Any time you change jobs, you’ll have paperwork to fill out, new routines to learn—and financial choices to make. What should you do with previous 401(k) balances, health savings accounts, and more? Use our step-by-step list to check off financial to-dos before you leave your current position and after you start your new one.
What to do before you leave your job
1. Use “Old” benefits (while you can) and choose new ones.
Ask your Human Resources department what dates benefits end and new ones begin.
- Health insurance: Compare current and new coverage, and get details for anything that’s continuing, such as specialty medications.
- Dental and vision insurance: Especially if you won’t have this coverage when you change jobs, schedule appointments as soon as you can.
- Life insurance: Voluntary policies (life insurance you bought or got through your employer) can be converted to an individual policy. Instead of being deducted from your payroll, you’ll pay the premium directly to the insurance company.
- Retirement savings: Check out the options for existing funds later in this article.
2. Cover any gaps in health insurance.
You have a couple of options.
- COBRA continuation coverage: You and your family can continue to have health insurance for a while after losing your coverage through work. Because you pay the full premium, it can be pricey, but going without coverage, even for a short time, can be a risk. Previous dental and/or vision insurance is included as part of COBRA, too.
- A Health Insurance Marketplace plan: Cost varies based on your household income and available plans vary from state-to-state. Visit healthcare.gov to learn more.
- A spouse/partner insurance plan: Usually you need to sign up within 30 days of your last day on the job.
3. Check your flexible spending account (FSA) balance.
Use it or you lose it. Review your company’s benefit rules and deadlines and submit claims before your termination date so you’ll get reimbursed. Not sure what’s covered? Your employer has a list. Visit healthcare.gov for more information about FSAs.
4. Understand your last paycheck.
Most of the time, a last check includes anything you’re owed such as back pay, earned time off, commissions, or a bonus.
5. Adjust your budget.
Companies pay on different schedules; for example, some are bi-weekly and others may be monthly. That might equal a short-term impact on your budget so plan now to cover any gaps. (You could tap your emergency fund instead of using credit cards.)
6. Review non-salary compensation details.
If you have stock options or restricted stock awards, find out the rules for vesting, what you get when you leave, tax implications, and so on. Many companies require you to exercise stock options within a certain amount of time, often 90 days from your termination date.
Taking classes? Note the details on the tuition reimbursement program. It often depends on your last day of class. If you’re in the middle of the semester, find out the specifics.
What to do when you start a new job
1. Focus on details for both old and new retirement savings.
There are four choices for your old plan:
- Keep your money where it is, if allowed. Note that some plans don’t allow this option if you have a low balance ($5,000 is common).
- Move your money to your new employer’s plan. This is typically an option if you’re joining a company that offers a retirement plan and allows roll-ins.
- Roll your savings from your 401(k) into an IRA. Combining retirement accounts gives you flexibility in decision-making to ensure your assets are supporting your goals.
- Cash out your account balance. It may be tempting to have the money now but there are serious downsides: Hefty taxes and penalties—up to 30%—and you’ll miss out on any future growth or earnings.
For your new plan consider:
- Can you save more to help meet your retirement goals? Did the new job come with a higher salary? If so, now maybe a good time to consider increasing how much you’re saving from each paycheck.
- Does your employer offer a savings match? If so, how much will you need to defer to take full advantage of it?
2. Decide what to do with health savings account (HSA) funds.
If you’re enrolling in a high deductible health plan (HDHP) at your new employer, you can often transfer a balance in your HSA. If you don’t plan to enroll in a HDHP, you can generally leave remaining funds (and contribute) and use as needed for future eligible healthcare expenses.
Tip: If you use HSA funds for unapproved health care expenses, you’ll face tax implications.
3. Compare old and new life and disability coverage and fill any gaps.
- Life insurance: You may be able to contribute to a group life insurance policy through your employer, with the premiums deducted from your paycheck.
- Disability income insurance: First, find out if you have any disability coverage, and if you do, how much of your income it covers. Most plans will cover about 60% of your income; that equals significantly less take-home pay after taxes (down to about 40–50% of your income).
Tip: Use a job change as a chance to check on beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts and update as needed.
4. Update (or create) your financial plan.
Changing jobs is a good time to revisit your financial plan, especially if you’re gaining an income jump. If you have a bigger paycheck, be wary of lifestyle creep where the more you make, the more you spend.
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Gowdy Financial Group, LLC., is a Fee-Only, Financial Advisory firm dedicated to helping women, from all backgrounds and income levels, get out of debt, save toward your goals and enjoy the freedom that comes with being in control of your money. We don't sell products; we provide solutions. "Your Goals. Our Solutions." Serving Clients Nationwide.