Do You Know Where Your Retirement Savings Are? By Anita Srivastava

Updated: Jan 14, 2019



Maintaining multiple retirement accounts may incur avoidable fees and make it difficult to track performance. Consolidating your accounts may be the answer.

By the time many of us reach our 40s and 50s, we’ve accumulated a slew of retirement accounts: A traditional IRA here, a rollover IRA there, and two or three scattered 401(k) accounts left in the plans of former employers. As the accounts add up, it becomes extremely difficult to get a clear picture of your overall retirement preparedness.

If this sounds familiar, you may benefit from consolidating your retirement accounts into one central account. Consolidating accounts can help you make sure your savings are invested appropriately for your overall goals, track the performance of your holdings and, in some cases, discover more investment choices and incur lower fees.

Streamlining the account structure of your retirement savings has many potential benefits:

Comprehensive investment strategy. Over time, your investment objectives and risk tolerance may have changed. Thus, it can be difficult to maintain an effective retirement investment strategy—one that accurately reflects your current goals, timing and risk tolerance—when your savings are spread over multiple accounts. Once you begin the consolidation process, you can strategize potential investment options to match your current goals and objectives.

Potentially greater investment flexibility. Often, 401(k) plans, other employer-sponsored retirement programs and even some IRAs have limited investment menus. Some IRAs may offer greater control, more options or expanded diversification when compared to employer plans and other IRAs, but on the other hand they might not offer the same options. Whether a particular IRA’s options are attractive will depend, in part, on how satisfied you are with the options offered by your former or new employer’s plan.

Simplified tracking. It is easier to monitor your progress and investment results when all your retirement savings are in one place. By consolidating your accounts, you will receive one statement instead of several—which will cut down on endless amounts of monthly statements from multiple plans.

Monitoring costs. Reducing the number of accounts may impact account fees and other investment charges. Generally speaking, both employer-sponsored qualified plans and IRAs have plan or account fees. Although fees associated with an IRA may be higher than those associated with an employer plan, consolidating multiple IRAs may reduce your overall expenses.

Penalty tax-free withdrawals. Generally IRA owners can take distributions penalty tax-free once they attain age 59 ½. Qualified plan participants between the ages of 55 and 59 ½, once separated from service, may be able to take penalty tax-free withdrawals from the qualified plan.

Clear required minimum distributions (RMDs). Once you reach age 70 ½, having fewer retirement accounts to manage can mean having fewer RMD requirements to follow.

Comprehensive knowledge of your assets. If your employer-sponsored retirement plan is terminated or abandoned (an “orphan plan”) or is merged with or transferred to a retirement plan of another corporation after you leave, it may be difficult to locate the plan administrator to request a distribution of your benefits or to change investments. By contrast, assets in an IRA are always accessible if you want to change your investment strategy or need to take a distribution.

There are of course, some situations where you may not want to consolidate. For example, while many qualified plans allow for loans, you cannot take a loan from an IRA. Assuming your qualified plan allows a loan once you’ve left the company (a very rare occurrence), it’s worth noting you will not be able to take out a loan once you roll over a qualified plan into an IRA.

Consolidation means simplifying

The case for consolidating your accounts only grows more compelling with time. By simplifying your retirement account structure, you can have a clearer picture of your financial plan and potentially expand your investment choices.


Anita Srivastava is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Ridgewood, NJ. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives. Learn more at www.morganstanley.com/giving.

Sources/Disclaimer

By law, some IRAs may not be consolidated. Clients should consult their personal legal advisor.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice and are not “fiduciaries” (under the Internal Revenue Code or otherwise) with respect to the services or activities described herein except as otherwise provided in a written agreement with Morgan Stanley. Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors regarding any potential tax and related consequences of any investments made under an IRA.

This article does not address state and local income taxes. The state and local income tax treatment of your retirement account, as well as the contributions to it and the distributions from it may vary based on your state of residence. You should consult with and rely on your own independent tax advisor with respect to such.

This material does not provide individually tailored investment advice. It has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. The strategies and/or investments discussed in this material may not be suitable for all investors. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a Financial Advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining financial markets.

The author(s) and/or publication are neither employees of nor affiliated with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC ("Morgan Stanley"). By providing this third party publication, we are not implying an affiliation, sponsorship, endorsement, approval, investigation, verification or monitoring by Morgan Stanley of any information contained in the publication.

The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Morgan Stanley. The information and data in the article or publication has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation by Morgan Stanley with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, investment, strategy or product that may be mentioned.

Article by Wealth Management Systems Inc. and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor.

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