Plan Sponsors must follow the terms of their plan document and minimize extraneous costs and burdens to keep plan expenses low for all participants. Often, when participants change jobs or are separated from employment, they leave behind small plan balances that can become costly to administer. For that reason, plans are permitted to have what is commonly referred to as a “force out” or mandatory distribution provision to handle small plan balances of under $5,000.
As a plan participant, it’s important to pay attention to the vested account balance in your retirement plan after you separate from your employer. Your plan may allow you to leave your account in your former employer’s retirement plan, roll it over to an individual retirement account, or transfer it to your new employer’s retirement plan if that plan allows it. If you don’t choose one of those options, your former employer might select one for you, which may cause you to incur additional taxes if you are under age 59 ½.
What Will Happen to My Account?
If your vested balance is greater than $5,000, you may choose to leave your account in the plan until Required Minimum Distributions must begin. Some reasons to consider leaving your retirement account in your former employer’s plan may include investment options, favorable fees, or other account tools; you may also be taking your time to consider how you intend to consolidate your retirement assets.
If your vested balance is equal to or greater than $100 and less than $5,000, you will receive a communication from Vestwell informing you that you have 45 days to move your assets to another qualified plan or an Individual Retirement Act (“IRA”) of your choice. If you do not take any action, Vestwell will open a “default” IRA on your behalf and transfer your assets out of the plan to that account. We will provide you with further instructions about where and how to access the IRA.
Should your vested balance fall below $100, the distribution process will result in a net-zero distribution to be processed. As stated in our fee disclosure notices available on your portal, Vestwell charges $125 for a force out distribution. Since your balance is less than $100, the balance will be used to pay the processing fee, and no further balance will be available to distribute. Your final statement will show a zero balance and the distribution processing fee withheld from your account.
Why Do I Need to Take a Force Out?
Pursuant to retirement plan regulations, your former employer may, in its discretion, force out any small balances of former employees.
What Happens to the Unvested Balance of My Account?
As described in our article "What Does Vesting Mean?", there may be balances from your employer matching that you have yet to vest in. Any unvested balances are forfeited when you have a Force Out distribution.
Will I Be Charged for a Force Out Distribution?
Yes, you will be charged $125 for fees and costs associated with processing a force out distribution.
Your fee disclosure notice can be accessed in your saver portal in the documents section under the plan tab and will detail all transaction related fees. See below.