Originally Posted by E36_325i
Yes, you need to find out which financial firm managed each companies retirement plan and get them all to cut you a check. You can roll all the plans into your current plan to consolidate them.
Originally Posted by gatorfast
Your basic options will either be to 1. have them cut you a check (not recommended since you will incur taxes and early payment penalty) 2. Roll the funds into your current employers 401K 3. Roll the funds into a traditional or Roth IRA
A little bit of misguided information here.
There's really zero point(and zero benefit) to rolling balances from previous plans into your current one...besides maybe the "feel-good" factor of seeing one big amount all in one place.
Otherwise, rolling them all into an IRA is going to be your best bet. As long as you complete a direct rollover, there will be no penalties to worry about. Additionally, having those funds in an IRA(as opposed to a 401k) will give you a lot more freedom regarding investment options.
Roth vs Traditional is always a tough debate. There are a significant number of what-if's and other assumptions to be made in order to come up with a definite answer on which is going to be better. Keep in mind though, if you convert those pre-tax 401k dollars into a Roth, you may wind up getting hit with a pretty large tax burden next time you file.
Side note: All of these posts seem to assume it's a 401k(or 403b). Probably a pretty safe bet, but calling it a "retirement plan" is about as generic as saying "I have a 2009 car".