Don't Touch That Pile of Cash in Your 401(k)!

Money in your retirement plan can be a tempting target, but it's best left untouched.

Dan Caplinger
Dan Caplinger
Mar 27, 2013 at 10:00AM
Investment Planning

In this edition of our Motley Fool Conversations series, Fool personal finance expert Dayana Yochim and retirement-planning analyst Dan Caplinger discuss the challenges of keeping disciplined with your retirement savings. Many investors cash out of their 401(k) plans when they change jobs, taking the opportunity to get a much-needed quick financial windfall. But as Dan notes, the consequences of giving in to temptation can be huge down the road.

As Dan points out, some employers even force you to take money out of 401(k) plans after you change jobs if your balance falls below a certain level. But as Dayana notes, keeping track of old 401(k)s is important, and Dayana and Dan go on to discuss various choices that you have for handling that money efficiently.

Dan suggests that the best solution for most people is to do an IRA rollover, which shifts cash directly from the old 401(k) account into a self-directed retirement account. That way, you can avoid IRS taxes and penalties and choose good low-cost investment options rather than being locked into the menu of higher-cost investments that most 401(k)s use. He explains how the process is simple, with your financial provider taking care of most of the details to keep your money working hard for you.