Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row Rotating Header Image

Arguments in Favor of a Rollover

Mutual fund
Image via Wikipedia

If you have a 401(k), 403(b), a (gasp!) tax-sheltered annuity or other qualified retirement plan from a former employer, you may have considered if it would be beneficial to leave it where it is, or perhaps enact a rollover to an IRA.

While it might be easiest to leave the account where it is, it’s possible that you are sacrificing flexibility and/or paying higher fees in exchange for the easier path.

Quite often, 401(k) plans (and other qualified retirement plans, QRPs) are restricted to managed mutual fund investment options.  Managed funds often carry high expense ratios, often greater than 1% and more.  As you know, if you’ve read much about index funds, it is possible to reduce most of your investing expense ratios to far below .5%, in some cases as low as .1% or less.  Over the course of many years, reducing these expenses can have a profound impact on your investment returns.

For example, if you were to save even 1/2 of a percent in expenses, over 20 years this could compound to a 11.05% improvement in your overall investment returns.  This also assumes that the new funds you’ve chosen will perform at the same rate that the funds you’re leaving behind would have.

It’s not a pure “no brainer” to enact the rollover.  There could be compelling reasons to leave the money where it sits, such as if you believe the funds in your plan are superior to options that you could choose outside the plan (such as restricted-access or closed funds), or maybe you have access to investment advice from the custodian.  In addition, if you left the employer during or after the year when you reached age 55, you might want to leave the money where it is until you’re at least age 59½ – see this article on post-55 withdrawals for more information.  There is also the chance that you could benefit by leaving the funds in the former plan if there is Net Unrealized Appreciation of your former employer’s stock that you intend to have treated by the NUA rules.

In general though, the flexibility to reduce your expenses by choosing any investment available is a pretty compelling argument in favor of the rollover.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Sam says:

    Although I am in the camp of rollover, one advantage of leaving is legal protection. IRA protection based on state laws and some states like mine do not protect IRA as well as federal protection on 401k and the like.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re absolutely correct, Sam. That’s another of the reasons to consider the rollover carefully before acting.

      Thanks for pointing it out!


Get involved!

Discover more from Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading