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Vanguard: Rolling Over 401(k), Changing Account Names & Ownership

Ever have one of those days where you crank out a bunch of things on your to-do list? I had one of those last week and it had a retirement and investing theme to it (that’s why I’m writing about it!). It consisted of kicking off the 401(k) rollover process, and researching what we needed to do to change the name on a brokerage account and consolidate multiple accounts. These all had to deal with Vanguard and, naturally, they made it painless.

One thing, above almost all else, I love about Vanguard is the fact that I can call their phone number and talk to someone in minutes. I don’t have to play the “hit 0 until the menu system gives up”-game, I just call and wait a few moments until someone picks up. Today, I spoke with a representative named Fred who was very helpful. After figuring out the exact name of the check for the rollover, I asked about changing names on accounts and consolidating them. Since I had called the rollover phone line, these questions were a bit of a curveball but he was able to help me out by linking up with Brian in brokerage services to figure out what we needed to do. That’s service. Oh, and it wasn’t outsourced to someone in a foreign country reading off a script (and they still only charge relative-pennies for their index funds!).

Rolling Over 401(k) to Vanguard

Rolling over a 401(k) to Vanguard, and I suspect any other brokerage, is painless. Simply call up your 401(k) provider and tell them that you’d like to terminate your account and initiate a Trustee to Trustee rollover. For Vanguard, the name on the check is Vanguard FTC; check with your IRA provider for their legal name (this is very important, putting the wrong name can delay the rollover process). My 401(k) provider was CitiStreet and they are required, either by their policy or my employer’s, to mail the check to me. I then forward it to Vanguard’s PO Box (Vanguard Group, PO Box 1110, Valley Forge PA 19482-1110), which will add two or three days to the process. One thing I do need to add to the check package is a Letter of Instruction indicating how they should deposit the funds. Here’s what mine said:

To Whom It May Concern:
   Included is a 401(k) rollover check that I would like deposited into my Rollover IRA account #XXXXXXXXXX. Please deposit the funds into these funds:

      50% into 0533-XXXXXXXXXX (VEIEX)
      50% into 0699-XXXXXXXXXX (VFIFX)

If there are any questions or concerns, please contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Easy as pie! Unfortunately, I did this last Thursday and missed the post-Google rally by the market on Friday… but one shouldn’t time the market!

Changing Name on Accounts

This is a bit of an extension onto the changing your maiden name after marriage [3] because I never discussed brokerage accounts. To change your name, seek out the “Change of Ownership” section and select the reason you’re changing names – for us it’s Marriage but there are options for death, divorce, gifting, financial planning, and other. Selecting marriage will automatically select the reason “From an individual nonretirement account to a joint account” (there is only one). After that, you select the from accounts, for us it’s a mutual fund account, and then it’s onto the forms (we opted to download and print them, rather than mail which can take up to 10 days!).

send in a copy of your marriage certificate and a Letter of Instruction indicating that you want your name changed from X to Y along with a signature guarantee or medallion guarantee. You can get a signature of medallion guarantee at your local bank and it’s different than a notary. We will be mailing that form to the same PO Box 1110 as the Rollover check.

Here’s our Letter of Instruction for that one:

To Whom It May Concern:
   Please change the legal name on account #XXXXXXXXXX from Jim’s Beautiful FiancĂ©e to Jim’s Beautiful Wife.

If there are any questions or concerns, please contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Consolidating Accounts

Lastly, we have account consolidation. At the moment, both my wife and I have accounts at Vanguard. In the near near future, we would like to consolidate those accounts into a single sign-on and be able to manage it through one account. To consolidate, we need to change the ownership of her account from an individual to a joint. To do this, there is a change of ownership form on Vanguard.com that we will need to print out and get signature guarantees for. This is necessary because we cannot consolidate accounts until I am considered an owner of the account. The signature guarantees are required because she is essentially surrendering ownership. This was all explained very plainly by Vanguard, which I appreciated.

And can you imagine, that entire phone call took about fifteen minutes (including two minutes of hold time while Fred got Brian on the line). This is why Vanguard is on the list of companies I’d promote for free [4].