An individual retirement account (IRA) owner may invest in one or several IRAs over a lifetime. As circumstances change, account needs change as well. For example, an account owner may be getting older, and need to transfer money into an account that is allocated toward more conservative investing. No restrictions exist on how many IRA accounts you can own, but there are limitations on the amount of money that you may add too an IRA each year. The process for moving money between accounts differs depending on if the accounts are with the same trustee, or two different trustees.
With the Same Trustee
Determine the best way to access your IRA account information. Many larger brokerage firms and mutual fund companies, as well as banks, provide full access to the accounts through their website. Other individual trustees and smaller organizations may not offer online access, and you may need to make a request to transfer by phone or in person.
Execute the transfer between the accounts using the best method for accessing the funds. You will need to identify which accounts you want involved in the transfer, either by account number or the name of the account.
Verify that the transfer has taken place. Depending on the IRA trustee and the investments of the account, this could be immediate, or may take up to a few days. Where the account is held by the same trustee, there is usually no paperwork involved, and no taxable event has taken place as long as you have transferred between two of the same types of IRAs.
Notify your current IRA trustee or account holder that you want to withdraw the funds from the IRA account. He will help you with the specific process, and send any necessary paperwork to you.
Complete any required paperwork to close the IRA account. Make sure that your address is current if you will be receiving a check in the mail. If it's via direct deposit, double check that the account numbers are correct. Not doing this could delay the withdrawal from getting to you. Notify the trustee that you will be rolling over the IRA funds, and that he should not withhold any amount of the account balance to cover taxes.
Deposit the money into one of your existing IRAs, or open a new IRA account with a new trustee. Do your research carefully to be certain that the new trustee represents investments that you understand, and that meet your goals. Deposit the entire amount of the withdrawal from the other account into the selected IRA within 60 days. If you do not deposit the proceeds within 60 days, you will be responsible for income taxes on the complete amount of the withdrawal, plus a 10 percent penalty if you are under 59 1/2.
The withdrawal and rollover method gives the account owner more control, but consider doing a trustee to trustee transfer if you anticipate problems depositing the entire amount of the withdrawal into a new account within 60 days. With this type of transfer, the money is sent directly to the new account's trustee without any action from the owner.
Avoid the temptation to take out part of the withdrawal for other purposes. In addition to the taxes and penalties, you will significantly impact your long-term retirement savings by withdrawing the money early.