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>> I'll turn 30 in a little over a month (single, no dependents), plan to start grad school (in journalism) this June for about a year, and know I'll need to roll over my 401(k) (a fed. govt. TSP) which has about 50K in it. Any advice on what kind of IRA I should roll it over into? <<

Do you *have* to roll it over? Most 401K plans can't force a rollover if you have at least $5,000 in the account. I don't know about TSP, though. If their rules are similar, you wouldn't HAVE to roll over $50,000...and given that you have a choice of several good index funds for diversification with very low fees, I wouldn't move it if I didn't have to.

>> Also I'm wondering whether I should convert it into a Roth. <<

In general, that's not a bad strategy *if* your income is low enough that the conversion amount would be taxed at a low bracket (15% or less) AND you have the money available to pay the taxes. That's a situation more common for early retirees with a lot of savings than for younger folks still getting established.

In any event, you can't directly roll the 401K into a Roth. You have to roll it into a conventional IRA, then recharacterize it.

>> Any conversion fees would need to come out of the 401(k) amount because I want to preserve the emergency fund I have. <<

In order to do that, you'd have to pay taxes and penalties on the amount you withdraw to pay taxes. If you had the cash available to do it, it's not a bad strategy while in a low bracket. In fact, it's a good strategy for early retirees in low tax brackets who don't want to be faced with large RMDs kicking them into high brackets in the future.

But in your case, no, it's not compelling enough that it's worth paying penalties to do.

>> Don't know if it would be better to keep the 50 K un-Rothed for the year, and then start a new separate Roth account later (wish I'd done that earlier), and then have the 50 K roll back into an employer's 401(k) (is that how it works?) at some point. <<

Probably so. Though you have several options with the 401K -- you can leave it in TSP and you can roll it over into an IRA, OR you can later roll it into another 401K if that plan permits it. Personally, given the very low fees in a TSP, I'd be inclined to leave it there (if I could) with something like 50% in C and 25% in both I and S funds. (If you're a little more conservative you could put 20-25% in the F fund, but at your age I'd let it all ride in equities. You won't find many index funds with lower expenses.

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