Christine wrote me with this question:
I have worked several different jobs. I have retirement money affiliated with each employer. I am considering consolidating to one new account, but I am confused on who to invest with and what type of account to open? Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Christine, you have a few basic options to consider:
- Leave your money in your former employer’s plan, if your former employer permits it.
- Roll over your money to a new 401(k) plan, if this option is available.
- Roll over your money to a Traditional IRA.
- Roll over your money to a Roth IRA.
- Take a cash distribution.
First, be sure it is to your advantage to move the money from your former employer’s 401(k) plan. It you are allowed the same options and controls over the account as an existing employee, it may be to your benefit to leave the money where it is. Ask a professional financial advisor to help you analyze this option.
Depending on some variables, you can chose to leave the plan you are in and roll the funds into a traditional IRA account with a bank or financial institution. You may also leave the plan and roll your stock into an IRA inside a brokerage account. Your choice will depend on what you intend to do with the funds once they are consolidated. Do you want to have a professional manage your funds or do you intend to manage your own investments?
Another variable is your age. If you are approaching 59 1/2, you may be better served to stay in your employer’s plan and take a lump sum distribution at retirement age and have your funds managed by a professional financial advisor. There are a number of helpful articles online if you simply search for “How to Roll Over a 401(k)” and read the articles from reputable investment firms.
Here is an article by Fidelity.com about a simple 3-step roll over checklist that is applicable to your situation even if you do not chose to work with Fidelity. You can learn more about investing and retirement accounts, and find helpful resources at Crown.org.