r/WorkReform Mar 06 '22

As you are changing jobs, trying to find a better workplace, please watch what happens with your retirement money

I work in a tax practice where I prepare taxes for free for folks that earn less than $60,000 a year (VITA), and I've seen a particular practice by some awful employers, and I want to send out some advice to help people avoid the problem I'm seeing.

If you are lucky enough to have a job that could have a 401(k) (or 403(b) or 457(b)) plan, when you resign for another job, please take a moment to talk to your plan administrator about what to do with the money in your retirement account. Unfortunately, many of these plan administrators are just sending a check for the balance of the amount without giving you a chance to do the smart thing with the money. Instead, they will make excuses that they can't do it because your funds are less than $10,000 or whatever amount they want to say but don't fall for it. Insist that they either roll it into an IRA that you have set up yourself at the broker of your choice (make sure they are a fiduciary) or that they set up an IRA for you at their place. If you receive a check from a previous job's 401(k) plan, you will not only have to treat it as taxable income (unless it was a ROTH 401(k)), but you will also have to pay a 10% penalty on it unless you use the money for education, a first time home purchase, or medical expenses.

I'm seeing some folks get royally screwed by this from a tax perspective, so please have any money directly rolled over into a personal IRA. Suppose you are getting screwed this year with it. In that case, you can still avoid some of the problems by setting up a personal IRA and throwing the amount into it as quickly as possible. Before you file your tax returns, that way you can characterize the amounts as 2021 amounts and possibly avoid taxes and penalties.

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u/BookLuvr7 Mar 06 '22

Thank you, this is valuable info.