Employers to Retirees: Keep Your 401(k) With Us

The latest trend in the human resources world isn't telling employees what they should do, but telling retirees what they shouldn't do—that is, move their 401(k) away from the company as they depart. The reason? A lot of people are retiring at the moment, and that's having a negative effect on investment portfolios.

One of the most common financial moves that retirees make with their savings—shifting from a 401(k) to an individual retirement account (IRA)—may play out a little differently in the coming years.

The reason? Employers are increasingly pushing retirees to let their savings stick around. Here’s why:

What’s happening? In recent years, some companies have started to ask their retiring employees to keep their 401(k) plans with the company, rather than converting their nest eggs to IRAs. The Wall Street Journal reports that companies such as International Paper and United Technologies have repeatedly pitched former employees on keeping their 401(k) with their companies—despite the fact that personal financial advisers typically recommend the IRA rollover.

Why the shift? To put it simply, baby boomers are beginning to retire, and just as the high number of retirees is expected to strain the Social Security system, it’s also expected to negatively affect corporate 401(k) portfolios. A Wall Street Journal analysis of 401(k) contributions found that investors had removed roughly $11.4 billion from tax-deferred savings plans in 2013, the most recent year available—after three consecutive years of growth in such plans.

Are there benefits? International Paper’s Vice President of Investments, Robert Hunkeler, emphasizes that his firm’s shift has financial benefits for both the company and its former employees. Hunkeler told the Journal that workers pay out 0.45 percent of their assets in money manager fees when such assets are tied to the firm’s 401(k) plan. If workers move those assets to an IRA, the money manager payout increases to more than 1.5 percent, he says. “Clearly, keeping members in our plan enables us to negotiate better fees,” Hunkeler told the Journal.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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