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Jeruba's avatar

401(k) vs. IRA: financial whizzes, please tell me--why would I switch from one to the other?

Asked by Jeruba (41899 points ) October 13th, 2011

I am retired.

If I have funds in a 401(k) with former employers, what would be the benefit of rolling them over into an IRA? What’s wrong with leaving them where they are?

I’ve been told that I should do that, but the reason isn’t clear to me.

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12 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

No problems leaving them where they are normally. All 401ks are individualized to different companies however, check with your HR department and contact the fiduciary firm just to double check.

If you convert the 401k to an IRA you can withdraw from it without having the same tax withholding requirements applied. In addition, with an IRA you can trade a lot more kinds of securities than you will likely have the ability to trade within a 401k. Fees will likely be smaller on the individual mutual funds you hold as well.

Teja's avatar

You can certainly leave it with your old employer, but the benefit of rolling over to an IRA is convenience. Not sure how old you are but when you take into consideration that the average person switches jobs (even careers) several times over the course of their lifetime, it just makes sense to have money in a consolidated area, rather than having to track multiple accounts.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Jeruba, is your former employer allowing you to add money to the 401K or make any adjustments to the accounts?

creative1's avatar

You can keep the money with your old employer/s… if you are over 60 and you want to contribute money to an ira you can still contribute to a Roth IRA and at a higher rate than if you were younger.

CWOTUS's avatar

You have more investment choices with a self-directed IRA. You’re strictly limited to whatever (usually very limited) mix of investment options an employer chooses to offer in a 401(k). In addition to that – because maybe a limited menu of mutual funds doesn’t bother you – the timing of investments, redemptions and entry and exit of entire markets can be done much more quickly in a self-directed IRA than in any 401(k) that I’ve ever been a part of.

plethora's avatar

Just the convenience of having it all in one place should be adequate reason to move to an IRA. In order to get your funds from the 401k accts you will need the specific forms for each 401k acct. In the IRA you can do as you please and invest as you please.

Why would you NOT want to consolidate @Jeruba Is there a reason to leave it in several different accts?

Jeruba's avatar

Ignorance, @plethora, just ignorance. I don’t like money very much. It’s a means to an end and that’s all. I don’t really understand people who understand money and are able to think about it as a thing in itself. I regard it as a necessary evil and would rather not have to deal with it at all. So I have been idle, indifferent, and neglectful. As long as we could get by that way, without ever aspiring to do much more than that, it’s been fine.

We have come to the stage in things where it’s necessary to pay a little attention, and so I have come up against a number of decision points for which I just don’t have enough information. This probably won’t be my last question on money matters. I welcome all help and guidance, grateful that the subject isn’t as distasteful to everyone as it is to me.

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plethora's avatar

That being your reasons, I would suggest that you go to the trouble of consolidating the 401k accts into one IRA. It will just make the money issue simpler and easier to deal with once that is done. Note that I am not mentioning here how to invest it. Just get it in one place, so that whatever you do, you will have to do it only once, not four times. Does this make sense?

If you decide to consolidate, I will be glad to give you some thoughts on where, and on a way to rid yourself of thinking about how to invest, since that appears to be distasteful to you, as it is to many.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’m no financial wizard. But just with my limited knowledge, I see that there are many other factors to consider. One of the biggest questions is your age. Another is the kind of IRA are you considering. Are you going to keep contributing to the retirement account? If so, how much? Another is, do you see having to get your hands on the money anytime before you are 59½? Is your former employer allowing you to keep the current 401K and make changes and add to the account?

Jeruba's avatar

@bkcunningham, contributing is not an issue, and 59½ is not in my future. The question is really what I should do with the things in order for them to be maintained optimally until I need to use the funds.

bkcunningham's avatar

You have more flexibility with an IRA, @Jeruba. I have a friend who suggested that I read Kiplinger for advise on money matters. I found it helpful. Not just on 401Ks and IRAs; but for other financial information. I’m not a numbers person but I have always wanted to be despite my nature.

The one thing I do know without any doubt is to not trust anyone who says something is a sure thing when it comes to financial matters and investing your money. signed, Buy Low and hold B.K.

http://www.kiplinger.com/

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