Plan Your Retirement With Your 401 K
If you haven’t already, it’s crucial that you start to plan your retirement as soon as possible. Financial security is a vital part of having a healthy and happy retirement. The aim of having a 401 k in the first place is that it gives you freedom from work and acts as a nest egg. You might be working hard now, but you want to be able to truly enjoy your golden years. Having the proper retirement plans in place is the easiest way to ensure this. If you start planning to retire well before the time comes, you should be in a very strong position financially.
Take the time to come up with plans for your retirement while you still have a job. These plans don’t have to be concrete. All you have to do is get an idea of how your retirement may look financially. Then you can plan distributions from your 401 k, as well as any investments you may want to investigate.
Looked For Unclaimed Money
“Ghosted” 401 money certainly qualifies as missing money, and it could be uncovered on digital money-funder platforms like missingmoney.com.
The site, run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, runs free searches for not just retirement funds, but for money in old bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, escrow accounts, and insurance policies. According to the website’s directions, if you get a “hit” on the site, just claim the property and fill out the requested details, then submit and you will receive instructions on the next steps from the state where you made the claim.
How To Find Lost 401 Account Funds
If you suspect youve lost track of some old 401 funds, or if your old company has gone out of business, you may still be able to find that money.
If Congress passes the legislation, the proposed SECURE Act 2.0 intends to create a national, online lost and found for orphaned retirement plans. In the meantime, your best option is to work through the options below.
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Search Form 5500 Directory
All employers that provide 401 plans to their employees are required to fill out a 5500 form every year with the DOL. Websites like FreeERISA* allow users to search by company name to locate the correct Form 5500. Another option is to search the DOLs 5500 database. Both simple searches will provide you with additional contact information.
For further assistance in finding lost 401 plans, the U.S. Department of Labor has an Abandoned Plan Search, which helps participants and others find out whether a particular plan is in the process of beingor already has beenterminated. The name of the Qualified Termination Administrator responsible for the termination will be listed as well, giving you a good idea of who to contact .
But beware: some companies, even legitimate ones, can acquire your information about unclaimed retirement accounts and offer to assist you with your search, often with a percentage fee for their services.
When it comes to planning and saving for retirement, its vital to have all your assets accounted for. Locating an old 401 plan is like finding cash in the pocket of an old pair of jeans. Its money you forgot you had but are happy you found. So if you know youve contributed funds to a 401 account but cant figure out where those funds are, the resources listed above may help you find past retirement accounts that may have been lost along your employment journey.
Government And Military Pension Resource
Depending on your role in the military, some pensions are available to both veterans and their survivors. Be sure to refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information.
- Department of Veteran Affairs: If you or your deceased spouse is a veteran, you can find information on your pension at the VAs pension website.
- State government websites: If you were an employee of your state or local government, be sure to check your states government website to search for information regarding your pension.
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Contact The 401 Plan Administrator
If your employer is no longer around, try getting in touch with the plan administrator, which may be listed on an old statement.
If youre unable to find an old statement, you still may be able to find the administrator by searching for the retirement plans tax return, known as Form 5500.
You can find a 5500s by the searching the name of your former employer at www.efast.dol.gov.
If you locate a Form 5500 for an old plan, it should have the contact information on it.
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Your best bet is to visit FreeERISA.com, which can help you track down your old 401 using the following website tools:
- Code search: Find employee benefit and retirement plan filings by location.
- Dynamic name search: Find 5500s even if the plan sponsor’s name changed.
- Instant View: See benefit filings right in your browser instantly.
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Option : Move The Money To An Ira
If you’re not able to transfer the funds to your current 401 or you don’t want to, you can roll over the funds to an IRA instead. The process is the same as doing a rollover to a new 401, and you still have the choice between a direct or indirect rollover.
You’ll need to set up a new IRA with any broker if you don’t already have one. Make sure you choose an IRA that’s taxed the same way as your old 401 funds. Most 401s are tax-deferred, which means your contributions reduce your taxable income in the year you make them, but you pay taxes on your withdrawals in retirement. You want a traditional IRA in this case because the government taxes these funds the same way.
If you had a Roth 401, you want a Roth IRA. Both of these accounts give you tax-free withdrawals in retirement if you pay taxes on your contributions the year you make them.
In most cases, losing track of your old 401 doesn’t mean the money is gone for good. But finding it is only half the challenge. You must also decide where to keep those funds going forward so they’ll be most useful to you. Think the decision through carefully, then follow the steps above.
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Handling A Previous 401k
You usually have a few options when it comes to handling a 401k from a former employer. These include leaving the 401k where it is, rolling it into a taxable or nontaxable Individual Retirement Account or transferring it to a 401k with your current employer and cashing it out. Of all your options, cashing out will cost you the most now and in the future. You will have to pay income taxes on the withdrawal along with a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. You’ll also lose the tax benefits offered by the 401k as a qualified retirement plan.
What To Do With A Lost Retirement Account When You Find It
Once youve found a lost retirement account, what you do with it depends on what type of plan it is and where its located.
Old 401k balances can be rolled into your current employers plan or rolled into an IRA in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. You can also request a payout of the plan balance, but if you are under the age of 59.5, the payout will be subject to income taxes and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
If you find an old pension through the PBGC, youll have to go through a process to verify your identity. Once the PBGC has established that you are owed the benefits, you can apply for them at any time once youve reached retirement age.
Its not uncommon for former employees to leave funds in a former employers retirement plan, believing theyll get around to dealing with it later. Years pass by, and maybe youve forgotten about a few old accounts. Even if they didnt amount to much at the time, a few hundred dollars here and there combined with some market growth over the years just might add up to a nice addition to your retirement savings. Its worth a look!
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Rolling Over Your 401k
If you roll over your 401k, you can do it directly from your 401k plan to your new IRA account. This way no taxes are withheld. Set up an IRA with the financial institution of your choice, and its representative will help you contact the institution that manages your 401k plan to request a direct rollover. When you do the rollover, you can choose to have a percentage of the account distributed to you in the form of a check, but this part is subject to tax and penalties. You can also withdraw cash from your IRA after you roll over funds, but you’ll pay taxes and the 10 percent penalty until you reach the age of 59 and six months.
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.
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Roll Over 401 Into An Ira
For those who would prefer not to rely on their new companys 401 plan’s investment offerings, rolling over a 401 to an IRA is another option. Again, rollovers can be direct, direct trustee-to-trustee transfers, or indirect, with the distribution paid to the account owner. But either way, once you start the process, it has to happen within 60 days.
Ford generally favors rolling the money over into the new companys 401 plan, though: For most investors, the 401 plan is simpler because the plan is already set up for you safer because the federal government monitors 401 plans carefully less expensive, because costs are spread over many plan participants and provides better returns, because plan investments are typically reviewed for their performance by an investment advisor and a company 401 investment committee.
Youve Got Options But Some May Be Better Than Others
After you leave your job, there are several options for your 401. You may be able to leave your account where it is. Alternatively, you may roll over the money from the old 401 into a new account with your new employer, or roll it into an individual retirement account , but you must first see when you are eligible to participate in the new plan. You can also take some or all of the money out, but there are serious tax consequences to that.
Make sure to understand the particulars of the options available to you before deciding which route to take.
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Move Money To New Employer’s 401
Although there’s no penalty for keeping your plan with your old employer, you do lose some perks. Money left in the former companys plan cannot be used as the basis for loans. More importantly, investors may easily lose track of investments left in previous plans. I have counseled employees who have two, three, or even four 401 accounts accumulated at jobs going back 20 years or longer, Ford said. These folks have little or no idea how well their investments are doing.
For accounts between $1,000 and $5,000, your company is required to roll the money into an IRA on your behalf if it forces you out of the plan.
If you have at least $5,000 in your account, most companies allow you to roll it over. But accounts of less than $5,000 can be rolled out of the plan by the company if a former employee does not respond to a notification letter within 30 days.
For amounts under $1,000, federal regulations now allow companies to send you a check, triggering federal taxes and state taxes if applicable, and a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59½. In either scenario, taxes and a potential penalty can be avoided if you roll over the funds into another retirement plan within 60 days.
What Happens To Your 401 When Your Employer Goes Out Of Business
The 401 plan ranks among the country’s most popular employee benefits. As of mid-2020, these employer-sponsored retirement plans held an estimated $6.3 billion in assets and represented nearly one-fifth of the entire U.S. retirement market.
If you’re one of the millions of American workers with a 401, you may be concerned about the status of your plan during the pandemic-triggered recession . In particular, you might be wondering what happens to your 401 if your employer goes out of business. Well, here’s some good news: The majority of your 401 funds are protected if your employer declares bankruptcy and is going out of business or is scooped up by another company. Here’s what you need to know.
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How To Locate A 401 From A Previous Job
If youre trying to locate an old 401 plan from a previous job, youre not alone. Not by a long shot. Roughly $850 million in plan assets owned by 33,000 employees are orphaned each year, held by a financial institution without an employer to oversee the plan . Thats a lot of money being left on the tableroughly two percent of all 401 plan assets.
The good news is that the Department of Labor has established rules for protecting money put into a 401, so the money isnt necessarily lostjust waiting for someone to claim it. However, that doesnt mean your old 401 account will always be easy to track down. It may take some digging, but there are a variety of ways you can find it.
Look For Contact Information
If you don’t know how to contact your former employer perhaps the company no longer exists or it was acquired or merged with another company see if you have any old 401 statements. These should have contact information to help put you in touch with the plan administrator.
If you don’t have an old 401 statement handy or yours doesn’t tell you what you need to know, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website and look up your employer. There you should find your old retirement account’s tax return, known as Form 5500. That will most likely have contact information for your 401’s plan administrator.
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Roll It Over Into Your New Employer’s Plan
You’ll have to double check with your new employer to make sure they accept rollovers from a previous job. But if you get the go ahead to do this, you’d be able to just manage one 401 account rather than two different accounts potentially from two different plan providers .
“Some people find that having just one 401 account makes it easier to see all their money in one place,” MacDonald explained.
The money will still have the chance to grow in your new employer’s plan just make sure you like the new investment options available to you. And you’ll be able to save on all the additional costs that come with just keeping your balance with your old employer.
And unlike with the IRA rollover option, you won’t have to take required minimum distributions at age 72 if you move the money into your new employer’s 401 plan.
“Ultimately, it comes down to convenience,” MacDonald said. “And if you like seeing all of your assets in one place then this option could make sense.”
Locate An Old 401 Statement
If youâre having trouble getting a hold of your former employerâs HR department, refer to an account statement of your old 401.
If youâre still living at the same address, you should have yearly or quarterly statements mailed to you. Check your statement for information on where your account is held and any contact information.
The information on your statements will come in handy in identifying how much money youâll be transferring over to make sure nothing is left behind.
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