Know how: What are your options after accepting a lump-sum pension?

Kevin Dombrowski

I previously wrote about the decision-making process to take a lump sum pension offer or to remain in your company’s pension plan. If you consider taking your company’s lump sum pension offer, there are several investment options available to you depending on your unique situation.

Keep the cash. When you take a lump sum pension payout, it will be paid to you as ordinary income and thus taxed as ordinary income (not to mention an additional 10 percent early payment tax penalty under current IRS rules for individuals 59½ or younger). Understand that the purpose of this pool of money is to help you prepare for retirement. Tax rules have been designed to encourage you to do just that by investing in a tax-deferred solution.

Invest in an IRA rollover. When you select a lump sum payment, one of the most popular ways to defer taxes, maintain some control, and invest for long-term appreciation is to roll your new assets into an IRA. An IRA rollover allows for earnings to continue to grow tax deferred until you withdraw them in retirement and may provide you with access to extensive investment options where you can choose those that best fit your needs.

After opening a regular IRA (rollover), you have the potential to convert all or a portion of the resulting IRA account to a Roth IRA account at an opportune time. Roll the assets into your company’s current 401(k) plan. Some companies allow active employees to roll their assets directly into the company’s sponsored 401(k) plan. If your plan sponsor allows for this, you have an opportunity to move the entire lump sum into the 401(k) plan, while deferring taxes. This option allows an individual to keep their retirement savings in one place, assuming they are happy with the 401(k) plan currently provided.

Buy a qualified annuity. Some companies set up variations of qualified annuities for their employees to purchase with their pension lump sum. As insurance contracts, annuities may provide options like death benefits and monthly income payments. Since these vehicles are structured similarly to a standard pension payment, you can evaluate them against the original pension’s payment structure to see how they stack up, considering fees.

Ultimately, the decision will depend on which option above provides you with the best fit for your overall
long-term financial and retirement plan.


Kevin Dombrowski is director of client development with MainLine Private Wealth.

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