I dedicate this column to my friend Elaine, who gave me an up-close look at the paperwork nightmare that arises when you change jobs. Even if you get a better offer from a new employer, the piles of paperwork involved in re-establishing your retirement plan, health insurance and other benefits could make you think twice about moving to a new job. But for many people, resisting job change is not an option. A spouse moves, a job is reorganized out of existence, or a new boss makes life impossible. So for the millions of Americans who will change jobs this year, here are some issues involved in the shift.
In Elaine's case there were two issues when her family moved and she found a new job as an executive secretary. First, she had to deal with her existing 40l(k) account at her former employer. Should she leave it there, roll it into her new employer's plan or do an IRA rollover to a mutual fund company? My advice: There was no reason to maintain ties at her old employer. And I suggested that she look at the fees charged on the retirement plan at her new employer, a small business, which were likely to be higher than a rollover to Fidelity or Vanguard. Plus, there would be a greater choice of funds at the mutual fund companies.