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Can I Rollover My 401(k) into an IRA?

Exploring the Option: Can You Rollover Your 401(k) into an IRA?

When it comes to managing your retirement savings, it's important to consider all available options to ensure you make the most of your hard-earned money. One popular choice among individuals is to rollover their 401(k) into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). In this article, we will explore the process of rolling over a 401(k) into an IRA and the benefits it offers.

Understanding the Rollover Process

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows individuals to move funds from a 401(k) into an IRA without incurring any tax penalties. This is because both Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s offer similar tax treatment, including pretax contributions, tax-deferred growth, and taxable withdrawals. Therefore, transferring funds from a 401(k) to an IRA does not create a taxable event.

To initiate the rollover, you will need to have an existing IRA account. If you don't have one, opening an IRA account can be a straightforward process, often done online. Once you have an IRA account, you can provide the account information to the custodian company of your old 401(k) to begin the rollover process.

Liquidating Positions and Transferring Funds

In most cases, you will need to liquidate your positions in the 401(k) before rolling the funds into an IRA. This can typically be done with a simple phone call to your 401(k) custodian. Liquidating the positions allows you to transfer the funds as cash to your IRA account. One key advantage of rolling over your 401(k) into an IRA is that it opens up a wider variety of investment vehicles for you to choose from. Additionally, the fees associated with an IRA may be lower than those of a 401(k).

Streamlining the Rollover Process

The most popular method for conducting a rollover nowadays is through an electronic transfer, known as a direct custodian-to-custodian transfer. This method minimizes potential issues that may arise during the rollover process. In a traditional rollover, the custodian of your 401(k) would send you a check made out to you personally for the amount in your account.

You would then have 60 days to deposit that amount into a new 401(k) or IRA. However, during this period, the funds could end up in your checking account. If you fail to deposit the entire balance into a new IRA or 401(k) within the 60-day window, the amount will be considered a distribution subject to taxes and potentially the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are under 59 ½ years old.

An alternative approach is to have a physical check issued by the old 401(k) custodian company, made out to the new custodian company with the notation "FBO (for the benefit of) the client's name" or "... Trustee for the IRA of (client's name)". This method also avoids any potential penalties associated with incorrectly executed rollovers.

Considerations and Benefits

Rolling over your 401(k) into an IRA offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides you with a wider range of investment options compared to the limited choices available within a 401(k) plan. Secondly, an IRA may have lower fees, allowing you to potentially save on costs over the long term. Additionally, consolidating your retirement savings into a single account can simplify your financial management and provide a clearer overview of your retirement portfolio.

If you're looking for more control over your retirement savings and want to explore additional investment options, rolling over your 401(k) into an IRA can be a smart choice. By following the necessary steps, such as liquidating your 401(k) positions and transferring the funds to an IRA, you can enjoy the benefits of greater flexibility, potential cost savings, and a streamlined retirement savings strategy. As with any financial decision, it's advisable to consult with a qualified financial advisor to ensure that a rollover aligns with your specific goals and circumstances.


Yes, in fact this is what most people do. This is a very popular choice.

Because Traditional IRAs receive the same kind of tax treatment as 401(k)s, with pretax contributions, tax-deferred growth, and taxable withdrawals, the IRS allows you to move funds over without creating a taxable event.

Of course, you need to have an IRA account to do so, but it can be as easy as opening an account online and telling the custodian company the account information for your old 401(k).

More often than not you will have to liquidate your positions in the 401(k) before rolling the funds into an IRA, but this can be done with a short phone call. Transferring your funds from a 401(k) to an IRA can give you a wider variety of investment vehicles to choose from, and the IRA may have lower fees than the 401(k).

The most popular way to do a “rollover” now is electronically with a direct custodian-to-custodian transfer. Transfers cut down on some of the problems that can potentially crop up with a Rollover. In a traditional rollover, the 401(k) custodian would send the individual a check made out to him or her for the amount in the individual’s account.

The individual would then have 60 days to deposit that amount into a new 401(k) or IRA, but in the meantime it could go into the person’s checking account. If the person does not deposit the entire balance into a new IRA or 401(k) within the 60 days, it will be deemed a distribution for the entire amount, which will subject the money to taxes and perhaps the 10% early withdrawal penalty if the person is under 59 ½ years old.

Another way to do a transfer is the have a physical check from the old 401(k) custodian company made out to the new custodian company, FBO (for the benefit of) the client’s name, or ‘… Trustee for the IRA of (client’s name)”. This also avoids any penalties from incorrectly done rollovers.

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