#3 – Clean Up 401k

“I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway, And more, much more than this, I did it my way…” Frank Sinatra, My Way

Administration of life is (sometimes) as important as living the life itself. The reason being is that when you are actually done living, it shouldn’t be someone else’s responsibility to clean up your stuff. I’m a firm believer in this given how much I dislike people talking about me (praising me is 1000% ok), or hearing disparaging remarks about someone else when I know that they could have prevented. I can picture it – after the grief that is – “Why the hell didn’t Ashley just close that 20 year old Hotmail account?” or “I thought she updated her Spotify account not to auto-renew?” or “I need her password, what was her favorite kind of dog?”.

When I prepared this list, I thought about the ways I could make things easier, and clean-up activities that I should have been doing throughout my life. The irony of “Clean up 401k” is that I was in fact just moving money from a 401k of the mutual fund firm where I worked for a few years. I worked there…a mutual fund company!…and it took 11 years at a new company and this list to finally close that account and roll the investments into my current 401k. I won’t discuss the benefits of a 401k here, there are many, and they aren’t relevant to this post, but I will write that while I thought “rolling over” a 401k was arduous and required lots of paperwork, I was surprised at how easy it was to move the investment value from one holding company to another. I didn’t get fancy with a Roth or other tax-deferred investment option, I simply moved the money management from my old employee plan, to my current. The value of this is two-fold. 1, any investment decision I make is applied to all my investments – go big on Growth, or invest more conservatively with a Fixed Income fund; money in one place means one decision, one update and done. 2, I only have to remember to update beneficiary information in one place, and leave information for my family about one investment portfolio. This leaves it nice and clean.

Let’s break down what I did.

Step 1:  Have at hand your old and current investment information – 401k provider and their customer service #s. I was asked what my current balance was on my old account to qualify it was in fact me calling.

Step 2: Call current plan provider. Explain you want to roll money into the account. (They subsequently called the transfer hotline at my old provider and managed all details on the phone, with me validating my wishes, in about 10 minutes.)

Step 3*: Not always needed, but my old account was in my maiden name. I had to provide to my current plan a copy of my marriage certificate so that they could put on file and accept the funds. Note: If you are married and have changed your name, having this document in an easy to find place is a good thing. My Marriott Rewards is also in my maiden name, and I can’t change without this certificate.

VOILA! About 7 days after the phone call, I received email confirmation that the funds were transferred. BONUS: upon logging in to my current plan provider to confirm the funds had moved, I discovered my beneficiary information was not entered. Filled that out, and now the original intent of this item on my list is 100% complete.

While writing this blog post, I had to pause and attend a funeral. It was for a dear friend’s grandmother, affectionately nicknamed “Wing Ding”. She was 92. Well loved, and surrounded by family, friends and fans alike, she will be buried in her favorite outfit, a New York Yankees sweatshirt (a die-hard New York Yankees fan – hard to come by, and hardly tolerated in Massachusetts). Her service was formally informal. Hosted in the funeral home, those who gathered for the wake were able to stay and attend the short service. It wasn’t the simplicity of the service, the beautiful eulogy from one of her fans, but rather the musical tribute to the New York fan at the end that struck me as just plain awesome. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, a frequent hit on the juke box in the bar she tended. Sitting in the back of the room with a bird’s eye view, I could see everyone taking the song, and Wing Ding, in. There were tears, but an overwhelming amount of smiles, and those half-smiles where you are remembering something funny, but know it’s inappropriate to laugh. A few hums here, a few words there, and the back part of the room was officially singing. Frank Sinatra. At a funeral. It was awesome. She was awesome. The words of the song are awesome. Life your life your way (and clean up your 401k). Rest in peace, Wing Ding.