The Great Resignation & Your 401(k)

zoomed in perspective of two people sitting at a table exchanging a piece of paper that reads "resignation"

There have been many changes since the Covid-19 pandemic began. One of the most significant changes has been the job market, specifically the increase in job resignations and remote positions. In what is now being called The Great Resignation, more people quit their job in November 2021 than in any time in recent history.

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Over 4.5 million workers resigned from their job (an average rate of 3%). Alabama’s resignation rate was around 3.7% versus our neighbor, Georgia, with the highest resignation rate of 4.5%. The primary factor for this increase in resignations was driven by opportunities for employees to work remotely. Employees enjoyed working from home while in quarantine and realized they wanted a job more geared towards working remotely. As a result, some decided to start their own business while others found companies that allowed working-from-home flexibility.

Part of the catalyst for quitting was the influx of various government programs such as the trillion-dollar-plus American Rescue Plan. Another big driver has been the tightening of the labor market, giving rise to seeking new employment for higher pay.

With these changes comes a big question: What should you do with your 401(k) from your old employer? Here are three options:

  1. Roll-over to your new employer’s 401(k) plan. This can be a good choice assuming you are happy with the investment choices of the new plan. Be sure to get a detailed schedule of all fees charged against your investments and contributions to the plan.
  2. Roll-over to an IRA. This is my preferred choice for most people because it offers the greatest flexibility. By choosing a discount broker, such as Charles Schwab, you have virtually unlimited investment options. If you choose option #1 above and change your mind, you cannot later roll-over to an IRA.
  3. Cash out your 401(k). This is typically the worst option because you will incur income taxes on the funds, an additional 10% federal penalty if you are under 59 ½ years old, and you lose the future tax-deferred growth of your investments.

Be sure to consult with a financial planner/advisor before making any decisions with your 401(k). What you do now can affect you in your future investments.


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Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States.  He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of Success J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaireand 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch GroupConsult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.


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