How Do I Start the 403(b) Rollover Process?

What are the actual steps?

Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass, CC BY 2.0.

Yesterday, I wrote that it was time to decide whether I should roll my 403(b) into an IRA or a Roth IRA.

How Do I Rollover My 403(b)?

The first question I need to answer is how do I actually do this?

I’ll start from the IRA end. I don’t know yet whether I want to roll my 403(b) into my current Roth IRA or into a new traditional IRA, but my Roth IRA is held with Capital One Investing, so I logged in and found the section that describes rollovers:

Your plan administrator will need to liquidate the assets in your 401(k) account and send a check to Capital One Investing℠.

We’ll provide you with a pre-filled form with how to make out the check and where to mail it.

A mailed check? Like, $42K written down on a piece of paper that could get lost somewhere? Seriously?

(Also, why don’t those instructions say “401(k) or 403(b) account?” Another part of the website states that I can do 403(b) rollovers too, so that’s probably okay.)

Capital One Investing provides a nice green button that reads “start an online rollover or transfer,” as well as a list of reasons why a rollover might be a bad idea. I need to compare and consider fees, investment options, the services provided by my plan administrators, etc. I need to consider all of the tax implications. I also need to consider this:

Protection from Creditors/Legal Action — Most plans have unlimited protection from creditors under federal law, while IRA assets are protected in bankruptcy proceedings only. State laws vary in the protection of IRA assets in lawsuits.


Okay. We’ll come back to all of that in a few days. Now let’s hop on over to TIAA-CREF, where my 403(b) lives, and look at their rollover instructions.

If I can find them.

I’ll just type “TIAA-CREF rollover” into Google.

So it looks like TIAA-CREF wants me to call them, on the actual physical phone, to discuss my options. (What’s up with all these paper checks and in-person conversations?)

It also includes a page clarifying the benefits and drawbacks of rollovers, the biggest drawback being that I might lose the ability to loan myself money out of my 403(b), which I can theoretically do because I am no longer an employee of the company that issued it.

Do I want to take out a loan against my 403(b)? Not really. Do I have to think about whether I’ll need to someday? Probably.

But it does look like going at this potential rollover from the Capital One Investing end makes more sense than calling TIAA-CREF, if that’s what I end up choosing to do.

On Monday, I’ll look at whether it might be better to do a rollover into a traditional IRA or a conversion to a Roth IRA.

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