If you’ve ever switched jobs and contributed to a 401k plan, chances are you just the old plan at the old company. Unless of course it was under $5,000 and they told to take it with you!
I have 2 such 401k’s that are currently orphaned. If both the companies went bankrupt, I’d have to jump to a lot of hoops to get my money back. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be an unnecessary hassle and waste of time. Better to liquidate the positions and transfer the cash in to what’s known as a roll-over IRA. Or if you’re not planning to work in the year of the transfer, you might opt to convert it into a ROTH IRA because you’d be in a lower tax bracket and wouldn’t much taxes on the conversion.
The difference between a regular IRA and a ROTH is that in the first one you pay no tax now, but pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement. In the ROTH, you pay tax now, but you withdraw your money later totally tax-free. Of course, there are income limitations governing whether you can participate in a ROTH so check with your tax person.
Currently TDAmeritrade is offering $500 if you transfer the assets of your old 401k into a roll-over IRA. That’s a pretty good incentive to money my retirement money out of their existing home. I think the offer code is 164, but you should double check for yourself. I wonder if they’d pay me the $500 twice, since I’ll be transferring two accounts?