Retirement Accounts – Should I or Should I Not Rollover?

As physicians change employers, they face the “rollover” decision – to move their retirement accounts or leave them. Here are some key considerations when facing that choice.

When you change jobs, everything you need to take with you can usually be packed into a couple boxes for your move. Everything except your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Of course, you will likely enroll in your new employer’s retirement plan. However, the decision about what to do with your existing 401k plan may not be all that clear. As with anyone who leaves an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you have four options to consider:

  • Keep the money with your former employer’s 401k
  • Execute a rollover into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
  • Roll your money into your new employer’s retirement plan if it’s allowed
  • Cash out your 401k plan by withdrawing all your money (usually not recommended)

Your best course of action depends on a number of factors that should be considered. Such as your attitude about managing your retirement plans and the specific plan options available to you.

Key Factors in Determining Whether to Rollover or not

  • Plan Fees – Employer-sponsored plan fees should be compared with the costs associated with investing in an IRA. Large employers are sometimes able to use their buying-power to negotiate low fees. Although, they may also charge multiple fees that differ from fees they charge current employees. Such as administrative and investment management fees, which can add up. IRAs established through a mutual fund will incur the sales charges associated with the funds offered. It’s possible to establish a self-directed IRA through an online broker with a minimal annual fee. This involves using low-load or no-load mutual funds or low cost exchange-traded funds.
  • Investment Options – If your current plan offers a wide range of investment options for you to achieve diversification among asset classes, you might be better off where you are.  If the plan’s investment options are limited to just a few types of stock and bond funds, you may want to consider seeking greater diversification in a self-directed IRA.

Read this: Semi Retired: Redefining Success and Leisure

Consider keeping your money where it is if…

After comparing plan fees and options – with your new employer’s plan as well as with IRAs – you’ve determined your current plan offers the best of both. You’ll still have access to your account for making investment decisions and withdrawing funds. However, you may not be able to borrow. If this is your choice, you will need to monitor two different employer-sponsored plans going forward.

Consider rolling your 401k to another employer-sponsored plan if…

Again, when comparing cost and investment performance, your new employer’s plan offers an improvement in both. Including a broader range of investment choices.  Even if the new plan doesn’t completely measure up to your old plan, there is the advantage of consolidating your plans into one. Which allows for easier monitoring and management of your investments.

Consider rolling your 401k into an IRA if…

If transferring to your new employer’s plan is not a desirable option, or it’s not allowed, you can establish a Rollover IRA. Rollover IRAs can be established through a bank, a brokerage firm, a custodian and online trading accounts. You can shop and compare fees as well as investment options. The one advantage a Rollover IRA has over an employer-sponsored plan is the range of investment options available. You can usually achieve broader diversification from a wider choice of asset classes.

A Rollover IRA may also be more preferable for people who have more than one 401k plan from former employers. It can be more convenient to manage your retirement assets in one plan.

Important Note: When establishing a Rollover IRA, it’s important to maintain it as a separate account from any other IRA you might have established. Especially if you plan on making any future contributions.

Because the rollover of a 401k has potential tax implications, it would be important to review your options with a tax professional. In addition, because each individual’s circumstances are unique, it would be helpful to seek the guidance of a financial professional. Particularly one experienced in retirement planning to help select the best plan for you.

If you own a private practice, cash balance plans can help you and your employees to maximize retirement savings. Learn more in this article: What Physicians Need to Know About Cash Balance Plans.
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