Saving for retirement in a 401(k) plan is challenging enough for many people. Porting the money over from one job to another is yet another annoying 401(k) task.
Three major 401(k) providers—Fidelity, Vanguard and Alight Solutions—have partnered with Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) to enable workers’ 401(k) savings to be automatically rolled over to a new employer’s plan.
Until now, the process has always been cumbersome, requiring a 401(k) saver to get in touch with their old plan to have a physical check made out to the new plan in their name, and then mailed to them.
Because it’s a clunky process—and also because many people with small accounts of $5,000 or less simply forget about them—people are more inclined to either cash out of their old 401(k), or simply leave the money with an old employer.
This adds up to a significant amount of retirement dollars either taken off the table or plain forgotten.
Americans cash $92 billion out of their 401(k) savings plans each year when switching jobs, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. That’s money they have to pay early withdrawal fees on if they are younger than 59-1/2, not to mention taxes.
Even worse, many people simply forget about old 401(k) plans, especially if they switch jobs frequently. At the end of 2021, there were 25 million forgotten accounts with an average balance of $55,400, according to 401(k) financial services firm Capitalize. Forgotten accounts add up to a whopping 20% of all 401(k) assets in the U.S.
Fidelity and Vanguard, in this new consortium, will now give workers in plans they run the option of automatically rolling their money over.
The auto rollover option will be available to 43.8 million workers in 48,000 retirement plans in the first quarter of 2023, with the option available to any other company that wants to offer this convenience to their workers.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with RCH and other leaders in our industry to focus squarely on connecting and protecting workers’ retirement savings, thereby improving retirement outcomes, particularly those for under-served and under-saved workers,” said Kevin Barry, president of Fidelity Workplace Investing.
Retirement Clearinghouse Chair Robert L. Johnson called the auto portability alliance “truly a historic moment for the industry, as well as our country.”
John James, managing director and head of Vanguard Institutional Investor Group, said auto portability will “increase Americans’ chances for investment success.”
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