Generally speaking, it makes sense to rollover your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement account to an IRA when you retire, or for any other reason are allowed to move your funds. The reasons to rollover a retirement account include:
- Control. You no longer have to live with the changes your investments that are dictated by your employer.
- Diversification. Most retirement accounts lack in their ability to diversify over all asset classes an investor may want. By rolling over your account, you can access the world of investment products. It used to be said that some (though definitely not all) retirement plans may provide institutional level pricing for investments that otherwise would require an investor have a significant amount to buy into a particular fund (hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions).
While that still may be true if you are concerned with having access to certain investment managers, most low-cost index funds today are available at reasonable minimum investment amounts.
However, there may be reasons to not rollover all or part of your account. They include:
- You need access to the money before age 59½. IRA accounts are subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty before age 59½ whereas your retirement account may allow access without penalty as early as age 55.
- Have a significant amount of money in company stock that has appreciated above your purchases. There may be tax benefits to not rolling over company stock, if it has appreciated greatly and if you own a lot of it.
- Possibly better creditor protection. A 401(k) is protected from lawsuit, while state laws can vary on the protections provided to IRA accounts.
- If you expect to do a Roth Conversion with after-tax IRA accounts. If you have been accumulating after-tax IRA money, and plan to convert those funds in the future, it may be in your benefit to do so prior to rolling over a retirement plan.
Clearly every individual’s decision to rollover a retirement plan requires a review of their personal circumstances, so be sure to discuss your rollover potential with your financial and tax advisors before assuming a rollover is the best move for you.