At some point in the future, you will no longer be working where you are. Whether it’s because you retire, get laid off or change employers, it’s your responsibility to be prepared. It’s a necessity—your retirement depends on it.
That’s because when it comes to your pension funds, you have several options open to you when you leave your job. And if you don’t know what those options are, and choose the wrong one, you will have the IRS smack dab in the middle of your IRA. This means your chances of having the opportunity for long-term tax deferred wealth building become very slim.
Option 1: Taking a lump-sum distribution (cash out)
Off the top, you will lose 20% of your accumulated money because your employer is required to withhold this amount for federal taxes. Cashing out your retirement plan is counted as receiving ordinary income, and depending on your tax bracket (ordinary rates now reach 35%) you may end up owing even more than that 20%, and that doesn’t include the state taxes that may apply as well.
Furthermore, if you are younger than 59½ (age 55 in some limited cases) you will be penalized for an additional 10% off the top. So, our old pal Uncle Sam just slashed your retirement savings you have accumulated for your Golden Years by a third or more!
Avoid this entirely. (In fact, it’s difficult to even think of it as an “option.”)
For example, Dan, age 50, left his job. He had $100,000 in his employer’s 401(k) plan. Dan decided to take the money from the plan and open a self-directed IRA account. As a result Dan’s former employer sent him a distribution check for $80,000—Dan’s $100,000 account balance, less 20% withholding. To avoid all income taxes and penalties, Dan must not only deposit the $80,000 check within 60 days of the distribution, he also must deposit $20,000 (the amount withheld by his employer) by that same date. The $20,000 must come from sources outside of the distribution. If Dan does not have $20,000 from other sources, that amount will be treated as a distribution and will be subject to income taxes and penalties.
Sure, Dan will get this $20,000 back in the form of taxes withheld when he files his tax return, but that could take a number of months. Why go through this hassle when using the correct transfer method will avoid the 20% withholding and will not make you scramble to find funds to cover the withholding amount?
Build Your Wealth and Retire Financially Secure With Your 3 Other Options
Your other options include (1) leaving your money with your former employer’s plan; (2) rolling it over to your new employer; or (3) rolling it over to an IRA.
Each of these options will help keep the IRS out of your IRA, if you choose wisely and follow all the rules, which can be complex. However, there’s more to consider than merely the tax implications. What about growth? Safety? The next Enron?
Retire Financially Sound or Retire With Debt – It’s Your Responsibility To Make The Right Choice
So, in conclusion, taking a lump-sum distribution (cash out) from your 401K means that all the money you withdraw will be subject to income tax at ordinary income rates that now reach 35%. And don’t forget that additional penalty of 10 percent on top of the ordinary income tax if you leave your job before age 55. This will leave you with no tax deferred wealth building for you and your family, which means there is a good chance you will not retire financially secure. Is that what you want for you and your family?
Avoiding all the pitfalls and dangers can be accomplished by choosing the right kind of rollover for your IRA, based on your specific, individual and unique situation.
Remember, this is your retirement nest egg. The better you can protect it and invest it, the farther along the road to a glorious retirement you will find yourself.