Question: I was recently hired for a job in the public sector, working for the state of New York. My previous job was in the private sector. My 401(k) from my previous job is still being administered by my former employer, and it's now worth about $108,000.

The benefits administrator of my present employer has told me that I am not allowed to roll my 401(k) into any pension or savings plans that my employer offers. What are my options for doing something productive with my 401(k), instead of just letting it sit there? Tim, NY, NY

Answer: A rollover IRA (Individual retirement Account) is designed for circumstances just like yours. It's a routine transaction. First, figure out what financial institution offers the mutual fund options and services you'd like. They'll have the forms online for making a rollover IRA, but I always recommend calling the 1-800 number and ask for a human being to walk you through the process. The reason is that you want to make sure that your retirement savings are transferred institution to institution. In other words, you don't touch the money. It goes from your 401(k) to the financial institution you've picked for your IRA. This way you preserve the pension's tax shelter.

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