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I've been considering opening an Individual 401k account with Vanguard. I chose this, opposed to a SEP IRA, because of the higher contribution limits and the dual contribution options (as employee and employer).

I was told that I would not be able to transfer assets from an existing employer 401k plan; I would only be able to do an asset transfer from another Individual 401k account. This sours the milk a bit as I wanted to consolidate my existing retirement funds from old employers into this i401k and contribute to it from there.

My plan is to check with other vendors regarding their policies, but I wanted to ask before I start down that road - is there a legal or tax reason that one cannot roll assets from an existing employer 401k into a new Individual 401k? What are those reasons? (If this can't be done for legitimate reasons, it'll save me time.)

Thank you.

Edit: As a note, I have two 401ks from previous employees that I'd like to roll into my Individual 401k. I'm not currently employed through a W-2, and I don't have a current employer plan (hence the i401k).

  • Just to clarify, are you saying you have old employer 401ks but not a 401k with your current employer (if any)? – BrenBarn Jul 23 '15 at 17:12
  • Are you 100% self employed, or are you talking about transferring from a current employer's 401(k)? – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jul 23 '15 at 17:13
  • The plan documents of your employer plan should clarify eligibility for transfers and distributions. If you are currently employed, it's likely not allowed by your employer plan. – user662852 Jul 23 '15 at 17:34
  • @brenbarb Yes. I have no current employer and no current 401k. I will be doing 1099 work. – lunchmeat317 Jul 23 '15 at 18:22
  • @JoeTaxpayer While I've worked as a full-time employee before, I will likely be doing a lot of 1099 work in the future. From what I understand, that would qualify as self-employment, even though I would be getting paid by an employer. – lunchmeat317 Jul 23 '15 at 18:42
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This IRS chart says you can roll over a 401k to another 401k. This IRS page says that Solo 401ks "have the same rules and requirements as any other 401(k) plan", so you should be able to roll over a past employer 401k to a solo 401k. (You can't generally roll over an employer 401k while you're still with that employer, but you say these are old 401ks so they should be okay.) Other pages from various investment firms and financial bloggers also say it is possible to do this (e.g., here and here).

However this page on the Bogleheads wiki says that "not all Solo 401(k) plans accept incoming rollovers". So even if it's legal for you to do the rollover, that doesn't mean the company you're using to administer your Solo 401k will actually let you do it. If Vanguard won't let you do it, you could shop around to other Solo 401k providers to find one that will.

  • Right. Before I opened my Solo 401(k) with Schwab, I confirmed it would accept a rollover of my old 401(k) or IRA money. (No Roth flavor, no loan provision) – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jul 23 '15 at 19:03
  • @JoeTaxpayer Looking at that myself. Looks like I have a lot of plan documents to review. – lunchmeat317 Aug 20 '15 at 21:00

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