Search For Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
When all else fails, search for yourself in the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Not all employers participate in this service, but many do because it provides benefits that help them meet their legal requirements. It’s a free service, and it only requires your Social Security number.
Leave It With Your Former Employer
If you have more than $5,000 invested in your 401, most plans allow you to leave it where it is after you separate from your employer. If you have a substantial amount saved and like your plan portfolio, then leaving your 401 with a previous employer may be a good idea. If you are likely to forget about the account or are not particularly impressed with the plans investment options or fees, consider some of the other options.
If you leave your 401 with your old employer, you will no longer be allowed to make contributions to the plan.
Search The National Registry
Still not having any luck? Past employers may list you as a missing participant if you no longer work for the company but left your 401 behind. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a nationwide, secure database listing retirement plan account balances that have been left unclaimed .
Recommended Reading: What To Do With Your 401k When You Retire
Youre Our First Priorityevery Time
NerdWallet, Inc. is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. Its articles, interactive tools and other content are provided to you for free, as self-help tools and for informational purposes only. They are not intended to provide investment advice. NerdWallet does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or applicability of any information in regard to your individual circumstances. Examples are hypothetical, and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific investment issues. Our estimates are based on past market performance, and past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.
We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesnt feature every company or financial product available on the market, were proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward and free.
So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about , but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services.Here is a list of our partners.
A Closer Look At Your Available Options
The good news is whatever money thats in your 401 is yours to do with as you like. But when you no longer work for a company, any retirement accounts you have through your former company might need to be moved to your new employer. Or you may need to roll it over or into a brokerage account that you own completely.
Don’t Miss: What Is A Roth 401k Vs 401k
How 401 Rollovers Work
If you decide to roll over an old account, contact the 401 administrator at your new company for a new account address, such as ABC 401 Plan FBO Your Name, provide this to your old employer, and the money will be transferred directly from your old plan to the new or sent by check to you , which you will give to your new companys 401 administrator. This is called a direct rollover. Its simple and transfers the entire balance without taxes or penalty.
Another, even simpler option is to perform a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer. The majority of the process is completed electronically between plan administrators, taking much of the burden off of your shoulders.
A somewhat riskier method is the indirect or 60-day rollover in which you request from your old employer that a check be sent to you made out to your name. This manual method has the drawback of a mandatory tax withholdingthe company assumes you are cashing out the account and is required to withhold 20% of the funds for federal taxes. This means that a $100,000 401 nest egg becomes a check for just $80,000 even if your clear intent is to move the money into another plan.
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
Also Check: How Do I Find An Old 401k
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.
Option : Leave Your Money Where It Is
Usually, if your 401 has more than $5,000 in it, most employers will allow you to leave your money where it is. If youve been happy with your investment options and the plan has low fees, this might be a tempting offer. Before you decide, compare your old plan with any retirement plans offered at your new job or with an IRA of your own.
Your new employer-sponsored plan might have more limitations on it than your previous plan or other available options. Maybe there are fewer investment choices/options. Maybe it doesnt have an employer match or higher management fees. So youll want to look closely.
Also consider how often you tend to stay at jobs. If you change jobs every few years, you could end up with a trail of 401 plans at all the different places youve worked. Consolidating might be easier in the long run.
You May Like: How To Invest 401k After Retirement
Inaction Can Be Costly
If you have left money behind, it would behoove you to track it down. The average balance in forgotten accounts is $55,400. Over a lifetime, says Capitalize, failure to reclaim these assets could cost individuals as much as $700,000 in retirement savings, an estimate based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Census Bureau, 401 record-keepers, IRAs and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Forgetting about old 401s, and how much money is in them, is very common, says Kashif Ahmed, a CFP at American Private Wealth in Bedford, Massachusetts. Recently, we uncovered one for a client that had more than triple what she thought it had. Youve worked for this money, so its important to locate it and keep building it, says Tess Zigo, a CFP at Emerge Wealth Strategies in Palm Harbor, Florida. I’ve seen many young folks believe it or not who have old accounts sitting in money market funds not earning a dime.
Determine If You’re Better Off Rolling Your Account Or Leaving It
Thomas J Catalano is a CFP and Registered Investment Adviser with the state of South Carolina, where he launched his own financial advisory firm in 2018. Thomas’ experience gives him expertise in a variety of areas including investments, retirement, insurance, and financial planning.
If you’ve decided to leave your current job for another, you will need to decide what to do with the money that you have invested in your current company’s 401 plan. Options typically include leaving it where it is, rolling it over to a new employer’s plan, or opting for an IRA rollover. If you are about to change jobs, here’s what you need to know about rolling over your funds into a new employer’s 401 plan and the ins and outs of other options.
Read Also: How Soon Can I Get My 401k After I Quit
What To Do When You Find An Old 401
Once youve reconnected with your old 401, its time to decide what to do with it:
- Leave it with your old employer. If you contributed at least $5,000 to your old 401, you might consider leaving it where it is. But this may only be worthwhile if the account has competitive fees or offers access to unique investments. Otherwise, itll be yet another account to keep track of come retirement, and you may be better off rolling it over.
- New 401 rollover. Has your new employer offered you a 401? Consider consolidating your retirement funds by rolling your old retirement account into a new 401.
- IRA rollover. If you dont have a new 401 to move your old retirement funds into, consider rolling over into an individual retirement account. That way, your funds retain their tax-advantaged status.
- Cash it out. Consider this a last resort because cashing out a 401 ahead of schedule can result in major penalties.
- If youre older than 59 ½, you can access funds without penalty.
- If youre under 59 ½, withdrawals are subject to a 10% tax penalty and other fees.
Use Additional Government Document Recovery Tools
Lots of folks say the federal government is beholden to excessive paperwork and, in many ways, those people are right. But your hunt for an old 401 isn’t a good example of that mindset.
Exhibit “A” is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Database. The database can tell you if your company’s old 401 plan is still up and running, has been deep-sixed, or is being held by an outside administrator who can steer you to your old 401 account.
When using the website, the more information you can provide, the better. Your best bets include using the plan’s name, the name of your old employer, the city and state where the company resided, and the appropriate zip code.
Don’t Miss: How To Use Your 401k To Invest In Real Estate
How Much Of Your 401 Do You Get When You Leave An Employer
You are entitled to 100 percent of any contributions youve made into the 401 plan, but how much of an employer match youre entitled to is based on how the plan is set up and the vesting period. 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, based on the plans vesting schedule. The rest of the money set aside for you is forfeited back to the company. Most 401 providers delineate how much of your balance is fully vested. If youre not sure, you can always call to inquire.
How To Find And Claim Your Old Retirement Accounts
Whether you quit on your own accord, are fired, or laid off, leaving a job can be hectic. In the midst of the transition, dealing with a retirement account might get pushed pretty low on your to-do list.
While the money you contributed is yours forever, accounts can sometimes get forgotten about in the shuffle. And, in some cases, you may not have even realized youd had a retirement account if your employer automatically signed you up and withheld contributions.
Whether intentional or not, you can wind up with a handful of retirement accounts at different companies and lose track of some of them over time. Former employers and plan administrators may lose track of your current contact information.
Heres how to check and track down old accounts, and what you can do to get your finances organized.
Don’t Miss: How To Contact 401k Plan Administrator
If You Find The Money
What to do with your 401 funds when you find the account largely depends on where you find it.
If the account resides in your employer’s plan, you do have the option to leave the money and the account there — just note you can no longer contribute money to it.
To get back in the game with your sidelined 401, roll it over into an individual retirement account or a current employer’s 401 plan. That way you can put the fund money to work by investing in stocks, bonds and funds that appreciate in value and accumulate more money for your retirement, on a tax-efficient basis.
How To Transfer 401k When You Change Jobs
How To Transfer 401K When You Change Jobs. Leave the assets in the current 401 plan. A 401k rollover is when you transfer your funds from your employer to an individual retirement account or to a 401k plan with your new employer.
However, you will be required to pay a 10% penalty, in addition to income tax, on. For those with access, you may change jobs without the hassle of moving your 401 funds. Request a check for the entire balance made out to your new plan provider for your benefit.
Roll it into a traditional or roth ira outside of your new employers plan. Called auto portability, it lets you move your 401 account from your old job to a new employers 401 plan automatically.
The 10% early withdrawal penalty will amount to $5,000. Contact your previous 401 plan provider and request that your account is liquidated.
The truly smart move for you depends on your own individual circumstances and goals. As of 2022, its only possible to contribute up to $6,000 in an ira compared to $20,500 for a 401 or as much as $27,000 for those over age 50.
If you decide to transfer 401 to your new employerâs 401, you must first contact the new plan sponsor to discuss the transfer. There are various benefits of switching 401 to a new employer.
Cashing out before age 59½ incurs a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. Roll the assets into an ira.
You May Like: How To Close 401k Without Penalty
What If Your Employer Goes Out Of Business
Under federal law, your employer must keep your 401 funds separate from their business assets.
This means that even if your employer abruptly shuts their doors overnight, your money is protected. It cannot be used to pay off your companys loans, cover employee payroll, or for any other purpose.
If your company shut down abruptly, it is possible that a portion of money will be at risk. If your money has been withheld, but has not yet been sent to the 401 plan to be invested, the company could in theory, access those funds.
How Do I Find My Old 401
If you’re not sure where your old 401 is, there are three places it could likely be. Here’s where to find your old 401:
Right where you left it, in the old account set up by your employer.
In a new account set up by the 401 plan administrator.
In the hands of your states unclaimed property division.
Heres how to start your search:
Also Check: How To Pull From Your 401k
What Is A 401 Account
A 401 plan, named for the section of tax code that governs it, is a retirement plan sponsored by an employer, allowing employees to save a portion of their paycheck for retirement.
The advantage to employees of saving with a 401 plan is they are able to save funds they have earned, before taxes are deducted from a paycheck.
Many employers offer a company match meaning whatever the employee contributes, the company matches.
Although 401 plans were originally born as a supplement to pension plans, they are now often the sole retirement plans offered at companies.
Option : Roll Over Your Old 401 Into An Individual Retirement Account
Still another option is to roll over your old 401 into an IRA. The primary benefit of an IRA rollover is having access to a wider range of investment options, since youll be in control of your retirement savings rather than a participant in an employers plan. Depending on what you invest in, a rollover can also save you money from management and administrative fees, costs that can eat into investment returns over time. If you decide to roll over an old 401 into an IRA, you will have several options, each of which has different tax implications.
Don’t Miss: How Much Can You Borrow From 401k