BOSTON (CBS) – We all want an orderly financial life, but life happens while we try to bring order to the chaos.

How many IRAs do you have? How many retirement plans? Have you changed jobs often and just left your money with your former employers?

So often I hear from listeners who are about to retire and they realize they have a bookkeeping nightmare to deal with. Their retirement plans. They fall into the category of having too many. I didn’t say too much money, just too many plans.

Take inventory. What have you got and what is it invested in? List everything. Let’s deal with the IRAs first.

How many are in CDs that each mature at a different time? Ask the bank for some help here. Try to consolidate the IRAs. Even if it means the money sits in a savings account for a few months.

How about your mutual fund IRAs. Every time you heard about a new hot mutual fund you put some money in. Well now you have 7 IRA accounts. Consolidate them!

Find a couple of all-weather mutual fund such as a S&P index fund and transfer everything into them. Easy to do and you may be able to download all of the paper work from the fund’s website. Your current IRA holdings will be sold and cash will be transferred to the new funds.

If you really love your different mutual funds and don’t want to give them up you may be able to move them to one company. Fidelity and Schwab are examples of companies that have arrangements with other mutual fund companies and will allow you to transfer the fund to a new IRA you set up with them.

There may be a fee for this transfer. But what it does is allow you to get one statement instead of seven each quarter! And when it comes time to begin mandatory withdrawals you will be dealing with one company and one account.

Employer retirement plans; for the most part I would recommend moving them into an IRA when you retire. You will have many more investment choices and again ease of withdrawing money in retirement.

Be careful with 403(b) plans. Some are set up as annuities and you may not be able to transfer all of the money into an IRA without paying a penalty. By law though they have to allow you access to at  least 10% of your money each year. If that’s the case, plan on doing this over a 10-year period.

457 plans require a bit more planning in that you can access the money before you are age 59½ if you leave your current job. But if you roll the 457 into an IRA it then takes on the rules of the IRA and you cannot access the money until 59½.

A neat and tidy retirement account will serve you well…..


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.


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