Q: I was laid off my job last night and I need advice about what to do with the money I have in my company 401(k). Would you be able to recommend a fee only financial planner who could help out a 68-year-old woman who is not investment savvy? And, should I use the cash in my 401(k) to keep making my mortgage payments until I find a new job?
A: We’re quite sorry that you have been laid off from your job. If you were working at a large company, your former employer may have an HR person with whom you can start the conversation about your 401(k) and the options you have with it. While that person may only be the starting point for you, at least you will learn what the company requires of you and your 401(k).
If you are able to keep the money in your 401(k) with your company, you might want to leave it there while you investigate your options. You can talk to retirement specialists at companies such as Fidelity Investments, Schwab and other similar large investment companies, but you may find that the “retirement” specialist you talk to is less than a third of your age and may not be suited for your needs.
We have found some information given out by large financial institutions very dependent on the person you meet and their qualifications. You may talk to a person on the phone and get one set of information from them only to get different information from people at the storefront locations.
For these reasons, you can talk to them but keep an open mind as to the information they give you and the options they may have for you.
If you have a rather large 401(k) account, you can always find a fee only financial advisor at the Garrett Planning Network Inc. (http://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com). You can search by state and find a fee only financial planner in your area. Again, as with any person you meet, make sure you are comfortable with that person, you get referrals and you take someone with you to help you go through the process.
As far as your day-to-day finances go, it would be a good idea to figure out how you’re going to get the bills paid (including your mortgage) while you’re looking for a job. If your unemployment benefits will not be enough to keep up with your bills, you should use your available cash in your rainy day account. If you don’t have a rainy day account, then you should tap some of your 401(k) to keep up with those payments.
The good news is that you’re old enough to get Social Security (if you’re not already getting it) and Medicare and while those may take a month or so to kick in, you know that your income should improve shortly. And, because you’re over 59 ½, you will be able to tap your 401(k) account without paying a penalty (although you may still owe state and federal income taxes on your withdrawal).