401K Rollover to IRA

What pension options do US expats have?

Unlike UK expats, US expats don´t have the option to transfer their pensions overseas without the implication of a huge tax charge, however, there are still very attractive onshore options such as rolling over your 401k to an IRA.

Do you have a 401k with an old employer?

A 401k is a US retirement savings vehicle that allows employees to pay a portion of each paycheck directly into a long-term investment. These become dormant when you leave your previous employer with the option of leaving it where it is or rolling it over to another plan. A 401k plan often offers no investment advice and limited investment options unless you work for a company with a very high-quality plan, such as a Fortune 500 firm.

Some companies strongly encourage participants to invest heavily in the company’s stock. Others may be funded with a variable annuity contract that provides an added layer of protection for the assets in the plan which can cost up to 3% per annum! Once you have left the United States, you will have the option to rollover your 401k to an IRA.

401k Rollover Options

  1. Rollover to an IRA – You can rollover over multiple 401ks into an IRA. IRAs are usually much cheaper with some charging 0% per annum for holding funds on the account instead of charging just a small trading fee of $14.99 per trade. For long term investors, this is a great option as trading volumes tend to be low meaning more profit goes back in the investors pocket as opposed to the pension providers. In addition, IRAs offer a much wider array of investment options such as ETFs, mutual funds, stocks & shares, and bonds. IRAs also offer the option to appoint an investment adviser to advise how best to invest your hard earn pension savings providing the adviser is both regulated in the US and your country of residence.
  2. Cash out your 401k – If you withdraw the money from your 401(k) plan, your cash distribution will be subject to state and federal taxes and. The taxable portion of your withdrawal that is eligible for rollover into an individual retirement account (IRA) is subject to 20% mandatory federal income tax withholding, unless it is directly rolled over to an IRA. (You may owe more or less when you file your income taxes.) If you are younger than 59½, the taxable portion of your withdrawal may also be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty, unless you qualify for an exception to this rule. Be sure you understand the tax consequences and your plan’s rules for distributions before you initiate a distribution.


The main issue US expats face is finding a firm that is both regulated in the US and their country of residence with the expertise to be able to advise in this space which is where SJB can fill that void and offer both investment advice and pension advice to US connected individuals.

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  • See what areas we cover in your jurisdiction
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