Rollovers into traditional IRAs occur during the working years, not just at retirement, according to the Investment Company Institute.

In 2007 and 2008, each five-year age band from the 30-to-34 age group up to the 60-to-64 age group accounted for 10% to 13% of the total IRA rollovers.

Nearly 21% of all traditional IRA investors in 2008 had made a rollover that year or in 2007.

The data comes from a database unveiled in July that collects account-level data of more than 10 million individual retirement accounts.

Among younger people, most opened their IRA accounts with a rollover.

Other sources showed that more than half of households owning traditional IRAs report having done a rollover.

IRA investments, which totaled $4.2 trillion at the end of the second quarter, make up more than one-quarter of total U.S. retirement assets and nearly 10% of U.S. households' total financial assets.

In 2007, according to preliminary estimates by the IRS income statistics division, rollovers accounted for $323.1 billion in gross inflows to traditional IRAs, and contributions totaled $14.4 billion.

In short, rollovers have played a significant role in boosting the aggregate level of assets in traditional IRAs.

Clients who have made poor investment choices or who have high expenses in their 401(k) accounts could roll over to an IRA. It is true that people can borrow against a 401(k) balance, which is not permitted by IRA rules, but they are permitted to withdraw money from an IRA without meeting the specific guidelines in most 401(k)s, though withdrawals are taxable and incur a 10% penalty.

Cogent Research, which surveyed 4,000 U.S. investors with at least $100,000 of investable assets, said that 13% had closed at least one investment account last year.

Of those, the share that cited a rollover as their reason for closing an account doubled last year, compared to the previous five years, and the share citing a need to gain access to an account's funds tripled.

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