Rolling over a 401(k) is something you might consider if you’re planning to retire or just changing jobs and don’t want to leave your savings behind. When deciding where to move retirement assets, a certificate of deposit is one you might consider but it’s important to consider the tax implications. Can you transfer a 401(k) to a CD without penalty? Yes, but there are a few rules to know to make sure you don’t get hit with a surprise tax bill. A financial advisor can help you choose the best option for rolling over your 401(k) money.
Understanding 401(k) Rollovers
When you roll over a 401(k), you’re simply moving it from one place to another. A rollover is not the same as a withdrawal since you’re not taking any assets out of your account. In terms of where you can roll a 401(k) to, the options can include:
- Another 401(k) or qualified retirement plan if you’re changing jobs
- A traditional or Roth IRA
- IRA CDs or money market accounts
Why would you want to roll over a 401(k)? There are different reasons for doing so and it often depends on your financial situation and needs. If you’re changing jobs, for instance, you might want to roll the money over from your old plan to your new one so that all of your 401(k) assets are together. On the other hand, if you’re retiring you may feel more comfortable having your 401(k) funds in an Individual Retirement Account or IRA CD.
Of course, you could always leave your plan where it is if you’re happy with your current investments. Just keep in mind that if your account balance is below a certain threshold, your former employer can cash it out and cut you a check.
Can You Transfer a 401(k) to a CD Without Penalty?
It’s possible to roll 401(k) money into a CD without paying tax penalties but there are some guidelines for doing so. First, you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right type of CD. Specifically, that means an IRA CD.
An IRA CD is a CD account that’s funded through an IRA and enjoys its tax benefits. Banks and credit unions can offer traditional and Roth IRA CDs. Each one follows the same rules as a traditional or Roth IRA. Here are a few things to know.
- Both traditional and Roth IRA CDs are subject to IRA annual contribution limits (except when rolling over 401(k) funds).
- Traditional IRA CDs are funded with pre-tax dollars and withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income.
- Roth IRA CDs are funded with after-tax dollars and allow for tax-free withdrawals in retirement.
- Early withdrawals from either type of CD before age 59 ½ could trigger tax penalties.
None of that applies to traditional bank CDs. You can generally put as much money as you like into a standard CD and withdraw the money at maturity without a penalty. Any interest earned is taxed as ordinary income.
Next, you’ll need to make sure you’re handling the transfer the right way. With a 401(k) plan, you can use a direct or indirect rollover to move money from one account to another. A direct rollover allows you to move money from your 401(k) to an IRA CD without ever receiving any of the money yourself. Indirect rollovers send the money to you and you then have to deposit it into a new account.
If you want to transfer money from a 401(k) to a CD without penalty, then a direct rollover is the best option. An indirect rollover puts the burden of redepositing the money into an IRA CD on you. If you fail to do so within 60 days, the IRS can treat the entire rollover as a taxable withdrawal.
Also, note that rollovers need to be like-kind to avoid any tax consequences. If you have a traditional 401(k) and you want to roll it into a Roth IRA CD, for instance, the IRS requires you to pay taxes on the amount that you’re converting. Talking to a financial advisor can help you figure out whether that type of 401(k) transfer makes sense.
How to Transfer Money From a 401(k) to a CD Without Penalty
Rolling over a 401(k) isn’t a difficult process but there are some important steps you’ll need to follow. The first is to decide where you want to open an IRA CD to receive your retirement funds. You can start with your bank first to see what options you might have, then compare them to IRA CDs offered by other banks or brokerages.
Once you choose an IRA CD option, the next step is filling out the paperwork to initiate the rollover. You can contact the company that currently holds your 401(k) to find out what forms you’ll need. It’s possible that you might be able to fill them out and submit them electronically.
You’ll need to tell your 401(k) administrator where to send the money and how much to transfer if you’re only doing a partial rollover. Once you’ve done that the plan administrator and the company that holds your newly opened IRA CD does the rest.
In terms of how long it takes to roll a 401(k) into an IRA CD, it largely depends on the plan administrator and the company that’s receiving the funds. Two weeks is usually a good amount of time to allow for a rollover to complete, though it can take longer in some cases. Following up with your bank or brokerage can help you get a better idea of when your 401(k) funds should hit your CD account.
Is a 401(k) to CD Rollover a Good Idea?
Can you transfer a 401(k) to a CD without penalty? Sure, but the better question is, should you? An IRA CD can be a safe place to park your retirement funds and having your retirement money at your bank might be more convenient than keeping it at a brokerage if you need to withdraw funds. On the other hand, you could be missing out on a chance to grow your retirement savings.
IRA CDs can pay interest like other CDs, but the rates may not be the best. Even if you’re able to find a high-yield IRA CD option, you may still be able to get a better return by rolling over your 401(k) to a regular IRA instead. Traditional and Roth IRAs can offer access to index funds, exchange-traded funds and other investments, all of which could outperform CD rates.
You might consider an IRA CD if you’re looking for safety and virtually guaranteed rates but it’s important to consider the bigger picture where your portfolio is concerned. Depending on what your goals are, you might run the risk of shortchanging your retirement savings if you’re leaning heavily on CDs to save.
The Bottom Line
Transferring money from a 401(k) to an IRA doesn’t automatically trigger a tax penalty if you’re following the proper steps to complete the rollover. Before starting the process, it helps to flesh out what your goals and reasons are for doing so. You’ll also want to shop around to compare IRA CD rates to see which banks have the best options.
Retirement Planning Tips
- One of the most challenging parts of retirement planning is deciding when and how to draw down your assets. A financial advisor can help you develop a strategy for withdrawing your savings as efficiently as possible. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- IRA CDs can come in a variety of terms, ranging from as little as three months up to 10 years. When your CD matures, it may renew automatically so it’s important to keep the timing in mind when deciding which ones to choose. If you need to withdraw money from an IRA CD before maturity, your bank could impose an early withdrawal penalty equivalent to some or all of the interest earned. The IRS can also assess a tax penalty if you make early withdrawals before age 59 ½.
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