Tuesday, May 30, 2006

IRAs, 401ks, and other headache-inducing TLAs

I had the clever timing to start my new job just as my employer was switching 401k providers, from Scudder to JP Morgan. The various confusions meant that it's taken more than three months since I started for my 401k to be completely set up and functioning properly. So, last week I finally got around to going through my rollover forms from JP Morgan and contacting my old 401k provider, ING, about transferring funds from my old employer's plan to my new one.

ING, of course, doesn't like the idea of losing my money. The rep I spoke with first pitched the idea of leaving my existing 401k in place. Bzzt. I'd already ruled that idea out; if I need to borrow against my 401k, or even make a hardship withdrawl, that's a lot easier if the money is in my current employer's plan. The investment mix is pretty comparable at both ING and JP Morgan, so there's no edge there for ING.

Undaunted, the rep next pitched the idea of moving some of the money into an IRA at ING. It's "more flexible" than a 401k, he said. Hrm. This idea I had not considered. I've always kept all my retirement money in one 401k (I did a rollover the last time I changed jobs, five years ago) for simplicity. At some point I plan to look into a Roth IRA, but I hadn't seen any reason to check out a traditional one.

How is it more flexible? I asked. Er um, said the rep. He then offered to
"waive the fees, if that's daunting you." Fees? Grr. I don't like buying things by phone anyway, so I told them to just send my rollover forms and be done with it.

I then went skittering off to my usual information source, The Internets. However, there is not much to be found in the way of concrete details on ING's Rollover IRAs page. It looks like the main selling point is that you have a broader mix of investment options.

I'm pretty conservative with my retirement-stash investments (I'm a margarita-mix girl), and I value simplicity over penny-maximizing schemes that'll generate a .005% higher return. Anyone mucked around with rollover IRAs? Any reason I shouldn't stick with my plan to do a straight 401k-to-401k rollover and continue ignoring it all?