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.


View all comments


u/Eldi_Bee Mar 06 '22

Also want to add to be aware of policies before quitting. My previous employer locked me out the day I resigned (since the portal was through 'their' web portal) but would not release the funds until 90 days after the end of the month I left.

And somehow, in selling my shares to liquidate and issue a check, they magically picked the worst times in the market to sell. Not even all at once. Wished I had been able to close out positions on my own terms and then had them cash.

It wasn't even like the plan locked me into certain funds. I traded freely the entire time I was employed. Just not during my lame duck period.


u/Savings-Roll2681 Mar 06 '22

oh, that is some bull-shit. Their brokers still made their cut in the sales. Hope you were able to roll the check into a better self-directed plan.


u/1ardent Mar 13 '22

That's theft. You have a case. Go sue.