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When and for what reasons can a previous employer remove a portion of contributed 403b funds?

Posted on 2016-08-22
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Last Modified: 2016-10-16
I know this might be somewhat testing the bounds of what you all have knowledge of - but as many of us here are professionals I have to assume a least a few of you might have some input here :)

I worked as IT support at a non profit for 4 years and was given employer contributions via their profit sharing program into a 403b.

A bit over a year ago I resigned from that position as part of the process of moving to another state. Recently I decided to close the 403b out and take a check payout of the balance after taxes and fees associated. The overall value was *low enough* that the taxes and fees were acceptable in this instance in that the remaining balance was useful enough for the purpose at hand to justify them.

However, when I received the check it was less than expected, and when I asked why I was told I wasn't "fully vested"... but not informed of this during the lengthy paperwork process at any step.

What I would like to know is:
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01) How are vesting terms determined?
02) Why wasn't the amount taken back taken back when I resigned?
03) Can an employer take back money years and years later if the previous employee is deemed not vested or is there is a twilight?
04) If only a portion of the balance of my 403b is mine - and I make considerable profit on my investments from that fund over 10, 20, 40+ years if I'd decided to not close the account out.... who gets the profits from my choice of investments over that time - them or me?

05) Is this normal - or is something odd afoot?
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Question by:CLRH2O
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Paul MacDonald earned 250 total points
ID: 41766005
1) Not qualified to answer this, but... Vesting would be determined by the employer.  Many employers defer full vestment to encourage employees to remain with the company.  Any vestment schedule should have been part of an employee handbook or savings plan documentation you received.  In other words, it should have been disclosed.

2) Not qualified to answer this.

3) Not qualified to answer this.

4) Not qualified to answer this, but I would anticipate the employer having access only to its portion of the deposit(s).

5) Not qualified to answer this.
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by:CLRH2O
ID: 41766036
Thank you for your input in so far as you could - I appreciate it.

And anyone else who might want to contribute as well - by all means feel free :)

I've been looking through the "Handbook" as it were..... but like much of the documentation from their end, it's sparse at best - sometimes completely incorrect at worst (the insurance books each year during open enrollment were stunningly broken time and time again). In the meantime I've reached out to my former payroll rep there to see about getting some hard-copy on the terms.

I assume the terms within my employment dates are what count - not any changes to those terms after  my departure date... hmmm I wonder?
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Assisted Solution

by:tliotta
tliotta earned 250 total points
ID: 41780760
I'm no expert at all, but a number of previous employers had 5 years as the vestment threshold for many types of investment accounts. A 403b, though, is one retirement investment account that has some specific rules for vestment that don't quite follow the 5-year example. I believe that only some employers are allowed to offer 403b plans.

There are two types of vestment, "cliff" and "graded" as well as "matching" and "non-matching" employer contributions. In order to know more about what you should see, we'd have to know first which type of vestment your employer implemented for you and, if "graded", what the schedule was. Then we'd need to know if all employer contributions were "matching" or not and perhaps at what rate. (That's getting beyond any knowledge I might have.)

It's also possible (probable?) that early distribution could have significant effect on distribution amount due to higher taxation and possible penalty. Final amount calculation could require detailed knowledge of the plan, the overall rules of 403b plans and possibly even instructions from you on how the distribution should be made (e.g., at a 'standard' withholding rate of 20% or other).
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