What is a Vested Balance and How exactly Does it work?

by admin May 2, 2022

What is a Vested Balance? 

The amount of money in your retirement account is known as your vested balance. Your vested balance is the amount of money you can take with you if you quit your job or leave your employer.

Vested balance v/s Unvested Balance

So, how does a vested balance differ from an unvested balance? That is dependent on the source of the funds. The account balance of a company-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401k or 403b, is usually a combination of your own contributions plus employer matching contributions. Let’s say you put in 5% of your pay and your employer matches it with another 5% of your salary. Your investments are fully vested at all times. Period. You can take that money with you if you leave your employment at any moment for any reason. To avoid penalties and keep that amount working toward your retirement, it’s usually advisable to roll it into an IRA or another retirement plan.

However, any matching contributions made to your account by your employer may not be vested. The unvested balance is this. You won’t be able to take your matching contributions with you if you leave before they become available.

How does Vesting Work?

Any money you put in from your paycheck is always yours entirely. However, business matching funds often vest over time, usually at a rate of 25% to 33% each year, or entirely at once after three or four years. You can take the entire corporate match with you when you leave your employment once you’ve completely vested. If you aren’t completely vested, you will only be able to keep a fraction of the match, if any at all. Check with your company’s benefits administration to learn about your vesting schedule.

The bottom line is that it typically takes three to five years to own all of your business matching contributions. If you quit your work before then, you’ll forfeit some of your free money.

How to Know if you are fully Vested?

If you’ve met the employer’s time requirements, you’re completely vested, and you own 100% of the employer’s contribution. Some employers provide immediate vesting, while others require up to five years to be completely vested. To learn about the company’s vesting timeline, look at the summary plan description.

Vesting Schedule

An employer creates a vesting schedule to grant employees the right to particular asset classes as part of an incentive scheme. Employers utilize this form of incentive to reward long-term employees who have been loyal to the organization.

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Types of Vesting Schedule

When setting up an employer match, the employer has the choice of vesting in one of the following ways:

Immediate Vesting

Employees who have an instant vesting schedule obtain 100 percent ownership of their shares right away. As a result, if an employee leaves the company after receiving stock, the shares cannot be revoked.

This plan is uncommon, but when an employee is with the company for a long time and the employer is confident that they will not leave in the near future, vesting applies.

Grading Vesting

If your plan has a graduated vesting schedule, each year a portion of the match is vested. There is a limit to how far the employer may drag this out. The worst-case scenario for a graded vesting plan is 2-6 years. In a two-to-six-year vesting timeline, 20% of matching contributions get vested each year after you’ve worked there for two years. This means that vesting must begin after two years and must be completed within six years. Any employer match you make once you’ve been there is fully vested, and you can take it with you when you leave.

Cliff Vesting

Cliff vesting, unlike graded vesting, occurs at a particular period and not overtime. This means that in your second year with the company, you could be 0% vested and in your third year, you could be 100% vested.

Employers who use this method of vesting can extend the vesting period up to three years. This implies that if you quit your job after three years, you can keep all of your employer’s 401(k) contributions (k). If you leave the company before the required vesting period, however, you would forfeit the whole employer contribution.

Safe Harbor Vesting

A safe harbour vesting can be set up such that all employees get employer contributions to their retirement accounts. This lessens the administrative burden on companies while also ensuring that the retirement plan complies with IRS anti-discrimination guidelines.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) encourages all employees to participate in 401(k) programs. It ensures that the highest-paid employees or business owners do not contribute the maximum amount to their 401(k) plans for the year, while other employees contribute substantially less. The IRS wants to see that everyone, not just those with high-paying occupations, takes advantage of the plan. The IRS examines each retirement plan to ensure that high-paid employees’ average contributions do not exceed those of the rest of the workforce by more than 2%.

What is a Retirement Plan Vested Balance? 

The portion of a retirement plan account that a participant owns is also a vested account balance. The account balance multiplied by the vesting percentage equals the vested account balance. Only if the vesting percentage is 100% may a vested account balance equal the account balance. The vested account balance will always be less than the account balance in all other cases. Consider the following scenario: the vesting percentage is 40%, and the account balance is $12,000. The vested account balance in this example is $4,800.

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How does the Vested Balance impact Retirement? 

You’ll have a few alternatives regarding your 401k if you retire, change jobs, or even get a resignation. What happens to your 401k when you leave a firm is mainly up to you. It also depends on why you’re leaving and how long you’ve been there. When you resign or move employment, you have a lot of control over what happens to your 403(b). It’s possible that you’ll be able to keep your 403(b) with your previous employment. You can withdraw it, roll it into an IRA, or transfer it to a new employer if you don’t want to keep it.

What are the benefits of Vesting and the vested balance?

1. Cash availability

Employees get compensation through stock options and equity. It can also be a substitute for cash bonuses and prizes. They allow the corporation to have a larger portion of cash on hand. It is useful to pay down current liabilities and in emergency situations.

2. Reduced employee turnover

Companies can secure loyalty and long-term futures with some skilled individuals by offering stock options that will trigger by time-based milestones.

3. Vesting conditions

Many high-caliber employees may resign or get rejection as a result of harsh vesting terms. As a result, establishing a vesting contract requires thinking, diligence, and investment.


Some firms provide matching payments to their employees’ retirement plans as a benefit. Workers become completely vested or own their employer-provided funds, after a certain number of years of service. The length of time a corporation can make its labor become fully vested is governed by federal and state legislation. Depending on the kind of plan, vesting schedule, and other criteria, the maximum term ranges from two to seven years.


Q – Can I withdraw my vested balance fidelity?

You can withdraw money from your Fidelity brokerage account and use the Fidelity Electronic Funds Transfer account service to transfer it to another account you own, or. Request to pay your funds by check to your mailing address.

Q – What is an Unvested balance?

However, any matching contributions may not be vested that are made by the employer to your account. The unvested balance is this.