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How Do I Find Lost 401k Money

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How To Find A Lost Retirement Account

How to find an old 401k

A national database to find forgotten 401s and pensions could be on the way, but savers should take action now to locate any missing retirement accounts.

  • Living in Retirement
  • 401

At a time when many Americans are worried that they wont have enough money to retire comfortably, thousands have lost track of billions of dollars in savings.

There are more than 24 million forgotten 401 accounts containing some $1.35 trillion in assets, according to a report from Capitalize, which helps workers roll over their retirement plans when they change jobs. Companies are also holding on to billions in unpaid pension payments earned by former employees.

The problem is so widespread that Congress is considering legislation to address it. SECURE Act 2.0, which includes a wide range of benefits and protections for retirement savers, would create a national online lost-and-found database to help people track down these orphaned plans.

Brian Stivers, owner of Stivers Financial Services, in Knoxville, Tenn., says he typically meets one to two new clients a month who are in this situation. Most of the time, theyve changed jobs and forgotten about an old plan, usually because it had a small balance. Retirement plans are also misplaced when one spouse dies and the survivor is unaware of accounts with his or her former employers.

Finding A 401 From A Previous Employer

The easiest way to find a lost 401 is to contact your previous employers human resources department. They are most likely to have the balance and other details of your 401 account. They can also help you with documentation if you are looking to transfer your existing balance to a new 401 account. If an external agency is managing the plan, you can get the agencys contact information from them.

While contacting your old employer, be sure to provide them with necessary details such as your complete name, Social Security number , and the exact period for which you worked for them.

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What If You Are The Beneficiary Of A 401 Plan

If you are the beneficiary of a 401 plan, youll have a little bit different set of rules that apply to taking money out of the 401 plan. Your choices will depend on whether you were the spouse or non-spouse of the 401 plan participant and whether the 401 plan participant had reached age 70 1/2the age for required minimum distributions .

If you or your spouse turned 70 1/2 before Jan. 1, 2020, the age for RMDs is still 70 1/2. If you or your spouse turned 70 1/2 on or after Jan. 1, 2020, the age for RMDs is 72.

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Found It Do The 401 Rollover

Once youve found your 401, what do you do with it?

The single best thing you can do to not lose your retirement account is to roll it over to your new employers 401 plan, Pitman says. Then your savings old and new will be in one place.

But a 401 might come with limited investment options or higher fees. To avoid these, you might consider rolling the cash to a traditional or Roth IRA. A traditional IRA would keep your money tax-deferred a Roth IRA would require you to pay taxes on the rolled-over amount, but with no taxes taken out when you withdraw it in retirement.

And the next time you switch jobs, dont forget to pack your 401 with you. Its your money the longer you wait between jobs, the more difficult and murky it becomes finding it, Preovolos says.

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Follow These 2 Tips To Prevent This Issue

Find a Missing 401k Retirement Plan
  • Request a Distribution as Soon as You Terminate Employment: when you leave your job, consider requesting a distribution of your benefits right away, so you can roll those funds into your new employers plan or an individual retirement account.
  • Update Your Contact Information with Your Former Employer Every Time You Move: If you left your past retirement account with your previous employer, make sure you contact the company every time you move to update your contact information or request a distribution. If the employer has your contact information, you should receive benefit statements at least annually. If you wait years to take action, changes may make it hard to locate your account.
  • Also Check: Can I Rollover My Current 401k To An Ira

    Why You Can Trust Bankrate

    Founded in 1976, Bankrate has a long track record of helping people make smart financial choices. Weve maintained this reputation for over four decades by demystifying the financial decision-making process and giving people confidence in which actions to take next.

    Bankrate follows a strict editorial policy, so you can trust that were putting your interests first. All of our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts, who ensure everything we publish is objective, accurate and trustworthy.

    Our reporters and editors focus on the points consumers care about most how to save for retirement, understanding the types of accounts, how to choose investments and more so you can feel confident when planning for your future.

    Plan For Your Retirement Over Your Career

    Remember that retirement planning is not a singular event, but rather something you do over the course of your career.

    Keep this mindset and continually review your retirement planning progress and account balances. If you havent started to save for retirement, its never too late.

    Talk to your HR department about retirement planning options, or open up an IRA, or even basic savings account to get started putting money aside for your future.

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    Ways To Dig Up An Old 401 Account

    Before we play “lost and found” with your old 401 plan, know that even though you can’t find your 401 account , your plan money is federally protected.

    That’s right. By law, nobody can access, steal or otherwise make off with your 401 funds while they’ve gone missing.

    With Uncle Sam at your back, use these tips and strategies to find a lost 401 account.

    How Retirement Benefits Go Missing

    How to Find an Old 401(k)

    It is rare for a person to stay with one company an entire career. Additionally, some companies go out of business after several years of successful operations. With both people and companies in constant transition, it is common for people to lose track of their accrued retirement benefits. Whats more, people might know they have retirement benefits available to them but not know how to find what they have.

    For example, lets say a person worked for a company from ages 25 to 35, but now is age 45. The company the person worked for over a decade ago has gone under. He is still entitled to his benefits it just might be challenging to find them.

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    Reference An Old Statement

    Because companies reorganize, merge, get acquired, or go out of business every day, its possible that your former employer is no longer around. In that case, try to locate a lost 401k plan statement and look for contact information for the plan administrator. If you dont have an old statement, reach out to former coworkers and ask if they have an old statement.

    Find The Contact Information And Address Of Your Account Holder

    What happens if the company is no longer in business? Well, your retirement account should still be held somewhere. Its your money, after all.

    You can go to the Abandoned Plan database Opens in new window, hosted by the Department of Labor. There you can search the company, and you will be provided with information on how to locate the lost plan.

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    How To Find Your 401

    1. Put in the legwork

    In most cases, its fairly simple to track down a missing 401 plan. Start by contacting your former employers human resources department. Someone there should be able to look up your records and let you know if you have a plan and what options are available.

    If the plan is now managed by another bank or brokerage firm, HR should be able to provide you with that contact information. Past 401 statements or plan documents also may include contact information for the plan administrator.

    If your company has been acquired by another company, you may have to dig a little more. Start by searching for any news you can find online that lists details about the acquisition, including the name and location of the purchasing company. If youre still in touch with former colleagues from that job, they may be able to provide you with the information as well.

    2. National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

    If your online sleuthing doesnt turn up anything, you can search the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, which helps employers connect with former employees who havent claimed their retirement benefits.

    Note that if a plan doesnt show up on this registry, that doesnt mean you dont have one. It may just mean that your former employer hasnt added your records to the database yet. The site notes that you should check back in the future, as more participants are added to the database daily.

    3. U.S. Department of Labors Abandoned Plan Search

    How Much Of Your 401 Do You Get When You Leave An Employer

    How to Find Unclaimed Money in Your Name

    This one is definitely a 401 FAQ that many people wonder about. You are entitled to 100 percent of any contributions youve made into the plan, and how much of any employer match you are entitled to is based on how the plan is set up. A vesting schedule is based on the length of time required to have ownership in the employers contributions. If you are 100 percent vested in employer contributions you will receive all of the money the company has contributed on your behalf.

    If you have not been with the company for the required amount of time you may receive a percentage of employer contributions, again based on the plans vesting schedule. The rest of the money set aside for you is forfeited back to the company for uses prescribed in the plan documents. Most 401 providers delineate how much of your balance is fully vested. If youre not sure, you can always call to inquire.

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    Checking With The Department Of Labor

    Different types of retirement plans, including 401k plans, are required to keep certain information on file with the IRS and the Department of Labor . One key piece of information is DOL Form 5500. This form is used to collect data for employee benefit plans that are subject to federal ERISA guidelines.

    So how does that help me find my 401k? The Department of Labor offers a Form 5500 search tool online that you can use to locate lost 401k plans. You can search by plan name or plan sponsor. If you know either one, you can look up the plans Form 5500, which should include contact information. From there, you can reach out to the plan sponsor to track down your lost 401k.

    Take These Steps First If Youre Looking For Lost Retirement Funds

    The first thing you should do when youre looking for lost retirement accounts is to contact your previous employer.

    If the company still exists, you should be able to reach out to the human resources department. Ask someone in the department if theres a 401 account or pension plan in your name.

    If you cant remember every company for which youve worked, it can help to check your old financial paperwork such as retirement account statements or pay stubs. You may be able to find your retirement account number or the contact information of the plan administrator.

    Not sure whether youre owed any retirement funds and lacking any old paperwork to rifle through? There are still plenty of online resources you can use to search for your lost retirement accounts.

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    Move Your Money To More Stable Investments

    If you’re nearing retirement age and you see your 401 declining, you may not be able to wait for your portfolio to recover before you need to begin using that money. In this case, move more of your money to more stable investments like bonds. When you buy a corporation’s or a government’s bonds, you’re lending money to that entity, which it promises to pay back with interest over time. The only way you wouldn’t be repaid would be if the entity defaults on the loan, which doesn’t happen often — unless you’re talking about .

    Another option for the conservative investor is low-volatility ETFs, also known as minimum variance ETFs. These are known for experiencing fewer ups and downs than most ETFs.

    These investment products may not provide as large a return as individual stocks, but they also tend to be more stable, so there’s less risk of them losing a lot of their value.

    Lost Participants: I Ain’t Missing You At All

    How to Find Unclaimed Money for Free | Unclaimed Funds| Unclaimed Property

    Nope, this isnt an article about bad pop songs from the 1980s, but it is about something that can be just as much of a bother lost participants with remaining balances in your retirement plan. Whether you are trying to clean up small residual balances or trying to wrap up a plan termination, there are few things as frustrating as trying to locate missing participants. Fortunately, there are some helpful rules that provide guidance on how to handle these situations.

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    Roll Your Assets Into A New Employer Plan

    If youre changing jobs, you can roll your old 401 account assets into your new employers plan . This option maintains the accounts tax-advantaged status. Find out if your new plan accepts rollovers and if there is a waiting period to move the money. If you have Roth assets in your old 401, make sure your new plan can accommodate them. Also, review the differences in investment options and fees between your old and new employers 401 plans.

    Find 401s With Your Social Security Number

    All your 401s are linkedin to your social security number when you enrolled. Theoretically you should be able to find all your 401s with your SSN. However, in practice it’s pretty hard for one to do so. As far as we know, Beagle is the only company that simplifies this process and can conduct a comprehensive 401 search using your SSN. Once they find your 401s, they also help you with the tedious rollover process.

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    Find Your Retirement Accounts

    In order to corral all your accounts, you first must locate all your retirement plans.

    If you know you had a plan with certain employers but dont know how to access it, reach out to your former company. They should provide you with the information you need to access the account.

    What happens if the company is no longer in business? Well, your retirement account should still be held somewhere. Its your money, after all. You can go to the Abandoned Plan database Opens in new window, hosted by the Department of Labor. There you can search the company, and you will be provided with information on how to locate the lost plan.

    You can also search the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits Opens in new window to find plans under your name.

    Once you find one account, you can potentially spot a few more, as theres a possibility you have multiple plans hosted by the same company. The other accounts should come up as you log into the management companys website.

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    Too Complicated Get Some Help

    How to Find Previous 401k Accounts

    If this process seems like a lot of work, youâre not alone. Locating your old 401 accounts and finding the proper place to transfer them to can get confusing.

    Fortunately, Beagle can do all of the difficult work for you. The tasks of finding your accounts and facilitating their transfers are all done for you. Getting started is easy.

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    How To Reclaim Your Retirement Plan With A Previous Employer

    Millions of Americans accidentally or unknowingly leave money in retirement plans with previous employers. According to a study by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, Americans lost track of more than $7.7 billion in retirement savings in 2015.

    If you’ve left a retirement plan with a previous employer, not to worry. Here are 6 tips you can follow to reclaim your money.

    How Do I Track Down Lost Participants

    The Department of Labor spells out four steps that plan sponsors should take to try to locate missing participants:

    • Certified Mail: Send a certified letter to the participants last known address. If he or she signs for it, you have confirmation of receipt.
    • Check Related Records: The recordkeeper may not have a current address, but perhaps the companys payroll provider or health insurer has something more up-to-date. Reviewing other company and plan-related records may turn up a location.
    • Check with Designated Beneficiary: Usually, a beneficiary is someone close to the participant, such as a spouse or a family member. If the participant is missing, perhaps his or her beneficiary knows where to look.
    • Use Free Electronic Search Tools: There are all sorts of free tools on the internet that might help. These include search engines, social media, or public record databases such as those for licenses or real estate holdings. Plan fiduciaries should make use of these types of services.

    The DOL goes on to suggest that plan fiduciaries should consider any relevant facts and circumstances to determine if other actions should be taken if these steps do not turn up any results. For example, using a commercial locator service or various paid internet search tools. Since the fees incurred in doing the search can be charged to the participants account, one relevant factor is the size of the account balance in question.

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