It happens to everyone eventually. You change jobs. The good news is that you were able to take advantage of their 401(k) program. Now as you change where you hang your hat from 9 to 5 you need to make a decision on where you should put your retirement savings.
The key factors in the decision process are the same as they are with any investment choices, account fees and expenses, and tax considerations. It’s common for the ex-employee to want to move the money from his or her previous employer’s plan, but it can make sense to keep it where it is if the plan has low costs
For full disclosure I personally have kept some money in a plan where I haven’t worked in dozen years. However, I have another account that I moved soon after I left. What this means is that you can leave your plan just where it is and move it at anytime. Take your time and look around.
I don’t recommend moving the money into the new employer’s plan unless that plan offers something compelling in terms of investment choices or low annual fees and expenses. The company isn’t going to match a rollover contribution, so that’s not a decision variable.
One option, for people who qualify, is to should look at is moving the pre-tax dollars from the 401(k) to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account where distributions are tax-free. This means that you will need to pay the income taxes that would come due in converting the funds from a tax-deferred retirement account to a Roth IRA account. These taxes need to be paid out of savings not out of the account you are transferring. This can be the right choice for people given what other savings they have and if they feel that they will be at a higher tax rate during retirement issues. However this is will not work if the account is funded in company stock in the previous employer’s plan. In that case, seek professional tax advice before moving the funds anywhere.
The investment choices, fees and expenses should be given the same consideration for all types of retirement account whether it be a 401(k), 403(b) a traditional IRA account or a Roth IRA . All the types of accounts can be held at the same custodian. Decide how you want to invest the money before deciding on a custodian. Custodians are banks, brokerage firms, and mutual fund families. Think Bank of America, TD Ameritrade and Vanguard in that order. You can change custodians at a later date if she wants to change where the money is held or how the money is invested.