficiary – a non-spouse beneficiary has much more limited options available. Options for a Spousal Beneficiary of an IRA The first and easiest option is for the spouse to leave the IRA exactly where it is and do nothing.  In this manner, the IRA will continue to exist as belonging to the deceased spouse – for a time.  If the deceased spouse was over age 70½ years of age and subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), the surviving spouse could elect to continue receiving those RMDs using his or her late spouse’s lifetime as the distribution factor. On […]

What types of accounts can I rollover into?

OMG IRA (Photo credit: girlonaglide) When you have money in several accounts and you’d like to have that money consolidated in one place, the question comes up – Which type of account can be tax-free rolled over into which other type of accounts? Thankfully, the IRS has provided a simple matrix to help with this question. At this link you’ll find the matrix, sourced from IRS Publication 590. In terms of explanation, here are a few rules to remember: You can generally rollover one account of any variety (IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), and so on) into another account of the exact same type. You can rollover a Traditional IRA into just about any other tax-deferral plan, including 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), as well as a SEP IRA.  The same goes for each of the accounts in reverse as well as between all of these types of accounts.  In general, employer plans […]

The Rollover

Image via Wikipedia You’ve heard it millions of times – on the radio or tv – “when you leave your job, you should roll over your retirement account”. You may know that it makes sense (or at least you assume it makes sense, otherwise why would these folks admonish you to do so?), but do you know why it’s important? And do you have the first clue as to how to accomplish a rollover? Why rollover? Among the reasons that it is important to rollover your retirement account when you leave employment is that you want to have control over your money. If you leave the account with the former employer, you are effectively handing over a portion of the control of your money to the administrator. This administrator’s primary job is to ensure that the plan remains as effective and efficient as possible, for your former employer. Your interests […]