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In response to my question, I'm just curious... But your statement implies that you have or have had a 401(k) at other employers. Can I ask what you choose to do with those funds?

You wrote, Certainly. I have participated in the 401k at 2 other employers, generally contributing just enough to get the employer match, since I still have debt. Currently, my employer matches 33% of each dollar up to 6% of my salary in company stock. My personal contributions are spread over several stock mutual funds (no bond funds or cash vehicles in my 401k). I have it mostly in a domestic large-cap growth fund, with part in a small-cap growth fund and an international growth fund.
JP Morgan/American Century administers my employers 401k, thus I hold American Century funds.

That's not really what I was intending. What I meant was did you:

1) Keep the assets with your employer(s)' 401(k)?
2) Roll your previous employer(s)' 401(k) into your new employer's 401(k)?
3) Roll your previous employer(s)' 401(k) into a rollover IRA.

I'd also like to hear your rational for why you did what you did; and also if you regret your decision; and if so, why.

Let me lead by saying that I've worked for six employers (the last three were through a series of mergers and spin-offs) that have offered 401(k) plans. I've had 4 opportunities to exit my previous employers' 401(k) and have done so on 3 occasions.

On the first occasion, I had been contributing the minimum for six months -- the plan was new. I cashed out after being laid off and took a distribution of about $200-300. I paid taxes and penalties on that distribution; but though I didn't know it then, it was unlikely I could have found a company that would have accepted such a small rollover back in 1992.

On the second occasion in 1996, I rolled the money into a T. Rowe Price Science and Technology fund. At its peek, the account had more than tripled; but it is now valued at almost the same as when I openned it. I'm considering consolidating those funds into another rollover, as I've lost a lot of faith in T. Rowe Price's fund management team.

On the third occasion in 1997, I left the funds at my employer. At their peek, they had nearly quadrupled; but they still remain at about 2.5x the original contributions after 5 years. (Not bad!) However, this employer has recently moved it's 401(k) plan to Hewitt (formerly CSFB) and added a fixed maintance cost to the employees. As a result, I'll probably move these funds soon too. (These costs fund services that are probably beneficial to existing employees; but are almost worthless to an ex-employee.)

My last opportunity occurred in 2000 when my current employer spun off from it's parent. This happened just as the parent decided to change plan providers -- but I was fast and managed the entire transfer by phone and fax in about a week and before they could freeze the employee accounts. I transferred the funds to TD Waterhouse where I've experimented with both stocks and funds. Despite a declining market, I had a couple of stock picks that more than doubled; however, a couple of tech funds and one stock pick offset all of my gains. Now this account sits with a balance just a couple hundred below when its balance when I openned it. Even so, I don't regret the experience and I think I've probably out-performed even the S&P 500 over the same period.

To date, I only regret not moving my T. Rowe Price account sooner. I read the reports and disagreed with some of the moves that cost me money; but I felt that by the time I saw the reports, the damage was already done. It turned out that was not true -- if I'd moved right then, I'd have at least saved some of my profits.

On the third occasion my employer had been Texas Instruments. TI has always offerred excellent benefits to its employees. The same was true of their 401(k) plan. The yields and low costs were very good, plus they offerred an essentially cost-free vehicle for me to move money directly into and out of TI stock. I have no complaints about that decision, even though I probably need to move the account before mid-year.

So, I guess I was wondering what your experiences have been?

- Joel
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