Ask Dr. Don
401(k) funds to invest in individual stocks
Dear Dr. Don,
I want to roll over some of my 401(k) so I can
invest in individual stocks. I have a sizable amount tied up in
my company 401(k). The funds are doing reasonably well, but I feel
I can take a portion and gamble on some of the peak stock performers
such as Sun Microsystems. I understand that I can rollover some
of my funds into an IRA account that allows me to invest in an individual
stock. Is this the best way? If so, do you have any recommendations
on the best way for me to do it? What IRAs might allow this? At
what price to me? What would be the downside? Are there other methods
besides IRAs that might be logical? Thanks in advance.
If you aren't changing jobs, you can't do a rollover
or partial rollover out of your employer's 401(k) plan into another
type of tax deferred retirement plan. Your investment choices are
limited by the plan. You can reallocate the portfolio among permitted
investments but can't go outside the plan for investments.
When you leave a company, one of your choices
is to do an IRA rollover, moving the investments in your 401(k)
into an IRA account. That IRA account can be set up as a brokerage
account where you can trade individual stocks and bonds. An IRA
brokerage account allows you to trade in that account without a
tax effect on your annual income taxes. That's because taxes aren't
paid until the money is distributed out of the account. Distributions
are then taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
There is one tax advantage to holding stocks
outside your retirement accounts. Long-term capital gains realized
on stock sales in a taxable brokerage account will pay a maximum
20 percent in capital gains taxes.
Rolling over into an
I'm leaving a company where I've worked for 11
years. I've gotten control of my 401(k) and am waiting on my personal
retirement account check. I already have a small traditional IRA
and a Roth IRA and am wondering if I'm allowed to put this new check
into something like an IRA CD?
My biggest concern is not having to pay taxes
on it until I'm 65. I'm 58 and expect to be working for another
company with a different 401(k) plan soon. Boy, is this all confusing
You can put the money in an IRA CD without generating
any tax obligations. (You can use this site's Best
Rates feature to find the best rates nationally on IRA CDs.)
Tax-deferred contributions won't be taxed until they are distributed
out of the account. Moving your money from one tax-deferred retirement
plan to another isn't considered a taxable distribution. To do this
you want to effect a direct rollover from your 401(k) to your IRA
account. That means that the check is made out to the IRA provider.
Tell your plan administrator that you want to do a direct rollover.
If the distribution check is made out to you,
the check will be subject to mandatory withholding. The mandatory
withholding is considered a taxable distribution out of your 401(k).
To invest the full balance of your 401(k), and avoid a tax liability,
you have to come up with an amount equal to the dollars withheld
to invest in the IRA account along with your distribution check.
can give you additional information on how to avoid the 20 percent
withholding trap. Don't forget that the 401(k) money has to be deposited
in the IRA account within 60 days of the date on the check to avoid
being considered a distribution out of the 401(k).
But if part of your 401(k) is invested in company
stock, there are some tax advantages to not cashing in the shares
and rolling the proceeds into an IRA or another company's 401(k).
Not all companies offer a lump-sum distribution option for company
stock so you'll need to check with your plan's administrator. If
this is an option, ask your tax professional to help you decide
if a lump sum distribution of company stock is the right decision
for you. An article
in TheStreet.com helps explain this option.