A workplace 401(k) is a great way to save money for retirement thanks to the generous tax breaks it provides. But there may come a time when your employer decides to end your 401(k) plan. This could happen, for example, if your company can no longer afford to administer the 401(k) or if it gets acquired or decides to cease operations.
If that happens, you're going to have to decide what happens to the money in your account. You generally can't just leave it there because there's no one administering the plan anymore. But you do have these other options.
1. Roll the money over to a 401(k) plan offered by your new employer
If your company's 401(k) is shutting down because the business got acquired or it's ceasing operations, chances are good you're going to be working for a new employer. If that company offers a 401(k), you can roll over your existing account to your new one.
This can be the simplest approach because you'll consolidate your accounts and don't have to worry about opening a retirement savings account outside of the one you're offered at your job. Just make sure your new 401(k) offers a good range of affordable investment options. If there are high administrative or management fees and few choices for what to invest in, you may be better off doing something else with your money.
2. Roll the money over into an IRA
You can also move your 401(k) funds into an IRA, which can be opened with any online brokerage firm. In most cases, your best bet is a self-directed IRA, rather than a managed one. With a self-directed IRA, you decide what to invest in and can save a fortune on investment advisory fees that come with a managed IRA.
When you move your 401(k) funds into an IRA, you'll have to decide how to invest the money. With most brokerage firms, you can invest in a wide variety of different assets including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and more. The added freedom and flexibility also means you need to learn more about building a balanced portfolio.
Many robo-advisers also allow you to open an IRA that you can move your 401(k) funds to. Robo-advisers build a balanced portfolio for you based on answers to questions when you sign up for the account. While the cost is less than with a managed IRA, there are fees for robo-advising, so you may not want to go this route if you can educate yourself on simple investments instead.
3. Withdraw your 401(k) funds
A final option is to just take the money out of your closing 401(k). This is almost always a bad option because you'll be hit with income taxes on the withdrawn funds -- as well as a 10% penalty unless you've reached the age of 59 1/2. You'll also undermine your efforts at retirement preparedness.
Make the right choice for your 401(k) funds
Deciding what to do with your money can be complicated when a 401(k) plan ends. But you can make an informed choice about how to make sure the funds you invested for retirement can continue to grow to build a secure future.