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Secure Your Retirement with a Rollover IRA

By Sam Subramanian, PhD, MBA is Managing Principal of AlphaProfit Investments, LLC and edits the AlphaProfit Sector Investors' Newsletter™. To learn more about AlphaProfit or to contact the author, visit www.alphaprofit.com.

    
Switching your job? Retiring? Congratulations! A window of opportunity opens for you with the Rollover Individual Retirement Account or Rollover IRA.

In an era of corporate restructuring and outsourcing, Rollover IRA is among the most powerful means available for securing one's retirement. Yet, its potential to enlarge one's assets for the golden years commonly remains under-appreciated.

The Rollover IRA dramatically increases the range of choices available to you for investing your retirement savings. By offering investment choices hitherto unavailable in employer-sponsored plans such as 401k, 403b, or Section 457 plans, Rollover IRA provides you the means to have direct control of and more aggressively grow your nest egg.

This article discusses the advantages of Rollover IRA over employer-sponsored retirement plans.

So, if you are leaving your job and have accumulated assets in the employer-sponsored retirement plan, continue reading this article to learn about your options and more.

Four Options

You have four options on what you can do with your savings in your employer-sponsored plan when you are switching jobs or retiring.

  1. Cash your savings.
  2. Continue with the retirement plan of your previous employer.
  3. Switch to the retirement plan sponsored by your new employer.
  4. Set up a Rollover IRA account with a mutual fund company and move your retirement savings into that account.

Unless you have a pressing need, it is best not to cash your retirement savings. First, cash withdrawals from the retirement plan will be subject to federal and state taxes. Second, your retirement savings diminish and you will have fewer assets to grow tax-deferred.

While the three other options will not erode your retirement savings and will allow it to grow tax-deferred, they are not equal in their ability to help you boost its growth rate.

Increased Investment Choices

Most employees earn meager returns on their employer-sponsored retirement plan savings. A Dalbar study reports that the average 401k plan investor achieved an annual return of just 3.5% during a 20-year period when the S&P 500 returned 13.0% per year.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that most retirement plans offer only a limited number of investment choices. A Columbia University study finds the median number of mutual fund choices in 401k plans to be just 13. The actual number of equity mutual fund investment choices however is less, since the median number includes money market funds, fixed income funds, and balanced funds.

With fewer investment choices, employer-sponsored plans limit your ability to take advantage of different market trends and to continually position your retirement savings in mutual funds with superior risk-reward profiles.

If you set up a Rollover IRA with a large mutual fund company such as Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price or Vanguard Group, you will break the shackles imposed by your employer-sponsored plan and dramatically increase the number of mutual funds available for investing your retirement savings. Fidelity, for example, provides access to several thousand mutual funds besides the more than 180 mutual funds it manages.

Setting Up the Rollover IRA

Let's say you decide to move your retirement savings to a Rollover account with a mutual fund company. How do you make it happen?

Contact the mutual fund company in which you wish to open an account and ask them to send you their Rollover IRA kit. Complete the form for opening the Rollover IRA account and mail it to the mutual fund company. Next, complete any forms required by the retirement plan administrator of your previous employer and request transfer of your assets into the Rollover IRA account.

You have two choices for moving your retirement savings to your Rollover IRA account. One is to elect to have the money transferred directly from the employer-sponsored plan to the Rollover IRA account. This is called direct rollover. With the indirect rollover alternative, you take the distribution from the retirement plan and then deposit it in the Rollover IRA account. Unless exceptions apply, you have 60 days to deposit the distribution and qualify for tax-free rollover.

You should know that with the latter option, your former employer may be required to withhold and remit to the IRS 20% of the distribution amount. You will get the withholding returned when you file your annual 1040, but in the mean time you are going to have to make-up the difference.

Boosting Your Rollover IRA Performance

You need a well thought-out strategy to benefit from the wide range of investment choices available in the Rollover IRA. You can develop the strategy yourself or derive ideas from investment newsletters.

The investment strategy will enable you to maximize return and minimize risk by leveraging the potential of different investment vehicles within each asset class. For example, you can include sector funds among equity investments and international bond funds among fixed-income investments.

Adding to Your Rollover IRA

You can leverage the potential of your Rollover IRA further by adding to it each time you change jobs. With the Rollover IRA already set up, all you have to do is to instruct the retirement plan administrator of your last employer to transfer assets to the Rollover IRA. There is no limit on the amount of money you can transfer.

You may also add money to your Rollover IRA through regular annual contributions. They are however subject to the annual limit for IRA contributions.

Summary

When you are switching jobs or retiring, the Rollover IRA opens a window of opportunity for you, widening the range of investment choices for your retirement assets hitherto not available in the employer-sponsored plan. The self-directed Rollover IRA empowers you to construct and manage a mutual fund portfolio to boost the growth rate of your retirement savings.

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