This Is Not A Personal Finance Column, Part 4
Something we have long-established in this corner of the internet is a simple idea: I’m really bad with money. Longtime, non-judgmental followers know that I will wait six years to cancel a Planet Fitness membership solely because I don’t want to go to Union Square and do it, or will get on the phone with the IRA advisor for my bank to ask him “what’s an IRA?” I’m often embarrassed by how little I understand about personal finance, but I do want to get better and create some degree of financial sustainability for myself that I didn’t have growing up. That’s why I now annually audit my recurring subscriptions and have an IRA and an accountant who is nice and easy to work with and explains things to be like the financially anxious simpleton that I am.
The latest step I have taken toward creating some degree of financial wellness for myself has been hanging over me for years, as I have moved from job to job and apartment to apartment. That’s right: It turns out that I was at one point apparently responsible enough to set up 401k accounts at several jobs, but nowhere near responsible enough to ever merge them together into one consolidated, up-to-date 401k account. For years there have been 401k accounts that just exist, holding money within them, untethered to anything except like, an old address in Astoria. I have known that they existed, but I did not know what to do about them, and for the most part, I didn’t feel like finding out. If I don’t see it, I pretend it does not exist, and it’s not like I can (or should) access that money now anyway, right?
A few years ago one of the banks holding my first 401k account (containing a grand total of $900) did manage to contact me to let me know, but I got on the phone with them and they explained the process of transferring the money to my then-current 401k account and I was like “that sounds really annoying, I don’t think that’s a problem for current me.” Indeed it wasn’t.
To be clear, it’s technically fine to leave your 401k plan with your former employer. It’s just that in doing so, you need to keep track of the fees associated with that specific account, and know that your investment options are limited to whatever your plan’s investment offerings are. You might also not be…