Over the years I have worked with hundreds of people guiding them through the rollover maze. I have worked with employees who have worked in small businesses, regional companies, national organizations as well as international corporations. When an employee leaves their place of employment due to retirement, a career change, job relocation or corporate "downsizing", an employee is faced with many issues. Some of these issues that need to be addressed are what to do with accumulated funds in a 401k plan or vested pension benefits.
A 401k Plan is an employer sponsored plan where the employee makes pre-tax contributions through payroll. The employer may match some or all of the employee contributions. These contributions grow on a tax deferred basis. Any funds withdrawn are subject to federal and state income taxation and if withdrawn prior to age 59 1/2 there is an additional 10% federal tax penalty. Some plans allow for loan provisions for active employees where taxation would not apply as long as the loan is paid back in full.
A Pension Plan is an employer sponsored plan as well, but contributions are usually made only by the employer. There are many types of pension plans that have many different features associated with them. Each pension plan document needs to be reviewed to determine if an employee is eligible to participate, what is the vesting schedule, (how long do they need to work to be entitled to partial or complete benefits) and contribution formulas to name a few. Some plans allow for a lump sum to be paid to the employee upon termination and other plans provide a monthly payment.
A terminated employee can establish a Rollover IRA and transfer the 401k balance and/or lump sum pension distribution into the Rollover IRA account. No income tax is paid on the portion rolled over.
There are many Government rules and regulations that apply to rollovers which need to be addressed to protect funds from otherwise avoidable taxation and penalties. Company sponsored Plans can have many different distribution options based on the Plan documents. The terminated employee also has to make investment decisions regarding the funds that have been rolled over. All of these factors need to be considered. Therefore, what your friend, neighbor or co-worker may have done with their rollover, may not necessarily apply to you. I have seen many costly, avoidable mistakes made by people who did not seek professional advice in these areas. This area is where I have extensive experience both as a Financial Advisor and Certified Public Accountant. Seeking professional advice for assistance with this complex issue is highly recommended.
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