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In the past, many people stayed at one job, or at least one company, for almost their entire working lives. When they retired, they could typically count on a pension, the value of which was based on their years of service and earnings.
But today, workers can expect to hold several different jobs in their lifetime, and to a great extent, pensions have been replaced by 401(k) plans, which place much of the funding responsibility on employees. So, assuming you will change jobs at some point, and you do have a 401(k), what should you do with it?
Here are your basic choices:
• Cash out your plan. If you cash out your plan, your company will likely pay you 80% of your account value, withholding the rest for federal taxes. And if you’re younger than age 591/2, you may well be slapped with a 10% IRS tax penalty. Even worse, you’ll have lost a key source of your retirement income. Still, if you are leaving your employer involuntarily, and you need the money, cashing out your 401(k) is an option you may need to consider.
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