Thank you for your reply. That sounds like what I have heard from other sources. I hope to be able to stay with my current employer until age 55. I am concerned what would happen if something turns sour and I end up leaving before that time. Organizational changes may be on the horizon. If I roll the account balance into an IRA, would that prevent me from accessing the funds penalty free at 55? Would I need to leave my account in the hands of my employer until 55? Would I need to take the funds in the form of an annuity in order to avoid the penalty? I want to have as much control over my investments as possible when I retire and make sure that if I "kick the bucket" the day after retiring, my family receives full benefit of the balance that I have accumulated over my many years of service.