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A Step by Step Guide to Your 401k Rollover or Retirement Consolidation – Understand Your Rollover Choices

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Step Guide to Your 401k Rollover or Retirement Consolidation
Understand Your Rollover Choices

Rolling over your retirement assets into an IRA at retirement involves a lot more than paperwork! There are innumerable criteria and strategies to consider.

Here we take you step by step through the various choices you will need to make when allocating your retirement assets. While many people do choose to conduct their retirement rollovers on their own, you should at least consider working with a qualified financial advisor. Their expertise could help you navigate these important decisions.

Rollover Choice One – Figure Out Your Retirement Needs and How You Should Use Your Retirement Funds

Retirement planning is not easy. It is a budgeting process for the rest of your life for which you must account for many unknowns like inflation, stock fluctuations, changes in real estate prices, personal health costs, taxes and your own longevity.

When deciding what to do with your 401k, the most important consideration is your retirement plan and how it may need bolstering. This is a big and important question and many retirees choose to work with a Financial Planner who can help them create a strong plan.

Depending on your situation, you may wish to rollover your 401k into a financial vehicle that will enable you to:

  1. Guarantee Lifetime Income: Most financial experts agree that guaranteeing adequate income for the rest of your life is probably the most important criteria when considering retirement and how to invest your retirement funds.

    Guaranteed lifetime income can come from Social Security, a pension, interest or dividends, a lifetime annuity or a combination of these sources.

    Your Social Security and most pension benefits are guaranteed for life. However, if there is a shortfall between this income and your actual expenses, then you will probably want to choose to roll over your funds into an IRA that offers a financial product that will guarantee adequate income to make up that shortfall. There are at least three common ways to insure lifetime income with your 401k rollover:

    • Earn Interest and/or Dividends: If you have sizable savings to rollover, you will want to carefully consider how lifetime income might be achieved with interest and dividends earned from your capital. However, you will want to carefully consider your investment options so as not to put your principal at risk.
    • Purchase an Annuity: A lifetime annuity can guarantee lifetime income and many annuities are available with favorable tax treatment for 401k rollovers.
    • Systematic Drawdowns: Taking scheduled withdrawals from your IRA and the interest earned on your IRA is probably the most common retirement income strategy. This can be a particularly good strategy if you also purchase a lifetime annuity that would start when you finish drawing down your assets – guaranteeing your income even if your longevity is longer than you expect.

    If you are unsure whether or not you have adequate assets for retirement, use the NewRetirement Retirement Planning Calculator to find out, or consult with a Financial Advisor.

  2. Provide Adequate Insurance: The second most important issue with retirement is having adequate insurance. You can develop an investment strategy for your rollover IRAs funds to help cover Long Term Care and other medical costs. Depending on the distribution rules for your account, you could also open a Health Savings Account which can provide favorable tax status for your funds. A professional financial advisor who specializes in retirement can help you with this process.
  3. Maximize Estate Planning: If you have managed to guarantee adequate lifetime income and have sufficient insurance, then you will want to consider rolling over your 401k into an IRA with a firm that provides financial tools and services for efficient estate planning.
  4. Fund Your Desired Retirement Lifestyle: While you must be diligently responsible with your retirement planning, most retirees also have a few fun ideas about how they would like to spend their time away from work. Whether reading with grandchildren, an African Safari or a vacation home – your retirement interests should also be considered when allocating your retirement funds.
  5. Combination of Goals and Strategies: Like anyone in any situation, most retirees will want and even need it all – guaranteed lifetime income, adequate insurance, an estate to leave behind and a satisfying life without work.

    The trick is in choosing the right financial products and strategies to achieve your retirement financial needs.

Rollover Choice Two – Decide to Rollover or Keep Funds in Company Plan or with Existing Institution

Once you have a better idea of how you need to use your savings for retirement, you can better decide if you require a rollover.

Rolling Over from a Company Plan: Some 401k plans require that you rollover the funds at retirement. Others do not. However, if your retirement funds are in a company plan, most financial planners advise that you rollover.

The advantages of rolling over your 401k into an IRA at retirement include:

  • Rollovers provide more flexibility in how you can allocate and use the money. You can rollover your funds into a vehicle suited to your particular situation.
  • Security against your employer going out of business, merging with another company or other event that could potentially impact your 401k funds.
  • More control over when and how you can withdraw money and manage your account. (Employer sponsored 401ks often have limits on when you can do this.)
  • Ability to consolidate all of your 401k accounts into one IRA. Many retirees have 401ks at various companies. This money will be easier to manage in retirement if you consolidate it in one place – even if it is invested in different types of financial products.
  • Puts you in charge of your account. Even if you like your current 401k plan, there are no guarantees that your employer will stick with that platform.

While there is no requirement to rollover your retirement funds, most believe it to be a good idea.

Rolling Over from Existing Financial Institution: If you have already transferred your funds out of your company plan or if you have various accounts with different institutions, you may want to consolidate with a single financial institution that offers the type of investment vehicles and financial advice that you really need in retirement.

Consolidating your retirement assets can be a particularly good idea if you are interested in working with a Financial Advisor who can holistically assess your retirement situation and allocate your assets to your best advantage.

Rollover Choice Three – Choose Between an IRA and a Roth IRA

There are two main types of 401k rollover accounts -- IRA and Roth IRA. The IRA is also sometimes referred to as a traditional IRA.

The main differences between the two accounts are related to taxes and the rules surrounding withdrawals. Continue here for a complete comparison of IRAs and Roth IRAs as well as information about other types of IRAs.

Rollover Choice Four: Decide How Much Rollover Advice and Service You Need and Understand Fees and Minimum Balances

When opening an IRA at retirement, there are two buckets of fees and costs that you will want to consider:

  • IRA and Account Maintenance Fees: There can be fees associated with opening and maintaining an IRA. Before opening a Rollover IRA, be sure you understand any setup fees, maintenance fees, trading commissions and minimum balance requirements.

    While you may automatically think that you would like a “no fee IRA,” you are actually likely to find significant costs associated with them when you read the fine print.

  • Financial Planning Fees: There are two main routes to opening an IRA. You can be self directed or you can work with a Financial Advisor.

Financial advising fees will be dependent on the complexity of your finances. Many retirees find that the additional advice and service a financial planner can provide will more than cover the fees.

Given the myriad investment choices available to you and the complications implicit in retirement planning, professional advice can be a good idea.

After all, if you make a bad decision with your retirement nest egg, how will you deal with the consequences?

Here are a few tips for choosing the right advisor. Make sure that the advisor you choose:

  • Has a holistic approach to planning – that they look at your goals and create a plan that maximizes the potential of all of your various assets. A holistic approach to planning would take into account your 401k assets as well as your home equity, other savings, pensions and more – enabling these assets to work with each other to fulfill your retirement goals.
  • Focuses on retirement – not “retirement planning.” Using money in retirement is totally different than saving money for retirement. In retirement, you need to use your assets not add to them. It is very important that your advisor has this type of experience and can address everything from guaranteeing lifetime income to estate planning.
  • Provides access to the widest variety of investment choices and vehicles. Ideally your advisor can sell financial products from any provider.
  • Offers full disclosure on all fee and commission payments they receive.

Rollover Choice Five -- Find a Financial Institution that Offers Qualified Investments that Suit Your Retirement Goals

Depending on your retirement goal – guaranteed income, adequate insurance, estate planning or a combination of these objectives – you will want to choose an investment strategy for your 401k rollover.

The good news is that you have an ever growing number of tax friendly – “qualified” options. These options include:

  • CDs
  • Bonds and Bond Ladders
  • Stocks
  • Dividend Yielding Stocks
  • Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)
  • Money Market Accounts
  • Mutual Funds
  • Annuities
  • Insurance
  • Managed Accounts
  • Hybrid Products – offering benefits of many of the above products

Many advisors are pointing people toward hybrid products. These prepackaged combinations of annuities, insurance and investments are an interesting way to cover your retirement plan bases.

Rollover Choice Six – Respect the Distribution Rules!

The final step when conducting a Rollover is to respect the Distribution rules.

  • Respect Distribution Rules with Rollover: When rolling over 401k funds or consolidating IRAs, it is very important that you follow the distribution rules. In most cases you should probably do a Direct Rollover. With a Direct Rollover, a check for your retirement funds is made payable to the new IRA custodian or financial institution. This is the preferred way to conduct a rollover since there is no chance of there being tax consequences as is possible with an Indirect Rollover.

    With an Indirect Rollover the check for your funds is made payable to you. And you must forward the money yourself within the allotted time period.

  • Respect the Plan’s Distribution Rules for Withdrawals: This is particularly important if you rollover your funds into a Traditional IRA. Withdrawals on a Traditional IRA (also known as distributions) can begin at age 59 1/2 and are mandatory by 70 1/2. (Withdrawals before age 59 and a half are usually subject to a 10 percent penalty.)

    With a Roth IRA, withdrawals may be taken at any time without penalty and there is no mandatory distribution age.

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Let NewRetirement help you find an institution offering a Rollover IRA that suits your retirement. Continue here to Find the Best Rollover IRA for you.

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