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Going through life you can always expect the unexpected. Here are 5 ways to reassess your finances to put you on your best path forward.
The post How to Reassess Your Finances After Unexpected Job Loss appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Leaving a job typically means saying goodbye to workplace benefits such as health insurance and medical spending accounts. No matter if you quit, get fired, or get furloughed, it's essential to know your options so you can make the most of those perks.
If you're starting a new job with benefits or becoming self-employed, you'll have critical decisions to make about what's best for you and your family. I recently received a couple of questions about how to handle benefits during work transitions, and I'll answer them throughout this post. We'll review the best options for managing medical benefits when you leave or start a new job.
What happens to health insurance when you leave a job?
When it's time to leave a job with benefits, it's essential to let your employer know so you can evaluate your options for managing or replacing them right away. The sooner you understand your choices, the more time you'll have to do your homework and consider what's best.
Any insurance perks you have typically end on the last day of the month you get terminated. So, be strategic about choosing your last day, when possible.
If you leave an employer on good terms or get a severance package, ask for an extra month or two of medical coverage if you need it.
For instance, if you work through November 30, your health insurance may end on that day. But if you work through December 1, your insurance may last until December 31. Also, remember that most things in business are negotiable. If you leave an employer on good terms or get a severance package, ask for an extra month or two of medical coverage if you need it.
Here are four work transitions you may need to manage:
1. You leave a job for a new employer with benefits
Congrats! Benefits at your new job may start on your first day, or you may be subject to a waiting period, such as 30 or 90 days. Don't roll the dice with a gap in critical coverages such as health and life insurance. Something unexpected—a car accident, illness, or death—could be financially devastating for you or your surviving family.
If you have a spouse or partner who also has workplace insurance benefits, you may be wondering which plan to choose or whether you can double up on benefits. Keep reading for tips to handle this situation wisely.
2. You leave a job for a new employer with no benefits
If your new job is with a small company, it may not offer expensive perks such as health insurance. But that doesn't mean you can't get affordable coverage on your own, which we'll cover in a moment.
3. You leave a job and become unemployed
No matter if your workplace doesn't offer benefits or you're unemployed, there are ways to get low- or no-cost health insurance.
4. You leave a job and become self-employed
When you work for yourself, you need to provide your own medical benefits package, and the same advice will apply, so keep reading.
What is COBRA continuation coverage?
A critical right you should be familiar with is COBRA continuation coverage. COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a law that requires an insurer to continue your employer-sponsored medical insurance, including health, dental, and vision policies after you're no longer employed.
Anytime you leave a job with group health benefits, you can purchase COBRA coverage for a period. Your benefits administrator should give you information about your right to apply for COBRA coverage and the cost.
Anytime you leave a job with group health benefits, you can purchase COBRA coverage for a period.
You can purchase the same or fewer medical benefits than you had before you quit, got laid-off, or fired from your job. But the price won't be the same—COBRA coverage can be expensive because your previous employer does not subsidize it.
You must pay the full COBRA premiums, plus a 2% administrative charge, to the insurer. While it will cost more than you're used to, the upside is that your coverage will be seamless, and you'll be familiar with it.
COBRA protects everyone affected by the loss of group health insurance, including the former employee, his or her spouse, former spouses, and dependent children—when certain qualifying events occur, such as termination or reduction of work hours. It typically lasts for up to 18 months. However, if you're a surviving spouse or divorced from a covered employee, COBRA may continue for up to 36 months.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you'll just wait and get health insurance when you get a new job or when you become eligible after a new employer's waiting period. If you get sick or need a trip to the emergency room, you could end up with a massive bill.
If you're not eligible for regular, federal COBRA, many states offer similar programs called Mini COBRA. To learn more, check with your state's department of insurance.
How do you get individual health insurance?
If you don't have the option to get COBRA medical benefits or can't afford it, your next best option is to shop for ACA-qualified health insurance. ACA stands for the Affordable Care Act, which set standards, known as essential health benefits, and provides subsidies that make qualified plans more affordable.
If you qualify for an ACA subsidy based on your income and family size, it can make a health plan much less expensive than COBRA continuation.
If you qualify for an ACA subsidy based on your income and family size, it can make a health plan much less expensive than COBRA continuation. But if you have high income and don't qualify for reduced premiums, COBRA may cost about the same or even give you better benefits.
So, shop and compare the cost of COBRA to a private policy when possible. Open enrollment for ACA-qualified health plans is limited to the last few weeks of the year. However, losing your group coverage at work is one of several life events that qualify you for a special enrollment period or SEP to get coverage. But you only have 60 days to sign up for an ACA plan after losing your insurance at work, so don't put it off.
If you miss the special enrollment deadline, you generally won't be able to get a marketplace plan unless you have another qualifying life event. These include getting married, having a child, or exhausting your maximum period of COBRA coverage.
You can get quotes for an ACA-qualified health plan from the following:
- Healthcare.gov (the federal healthcare marketplace)
- Your state's online healthcare marketplace (if you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington)
- Insurance aggregator sites, such as Bankrate.com and eHealth.com
- Insurance brokers
Depending on your income, family size, and the state where you live, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage from Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Also, note that if you're younger than 26, you can enroll in a parent's health plan even if you don't live at home or are married.
Can you have more than one health insurance plan?
Jamie left a voicemail and asks:
I'm starting a new job soon and am wondering if I should enroll in the dental and vision benefits because I already have them under my husband's insurance. How should I compare insurance policies if I need to choose between different plans?
It's not against the law to have more than one medical insurance policy, but it may be a waste of money. Having more than one medical plan doesn't mean that you get reimbursed twice for covered benefits.
Having more than one medical plan doesn't mean that you get reimbursed twice for covered benefits.
The plan you get through your employer becomes primary, and the one through a spouse or partner's employer is secondary. After the primary policy covers you, the secondary would pick up any remaining covered cost. But the combined coverage can't exceed 100% of the cost.
When you have dual health or dental plans, you must pay deductibles for both of them. In other words, you may still have out-of-pocket costs even when you have more than one plan.
Whether you could save money by enrolling in more than one medical insurance plan depends on several factors, such as the monthly premium, annual deductible, and how high your healthcare expenses could be in the future.
You'll need to make these same comparisons when you're choosing between different plans. Evaluate monthly premiums, annual deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance, and the doctor networks to estimate which one is best for your situation.
To get some help, speak to an insurance representative from each plan you're considering. Ask them about the types of healthcare services you and your family typically need or have needed in the past. You can't predict how healthy you'll be going forward. But to evaluate different plans, or know if having more than one plan is worthwhile, you must consider your previous expenses for health, dental, and vision care. So gathering that information should be part of your research.
What happens to an HSA when you leave a job?
Adam asks, "My employer makes contributions to my HSA every payday. Do I have to repay them if I leave my job to start my own business?"
Another insurance-related benefit that you may have at work is a tax-advantaged health savings account or HSA. You're eligible for an HSA when you're enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Having an HDHP may be a good option when you want lower premiums, are in relatively good health, and are likely to take advantage of an HSA.
An HSA is portable, so you can take it with you if you leave an employer.
The good news is that an HSA is portable, so you can take it with you if you leave an employer. Your account balance, including amounts contributed by your old employer, are yours to spend tax-free on eligible medical expenses with no spending deadline.
You can spend an HSA on qualified expenses for you or your family members, even if you don't have a high-deductible plan or you're uninsured. However, you can't make any new HSA contributions when you're not covered by HDHP.
If you become unemployed, you can use an HSA for COBRA premiums, or for other health insurance while you're receiving unemployment compensation. But if you spend HSA money on non-qualified medical expenses, the amounts will be taxed as income, plus you must pay an additional 20% penalty.
What happens to an FSA when you leave a job?
Another medical spending account you may need to manage when you leave a job is an FSA or flexible spending arrangement. These accounts can only be offered by employers and get funded by pre-tax payroll deductions that you can use for childcare and medical expenses.
Make sure you empty the account by spending the funds on qualified purchases before your last day of work or by the end of the month.
FSAs have a use-it-or-lose-it policy, which means the amounts you've contributed will be forfeited if you don't spend them before leaving a job. Make sure you empty the account by spending the funds on qualified purchases before your last day of work or by the end of the month.
Whether leaving a job is cause for tears or celebration, you can make smart decisions about your medical benefits and save money with some strategic planning. Be sure to ask your benefits administrator or your plan providers for help when you need it.
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One of the most common retirement questions I receive is what to do with a retirement account when leaving a job. Knowing your options for managing a retirement plan with an old employer is essential because most people change jobs many times throughout their careers. And millions of Americans remain out of work during the pandemic.
When you have a workplace retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b), you can take your vested balance with you when you leave.
Fortunately, when you have a workplace retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b), you can take your vested balance with you when you leave. It doesn't matter if you quit, get fired, or get laid off, the same rules apply.
This post will cover five options for managing your retirement account when your employment ends. You'll learn the rules for handling a retirement plan at an old job and the best move to create a secure financial future.
Why should you use a retirement account?
Investing money using one or more retirement accounts is wise because they come with terrific tax advantages. They defer or eliminate the tax on your contributions and investment earnings, which may allow you to accumulate a bigger balance than with a taxable brokerage account.
Investing money using one or more retirement accounts is wise. If you have a retirement plan at work but aren't participating in it, now's the time to enroll!
So, if you have a retirement plan at work but aren't participating in it, now's the time to enroll! Contribute as much as you can, even if it's just a small amount. Make a goal to increase your contribution rate each year until you're putting away at least 10% to 15% of your pre-tax income.
FREE RESOURCE: Retirement Account Comparison Chart (PDF)—a handy one-page download to see the retirement account rules at a glance.
What is a retirement account rollover?
Don't make the mistake of thinking that once you leave a job with a 401(k) or a 403(b) you can't continue getting tax breaks. Doing a rollover allows you to withdraw funds from a retirement plan with an old employer and transfer them to another eligible retirement account.
When you roll over a workplace retirement account, you don't lose your contributions or investment earnings. And if you're vested, you don't lose any money that your employer may have put into your account as matching funds.
The main rule you must follow when doing a retirement rollover is that you must complete it within 60 days once you begin the process.
The main rule you must follow when doing a retirement rollover is that you must complete it within 60 days once you begin the process. If you miss this deadline and are younger than age 59½, the transaction becomes an early withdrawal. That means it is subject to income tax, plus an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty.
If you're a regular Money Girl podcast listener or reader, you know that I don't recommend taking early withdrawals from retirement accounts. Paying income tax and a penalty is expensive and reduces your nest egg.
If you complete a traditional rollover within the allowable 60-day window, you maintain all the funds' tax-deferred status until you make withdrawals in the future. And with a Roth rollover, you retain the tax-free status of your funds.
What are your retirement account options when leaving a job?
Once you're no longer employed by a company that sponsors your retirement plan, there are four options for managing the account.
1. Cash out your account
Cashing out a retirement plan when you leave a job is the easiest option, but it's also the worst option. As I mentioned, taking an early withdrawal means you must pay income tax and a 10% penalty.
Cashing out a retirement plan when you leave a job is the easiest option, but it's also the worst option.
Let's say you have a $100,000 account balance that you cash out. If your average rate for federal and state income taxes is 30%, and you have an additional 10% penalty, you lose 40%. Cracking open your $100,000 nest egg could mean only having $60,000 left, depending on how much you earn.
Note that if your retirement plan has a low balance, such as $1,000 or less, the custodian may automatically cash you out. If so, they're required to withhold 20% for taxes (although you may owe more), file Form 1099-R to document the distribution, and pay you the balance.
2. Maintain your existing account
Most retirement plans allow you to keep money in the account after you're no longer employed if you maintain a minimum balance, such as more than $5,000. If you don't have the minimum, but you have more than the cash-out threshold, the custodian typically has the authority to deposit your money into an IRA in your name.
The downside to leaving money in an old retirement account is that you can't make additional contributions because you're not an employee. However, your funds can continue to grow there. You can manage them any way you like by selling or buying investments from a set menu of options.
The downside to leaving money in an old retirement account is that you can't make additional contributions.
Leaving money in an old retirement plan is certainly better than cashing out and paying taxes and a penalty, but it doesn't give you as much flexibility as you you would get with the next two options I'm going to talk about.
I only recommend leaving money in an old employer's retirement plan if you're happy with the investment choices and the fund and account fees are low. Just make sure that the plan doesn't charge you higher fees once you're no longer an active employee.
Another reason you might want to leave retirement money in an old employer's plan is if you're unemployed or have a job that doesn't offer a retirement account. I'll cover some special legal protections you'll get in just a moment.
3. Rollover to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA)
Another option for your old workplace retirement plan is to roll it into an existing or new traditional IRA. If you have a Roth 401(k) or 403(b), you can roll it over into a Roth IRA. The deadline to complete an IRA rollover is 60 days.
Your earnings in a traditional IRA would continue to grow tax-deferred, just like in your old workplace plan. And earnings grow tax-free in a Roth IRA, like a Roth account at work.
Here are a couple of advantages to moving a workplace plan to an IRA:
- Getting more control. You choose the financial institution and the investments for your IRA.
- Having more flexibility. With an IRA, there are more ways to tap your funds before age 59½ and avoid an early withdrawal penalty than with a workplace account. That rule applies to several exceptions, including using withdrawals for medical bills, college expenses, and buying or building your first home.
Here are some downsides to rolling over a workplace plan to an IRA:
- Having fewer legal protections. Depending on your home state, assets in an IRA may not be protected from creditors.
- Being ineligible for a Roth IRA. When you're a high earner, you may not be allowed to contribute to a Roth IRA. However, you can still manage the account and have tax-free investment earnings.
If you want more control over your investment choices, think you'll need to make withdrawals before retirement, are self-employed, or don't have a job with a retirement plan to roll your account into, having an IRA is a great option.
4. Rollover to a new workplace plan
If you land a new job with a retirement plan, it may allow a rollover from your old plan once you're eligible to participate. While the IRS allows rollovers into most retirement accounts, employer plans aren't required to accept incoming rollovers. So be sure to check with your new plan administrator about what's possible.
Once you initiate a transfer from one workplace plan to another, you must complete it within 60 days to avoid taxes and a penalty.
Here are some advantages of doing a workplace-to-workplace rollover:
- More convenience. Having all your retirement savings in one place may make it easier to manage and track.
- Taking early withdrawals. Retirees can begin taking penalty-free withdrawals from workplace plans as early as age 55.
- Avoiding Roth income limits. Unlike a Roth IRA, there are no income restrictions for participating in a Roth workplace retirement account.
- Getting more legal protections. Workplace retirement plans are covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a federal regulation. It doesn't allow creditors (except the federal government) to touch your account balance.
Some downsides to transferring money from one workplace plan to another include:
- Having less flexibility. You can't take money out of a 401(k) or a 403(b) until you leave the company or qualify for an allowable hardship. It doesn't come with as many withdrawal exceptions compared to an IRA.
- Getting less control. You may have fewer investment choices or higher fees than an IRA, depending on the brokerage firm.
5. Rollover to an account for the self-employed
If you left a job to become self-employed, having an IRA is a great option. However, there are other types of retirement accounts that you might consider, such as a solo 401(k) or a SEP-IRA, based on whether you have employees and on your business income.
Read 4 Ways to Start a Retirement Account as a Self-Employed Freelancer or 5 Retirement Options When You're Self-Employed for more information.
When is a Roth rollover allowed?
For a rollover to be tax-free, you must use a like account. For example, if you have a traditional 403(b), you must rollover to another traditional retirement account at work or to a traditional IRA.
If you move traditional, pre-tax funds into a post-tax, Roth account, you must pay income tax on any amount that wasn't previously taxed. That could leave you with a massive tax liability. If you want a Roth, a better move would be to open a Roth account at your new job or to start a Roth IRA (if your income doesn't make you ineligible to contribute).
Where should you move an old retirement account?
The best place for your old retirement account depends on the flexibility and legal protections you want. Other considerations include the quality of your old plan, your income, and whether you have a new job with a retirement plan that accepts rollovers.
The best place for your old retirement account depends on the flexibility and legal protections you want.
The goal is to position your retirement money where you can keep it safe and allow it to grow using low-cost, diversified investment options. If you have questions about doing a rollover, get advice from your retirement plan custodian. They can walk you through the process to make sure you choose the best investments and don't break the rollover rules.