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I want to know if I should consolidate my three 401k plans.

I have an Aetna plan, Fidelity Plan and my most recent is J.P Morgan plan. I am looking into consolidating all of them into my current J.P. Morgan plan. I need to know if that is a smart decision. They are all aggressive and receiving around the same amount every quarter so would it be best to combine or leave separate?

Jan 22, 2014 by Marisol in  |  Flag
5 Answers  |  8 Followers
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6 votes
Peter C. Karp Level 20

Hi Marisol,

The best strategy for old 401(k)s is not necessarily the same for everyone and there are many considerations to take into account. Generally speaking, IRAs offer a much broader range of investment options while 401(k) plans may include money management services or institutionally-priced investment options. Given the options previously identified, consolidating your accounts—whether it be into your current employer’s 401(k) or an IRA rollover—could make your portfolio easier to manage and you may benefit from a reduction in management fees. I suggest you consult with a financial professional to determine the best option based on your specific needs. Please call us if you have questions or additional information to share.

Best regards, Peter C. Karp

Disclosure: The posted information is for informational purposes only. This message does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. All opinions and estimates constitute Karp Capital's judgment as of the date of the report and are subject to change without notice. Accordingly, no representation or warranty, expressed or otherwise, is made to, and no reliance should be placed on, the fairness, accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information contained herein. Securities offered through Financial Telesis Inc., member SIPC/FINRA. Financial Telesis Inc. and Karp Capital Management are not affiliated companies.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Jan 23, 2014 from San Francisco, CA

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2 votes

You have a few options. You can...

  1. Consolidate, like you mention. This makes sense if your current 401(k) has acceptable investment choices and equal or lower expenses than your old 401(k)s. It also has the benefit of simplifying your life...only one account/one statement

  2. Roll your two "old" 401(k) plans into a Traditional IRA. This makes sense if you want/need access to asset classes that aren't available through your existing 401(k)s and if the expenses are acceptable. You may be accepting some increased risk to your assets if you are sued and have funds invested funds in an IRA

  3. Leave things alone. Nothing wrong with leaving them where they are, but I can't really think of how that would help you either.

Whatever you decide DO NOT physically touch the funds. Do a trustee to trustee transfer. If you don't, you could end up with unexpected taxes and penalties.

3 Comments   |  Flag   |  Jan 22, 2014 from Alexandria, VA
Marisol

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014
Marisol

I am going to look into an IRA. I just need to learn more about it. Any suggestion would be great!

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014
Curt Sheldon, CFP®, EA, AIF®

Depending on your investment appetite you can open an IRA at a Mutual Fund, Brokerage Account, with an Investment Advisor or a bank. The process is pretty simple. You complete an account application very similar to opening a bank account and then you fill out a form to transfer your assets in. Once you have moved the funds, then you just have to select your investment options.

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014 near Alexandria, VA

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2 votes

You have 3 options. 1. Leave them alone. I generally don't like leaving money in ex-employers 401ks. Harder to manage 3 accounts, if they are small, they get forgotten over time. So I don't like this one. 2. If your new plan will accept the old money, you can roll the old plans into the new one. This is attractive for its simplicity. One single account to manage and keep track of. 3. You can roll the old accounts into an IRA account at an institution of your choice. If you aren't "into" investing, or if $ amounts are small, you may find this more trouble than it is worth. Advantage is that you have more investment options - but you need to know what to do with all these options! An investment advisor can help here. If you do decide to work with an advisor, choose a fee only advisor who isn't going to sell you expensive and overly complicated products (like variable annuities with living benefits).

Good luck. JIm

2 Comments   |  Flag   |  Jan 22, 2014 from Bridgewater, NJ
Marisol

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I think I am going to look into an IRA. I just need to learn more about it. Any suggestion would be great!

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014
James D. Kinney, CFP®

An IRA is just a tax deferred account. You can open one at any financial insttution. So if you want to put the money in a bank CD, you go to the bank and tell them you want to open an IRA account to hold the CD. Likewise, you can open an IRA with any mutual fund company through their websites, or any online brokerage account. If you do not know how to select a mutual fund or how to invest in a brokerage account, you will definitely need to hire an investment advisor. You can find one at www.letsmakeaplan.or www.napfa.org, or www.fpanet.org.

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014 near Bridgewater, NJ

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1 vote
Rich Winer Level 20

Since Curt and James have accurately identified your various options, I will provide you a simple recommendation. If you aren't concerned about being sued and the asset protection provided by having your retirement savings inside a "qualified" plan, I would recommend that you consolidate your investments by rolling your three 401K accounts to an IRA. This will provide you more (nearly unlimited) investment options, mostly likely at a lower cost. Many 401K plan sponsors allocate the plan's administrative costs among the plan participants. So, by having your money in an IRA, you would not be subject to those costs.

Once you consolidate your retirement savings in an IRA, you may want help from a financial advisor, either to advise you in regard to your investments and retirement planning, or to manage the investments for you. Depending on your level of financial and investment expertise, a good financial advisor could help you maximize your investment returns while helping to manage your investment risk. Feel free to ask any follow up questions.

3 Comments   |  Flag   |  Jan 22, 2014 from Woodland Hills, CA
Rich Winer

Sorry, I need to amend my recommendation. If you are still working for one of the plan sponsors, I would recommend rolling the assets from previous employers' plans to an IRA. While it might be simpler to have everything in one 401K plan, the lower cost and greater investment options provided by rolling the funds to an IRA make doing so more attractive, in my opinion. The more you know about investing, the more money you have in the plans, the more you will benefit from rolling the funds to an IRA.

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014 near Woodland Hills, CA
Marisol

I don't know much about IRA"s. How would I start looking into this?

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014
Rich Winer

An IRA is essentially the "wrapper" that determines how your contributions and withdrawals are treated for tax purposes. Inside the IRA, you can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. - - the same investments you might have in a taxable investment account. To get started, I would recommend that you open an IRA account at a discount brokerage firm like TD Ameritrade or Fidelity. To learn how to invest the funds in your IRA, you might read Ric Edleman's The Truth About Money and The Lies About Money. Both have sections that will help you determine how to invest your retirement funds appropriately and effectively, but they will not give you specifics about what to buy. If you would like to contact me privately and provide me more information about your situation, I would be happy to provide you additional guidance to help you get started.

Flag |  Jan 22, 2014 near Woodland Hills, CA

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1 vote

It makes sense to consolidate them at your current 401(k), much easier to keep track of. The only reason not to consolidate would be if your current plan is below par.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Jan 22, 2014 from Canton, GA

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