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If you have contributed for a long time to a 401(k) plan, chances are you have built up considerable assets. You are to be commended for this effort. It takes discipline and focus to accumulate wealth over time.

Having reached this point, you may now want to explore options outside of your plan. If you are past your late 50s, you might have an opportunity with an in-service withdrawal. Many people with 401(k) accounts assume that their funds are locked tight until they retire.

What they don’t know is that they might be able to access their funds while still working at their employer. This mechanism is formally called an in-service withdrawal.

But what exactly is an 401(k) in-service withdrawal, under what conditions can you take one, and what consequences are there for doing so?

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Will Your 401k Help You Meet Your Retirement Goals

When it comes to retirement saving plans, Americans can have a variety of options. For millions, employer-sponsored plans are a primary savings vehicle – especially 401(k) plans.

It’s no surprise as to why. A 401(k) plan offers a number of benefits, including tax-deferred accumulation, a high contribution limit for pre-tax savings, and in many cases an employer match.

As retirement nears for many Americans, it brings up an important question: How will their 401(k) plan prepare them to enjoy a comfortable, meaningful post-work lifestyle?

Even with these benefits, some Americans are dissatisfied with their 401(k) because they perceive shortfalls in other areas. Personal perceptions of there being limited investment options, "low" access to personal financial guidance with some plans, and a lack of money control are just a few investor frustrations.

There is also the issue of subpar financial knowledge. Surveys indicate many people don’t understand 401(k)s, even though these plans dominate the workplace savings landscape.

According to the Investment Company Institute, as of December 31, 2016 Americans held $7 trillion in all employer-based defined-contribution plans. Of this, $4 trillion was in 401(k) plans – or 57.1% of total defined-contribution plan assets.

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Retirement planning involves many decisions. For many retirement savers, an important question is what to do with their 401(k) retirement account. As they near retirement, investors must decide whether to leave the money within their account or choose another option, such as an IRA rollover.

The good news is Americans typically have six options for moving 401(k) assets around or leaving them alone. But not all of these possibilities may be appropriate, depending on the merits and downsides of a particular rollover option for your personal situation.

It’s also not unusual for an investor to have the lion’s share, or even a large bulk, of their retirement assets in a 401(k) plan account. So, whatever they do with these retirement assets, it’s a decision that will have tremendous implications for the future.

If you are mulling over 401(k) rollover options, be sure whoever you work with understands all the ins-and-outs of different rollover outcomes. Your financial professional should clearly explain the positives, negatives, and details of each rollover option to you. They should go over how it may help or hurt your personal situation.

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How can High 401k Fees Affect Your Retirement Success

Note: This is the third part of a month-long series on financial awareness in the U.S., 401(k) plans, and how investors are planning – or not preparing – for retirement. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, here are some strong insights into how high 401(k) plan fees can be detrimental for retirement saving goals.

As prior posts have mentioned, the 401(k) is the retirement savings plan most used by U.S. employers. And millions of Americans use it for their retirement saving goals. It’s no surprise as to why.

For one, the IRS permits pre-tax employee contributions of up to $18,000 (2017 contribution limit). Plan participants aged 50 and up are able to make pre-tax, “catch-up” contributions of an additional $6,000. Many 401(k)s also come with an employer match, providing a powerful savings incentive for U.S. workers.

Yet while the 401(k) is a valuable retirement savings vehicle, it has its downsides. One negative is the presence of high cumulative fees within some 401(k) plans and their in-plan investment menu. Over time, costly high fees can dwindle away earnings, which also siphons off money that would grow with compounding.

So there is also the opportunity cost of the money investors could have earned if those funds remained within their 401(k). It could be a difference of thousands, if not tens of thousands of lost dollars in potential retirement income.

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