When you're cleaning out your desk for a career change, remember to pack up your retirement plan savings, too. You have several options for what to do with the money, each with its own pros and cons. Here's a look at 4 choices and their key considerations:

Option 1: Cash it out. Taking the cash can be tempting, but also very costly. Although you'll receive the money to use now, you'll actually collect only a portion of your balance, because you'll owe taxes at your current income tax rate along with a 10 percent penalty if you're younger than age 55. While this hit may not seem like much if your balance is small, you also lose out on the benefits of compounding interest (interest earned on your savings is reinvested, and in turn, generates more earnings). Withdrawing money now could mean tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income over a couple of decades.

Option 2: Keep your money in your soon-to-be former employer's plan. If you're happy with the plan's investment options and fees and don't mind tracking multiple accounts, then keeping your money where it is might be an option for you. Be sure to refresh your memory on how the account works. For example, if your account is under a certain balance, then your former employer may not allow you to keep it. Additional contributions to the account may not be allowed.

Option 3: Roll the balance into an individual retirement account (IRA). Consolidating your accounts with one financial institution can make it easier to monitor your accounts, manage your savings and schedule required minimum distributions in retirement. You'll also avoid any rules your employer may have about plan distributions. With a Navy Federal IRA, you get the security of a certificate, a savings account or a money market account plus the tax advantages of an IRA. That means you can count on competitive rates to grow your savings. If you choose this option, then a direct rollover—in which your retirement plan transfers your balance directly to your IRA custodian—is usually easiest and won't incur any taxes or withholding.

Option 4: Roll the balance into your new employer's retirement plan. If you'll soon be joining another company, you might consider rolling the funds into its plan. Not all plans allow rollovers, so check with the new plan's administrator. Be sure to consider the fees and investment options available, too. Keep in mind that you'll likely have to wait until you leave your new employer before you can move the money elsewhere.

You Have Time to Decide

Separating from your employer can be a good time to step back and take a look at your retirement finances—but don't worry! Even if you left your previous employer a long time ago, it's not too late to roll over your accounts. Not sure where to go from here? Talk to a Navy Federal Financial Advisor for personalized investment and retirement information. We're here to walk you through your choices, answer questions or even help with the rollover paperwork. Learn more about IRAs or visit a Navy Federal branch near you.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.