Deborah, Call your plan administrator or the company that handles the plan.The number is on your retirement plan statement.
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Most 401k plans require that you contact the firm that shows on your quarterly 401k account statement and request a distribution form. If you have a financial advisor, they can help you fill out that distribution form which you then send in to the plan custodian to rollover the money in the plan to an IRA account. In the event you need to withdraw the funds directly from the 401k the same distribution form would be used to request a check for the balance in the account to be mailed directly to your home address.
The really important thing you need to consider is to NOT withdraw your 401k account, but roll it over into an IRA Rollover. If you ask your former employer for a distribution in the form of a check, you will not only owe income tax, but an early withdrawal penalty of 10%, assuming you have not yet reached 59 1/2. As tough as it may seem to keep money locked up in a 401k or IRA if you are short on cash, I strongly urge you to do so. None of us can rely on social security being there to fund our retirement. Putting money away pre-tax, especially if you employer matches your contribution in some manner, is the BEST deal in town.
Any brokerage firm you select can walk you through how to claim your old 401k to rollover into an IRA account. They do this all day long.
Good luck! - Jon Foster
You would need to get a withdrawal form from the plan administrator. If you contact the Human Resources Department at your former employer then they should be able to provide you with contact information for the plan administrator. This information may also be located on your quarterly statement or through the online portal for your 401(k).
Keep in mind the amount you withdraw will be taxed, with rare exceptions, as earned income for the year it is withdrawn. Plus, you will be subject to an additional penalty tax of 10% if you are under 55, so long as you are separated from that employer.
Alternatively, you can generally defer tax on the distribution by rolling it over to a traditional IRA. You can direct your investment to a vast number of investment options by opening an IRA account with the aid of a financial advisor. If you do rollover to an IRA, the 10% penalty for early withdrawal will now be until the year you turn 59 ½, rather than age 55.
Retirement plans have certain tax advantages to incentivize people to save for their retirement. I would urge you to resist the temptation to take the money now. Consider that one day you will reach retirement age. Your current employer does not offer a retirement plan and it may be wise to save your nest egg and plan for the future. Hopefully when the time comes, you will have other savings earmarked for retirement, and this will have grown as well.
Most importantly, I would encourage you to meet with a financial advisor to discuss your particular options and you should always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation before making any financial decisions.