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How do I rollover a 403(b) retirement account into an IRA?

I'm trying to rollover a 403(b) retirement account into an IRA. According to the company I'd like to begin an IRA with, I simply need to contact my 403(b) company and tell them where to send the check. However, my 403(b) company appears to be putting up a struggle to hold onto my money. They will not release my money until I return a lengthy document with appropriate initials and signatures. One of those signatures, according to them, must be from my previous employer, stating that I do not work there anymore. This is a bit inconvenient, since my previous employer is approximately 1,000 miles away.

I'm confused on this, since both companies have told me different things. What should I do to resolve this problem?

Retirement, IRAs
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July 2018


I'm sorry you are having these difficulties.

403(b) p[lans are weird animals, especially non-ERISA plans (typically used in schools). In their attempt to protect against fraud sometimes doing anything can be onerous.

Like 401(k) plans, each plan has their own rules as to what is needed to roll money out of he plan to an IRA. Many 401(k) plans will accept phone instructions, and will not accept paper requests. Others will only accept paper requests. Still others will only accept web site requests. The employer sets the requirements, but of course the the sponsor provides 'guidance'. In one rollover I initiated, the plan required the signature of someone at the district office who took a six week ummer vacation, and of course, there was no one else authorised to sign the papers to approve the request

Here is a suggested plan of action:

  • Contact your previous employer
  • Find out who the authorized person is
  • Talk to the person to let them know what you are trying to accomplish
  • Have your new form send the paper work to that person WITH a self addressed stamped envelope. (I NEVER send any paperwork to anyone (especially clients) without a courtesy stamped return envelope.)
  • Send it to them, with one of those little "Sign Here" flag(s) placed in the appropriate places
  • Follow up in seven business days to make sure it was received, or to have the person go through their inbox

The key here is to make it easy for the person to do what you need them to do. I realize they should do it, but if this is a school district or other academic office, many of them are understaffed (especially now) and they are trying to get ready for the next academic season. 

Good luck!

July 2018
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