When I lived in the US, I contributed for a number of years with my employer to the company 401(k). When I then moved abroad, I found it difficult to stay in touch with my 401(k). The toll-free numbers I had used inside the US, to contact the plan administrators, did not work from overseas.

In related Q&A on this site, I see people advising that a person in my position, roll all the money over from their 401(k) into a self-directed traditional IRA. How easy is it to do this? I would have no problem paying a reasonable fee for a good service. Are there reputable companies that specialize in providing this service for individuals? Has anyone reading this been in my position? Any gotchas that I should look out for?

  • 1
    Interesting thread on the subject regarding Vanguard: bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=110773
    – Ben Miller
    Dec 26, 2015 at 13:50
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    Most brokerages (e.g. ETrade) will set up IRA or SEP-IRA accounts for you. I recently rolled my 401(k) over from a Hewitt-managed one to one with ETrade that is self-managed. I'm not sure how they'd go with someone overseas, but if the 401(k) is accessible in the US and you can fill in the appropriate paperwork, I doubt it would be a problem.
    – Peter K.
    Dec 27, 2015 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


It is typically very easy to roll a 401(k) into an IRA. Companies that provide IRA's are very experienced with it, and I would expect that they will take your calls from overseas. You will likely be able to do it over the internet without using a phone at all.

Just open an IRA with any brokerage company (Scottrade, Vanguard, Fidelity, Schwab, Ameritrade, etc.) and follow instructions to roll your 401(k) into it. Most likely they will need your signature, but usually a scan of a form you have filled out will do. Be sure to have information on your 401(k) provider, including your account number there, on hand. These companies are all very reputable and this is not a difficult transaction.

There's really no downside to rolling into an IRA. 401(k) plans usually have more limited options and/or worse fee structures and are frequently harder to work with, as you have observed.


This is more of a general answer about your situation than a specific answer to your question.

You might consider getting a SIP telephone number based in the US, or an even easier to use IP based phone number. That way you can use it through your Internet connection and make eaiser calls to US companies that you still have a business relationship with.

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