Search Unclaimed Assets Databases
If your search is still coming up empty, your former employer has folded or was bought by another company, youâre not out of luck yet.
It may take a little more effort and research but there are many national databases that can help you track down your old 401 accounts:
- The Department of Laborâs Abandoned Plan database can help you identify what happened to your old plan and the contact information of the current administrator
- The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits allows you to do a free search for any unclaimed retirement money using just your Social Security number
- FreeERISA is another free resource to search for any old account information that has been filed with the federal government
- The Securities and Exchange Commissionâs website or your stateâs Secretary of State can provide more information on your previous employer
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.
Check The National Registry Of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
The National Registry is a nationwide, secure database listing of retirement plan account balances that have been left unclaimed by former participants of retirement plans.
It is essentially a search engine of lost 401 plans.
The only thing you need to search the database is your social security number. No additional information is needed, and there is no cost to search the database.
Recommended Reading: How To Put 401k Into Ira
What To Do With Your Leftover 401 Funds
Moving from one job to another and dealing with the surprises of life can be overwhelming, right? It is easy to forget or lose track of your previous 401 plan as you start focusing on your current retirement savings account and settle into your new job.
To maintain ease of access to your savings and make the most of your leftover 401s, there are several options to choose from when deciding what to do with your old 401s.
First, you can leave the money in the old 401 if you are sure you will not forget about it. The advantage of this option is your account maintaining a tax-deferred status. The downside is, if you have less than $5,000 your past employer can send a check to you or to an IRA, which can attract some fees.
Rolling over your past 401 accounts into an individual retirement account ensures that you maintain good record-keeping of the funds, as they are all saved in one place. Even better, you will accrue more benefits, such as having more control over factors, such as account fees and access to a broader range of investments.
You can also choose to roll over your old 401 into your current employer’s plan, as long as the plan allows it. This ensures you protect your savings in a tax-deferred account and have access to profitable investment options. Just ensure you understand the rules set in the new plan.
Search The Abandoned Plan Database
If you cant find your lost money by contacting your old employer, searching the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, or the FreeERISA website, you have one last place to check, the Abandoned Plan Database offered by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Searching is simple, you can search their database by Plan Name or Employer name, and locate the Qualified Termination Administrator responsible for directing the shutdown of the plan.
Read Also: How To Borrow Money From 401k Fidelity
How To Find Out If I Have A 401
The best way to make sure you donât lose track of your 401 is to periodically keep tabs on it. Although, checking your retirement accounts too frequently can lead to overkill and alarm if the market takes a dive. Aim for quarterly or semi-annual checks of your funds to make sure everything is in order.
Actively managing your 401 is a good habit to get into. Making sure your retirement accounts are being properly funded and youâre on track to meet your retirement goals should be etched into your overall personal finance plan.
However, if youâve let it slip for the past couple of years, no need to worry. Contact your human resources department to get information on how you can monitor your account.
You may be given access to an online portal for you to log in and manage your account.
Verify your statements are being sent to the correct address. Bookmark the account information so you always know where to log into your account from. Also, consider updating your login and password to make sure your account is more secure.
Roll Over 401 Into An Ira
For those who would prefer not to rely on their new companys 401 plans 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.
Also Check: When Leaving A Company What To Do With 401k
A Special Note For Pennsylvania Residents
If you live in Pennsylvania, you should start your search sooner rather than later.
In most states, lost or abandoned money, including checking and savings accounts, must be turned over to the states unclaimed property fund. Every state has unclaimed property programs that are meant to protect consumers by ensuring that money owed to them is returned to the consumer rather than remaining with financial institutions and other companies. Typically, retirement accounts have been excluded from unclaimed property laws.
However, Pennsylvania recently changed their laws to require that unclaimed IRAs and Roth IRAs be handed over to the states fund if the account has been dormant for three years or more.
If your account is liquidated and turned over to the state before the age of 59.5, you could only learn about the account when you receive a notice from the IRS saying you owe tax on a distribution!
Company 401k plans are excluded from the law unless theyve been converted to an IRA. If you know you have an account in Pennsylvania, be sure to log onto your account online periodically. You can also check the states website at patreasury.gov to see if you have any unclaimed property.
Roll It Over To Your New Employer
If youve switched jobs, see if your new employer offers a 401 and when you are eligible to participate. Many employers require new employees to put in a certain number of days of service before they can enroll in a retirement savings plan.
Once you are enrolled in a plan with your new employer, its simple to roll over your old 401. You can elect to have the administrator of the old plan deposit the contents of your account directly into the new plan by simply filling out some paperwork. This is called a direct transfer, made from custodian to custodian, and it saves you any risk of owing taxes or missing a deadline.
Alternatively, you can elect to have the balance of your old account distributed to you in the form of a check. However, you must deposit the funds into your new 401 within 60 days to avoid paying income tax on the entire balance. Make sure your new 401 account is active and ready to receive contributions before you liquidate your old account.
Consolidating old 401 accounts into a current employers 401 program makes sense if your current employers 401 is well structured and cost-effective, and it gives you one less thing to keep track of, says Stephen J. Taddie, managing partner, Stellar Capital Management LLC, Phoenix, Arizona. Keeping things simple for you now also makes things simple for your heirs should they need to step in to take care of your affairs later.
Don’t Miss: How To Transfer 401k When Changing Jobs
Contact Your Former Employer
The first place you should look is your prior employer. Contact their human resources department. There, they should have all of the information as to the whereabouts of the 401 account you had with them.
They should send you the proper paperwork and be able to facilitate the transfer of your funds to whatever account you choose.
If they are unable to locate any information on your account, they should be able to provide you the contact information of the administrator who handled your 401 on their behalf.
Let the administrator know your situation, and just like the HR department, should be able to assist you in moving your money properly.
Begin The Rollover Process
Youll have to fill out paperwork to conduct your rollover and it may require some back-and-forth conversations with your providers. You have several options to actually move the money from the old provider to the new one, but your best option is a direct rollover.
In a direct rollover, the funds are sent straight from your 401 into your new account without you touching the funds. Its important that you specify a direct rollover so that you dont have the check made payable to you. You could trigger a mandatory 20 percent withholding for taxes, and the IRS charges a 10 percent bonus penalty on withdrawals made before age 59 1/2.
Also Check: Do I Need Ein For Solo 401k
Option : Move The Money To Your New 401
If you have a new job with a new 401, your current employer may permit you to roll over your old 401 funds into your new account. However, not all plans allow this, so check with your company’s HR department or plan administrator to see if it’s an option for you.
If it is and you decide it’s your best move, you must choose between a direct and an indirect rollover. Direct rollovers are the better choice because you don’t handle the money at all. You just fill out a form telling your old plan administrator where to send the funds and they take care of it for you.
With an indirect rollover, the plan administrator cuts you a check for the funds in your account and you place that money into your new account. But if you fail to do this within 60 days of cashing out your old account, the government considers it a distribution and taxes you on that money for the year.
Before you decide to move your money to your new 401, make sure you like your investment options and are comfortable with the fees your new 401 charges. Many employers don’t allow you to transfer money out of your 401 if you’re a current employee, so once you transfer your old 401 funds to your new account, they could be stuck there, at least until you leave your current job.
Don’t Be Forced Out Of A 401 From Your Former Job
When you change jobs and abandon vested amounts in your 401, your former employer has to follow IRS rules and plan provisions for dealing with your account balance. Pursuant to these guidelines, the 401 plan may have a force-out provision. That means when your vested balance is less than $5,000, you can be forced to take your money out of the plan.
Your former employer is required to give you advance notice of this rule so you can decide what to do with the money. Your choices are to cash out your account and receive a check, or roll your account balance into an IRA or your new employers plan.
What happens if you fail to respond to the notice? If your vested balance is more than $1,000, your former employer must transfer the money to an IRA. For balances under $1,000, you will either get a check or your former employee will open an IRA on your behalf.
Neither outcome is optimal, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. If you receive the money, youll owe federal income tax. When the balance is transferred to an IRA, account fees may outpace investment returns and your balance will be eroded over time.
Protecting assets you worked for and earned is always a smart move. Consult your tax professional for assistance.
You May Like: Should You Always Rollover Your 401k
Contact Your Old Employer
Your first step should be to contact your former employer. The human resources department should have a record of your account. If your account was rolled over to an IRA for your benefit, your former employer should be able to give you information about the institution holding the IRA funds. If your account is still in the companys retirement plan, your former employer can provide you with distribution forms to receive your money.
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. Youll also lose the tax benefits offered by the 401k as a qualified retirement plan.
Also Check: How Many Loans Can I Take From My 401k
Contact Your Old Employer About Your Old 401
Employers will try to track down a departed employee who left money behind in an old 401, but their efforts are only as good as the information they have on file. Beyond providing 30 to 60 days notice of their intentions, there are no laws that say how hard they have to look or for how long.
If its been a while since youve heard from your former company, or if youve moved or misplaced the notices they sent, start by contacting your former companys human resources department or find an old 401 account statement and contact the plan administrator, the financial firm that held the account and sent you updates.
You may be allowed to leave your money in your old plan, but you might not want to.
If there was more than $5,000 in your retirement account when you left, theres a good chance that your money is still in your workplace account. You may be allowed to leave it there for as long as you like until youre age 72, when the IRS requires you to start taking distributions, but you might not want to. Heres how to decide whether to keep your money in an old 401.
The good news if a new IRA was opened for the rollover: Your money retains its tax-protected status. The bad: You have to find the new trustee.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Is A 401k Profit Sharing Plan
Ways Of Finding My Old 401s Including Using Ssn
If youâve ever left a job and wondered âWhere is my 401?â, youâre not alone. Locating 401âs is complicated. Thus, billions of dollars are left behind each year. Beagle can help track down your money.
Contributing to an employer-sponsored 401 plan is a great way to build wealth for retirement especially if youâre receiving a match from your company. The problem is they are tied to an individual employer. We forget about them, leave that company, and one day we realize âOh yeah! Where is my 401?â
A 401 can be in a few different places. Most commonly it could be with your previous employers, an IRA they transferred your funds to after you left, or mailed to the address they had on file.
Believe it or not, Americans unknowingly abandoned $100 billion worth of unclaimed 401 accounts. According to a US Labor Department study, the average worker will have had about 12 different jobs before they turn 40. So itâs easy to see how we can lose track of so much 401 money.
To find your old 401s, you can contact your former employers, locate an old 401 statement, search unclaimed asset database in different states, query 401 providers using your social security number or better yet, get some free help to find your 401 accounts from companies like Beagle.
What Are Your Options For Old Retirement Plans
You generally have four options for dealing with money thats in an employer-sponsored retirement account when youre no longer working at the company:
- Leave the money where it is: Although you might not be able to contribute to the account any longer, you may be able to leave the money in your former employers plan. Sometimes, you may need to meet a minimum account balance to qualify, such as $200 for a TSP or $5,000 for some 401s.
- Transfer funds to a new employer-sponsored plan: If you have a new job with a company that sponsors a retirement plan, you may be able to roll over the money into your new employers plan. When this is an option, compare the previous and new plans fees, terms, and investment options to see which is best.
- Roll over to an individual retirement account: You can also move the money into an individual retirement account . An IRA may give you more control as you can choose where to open the account and invest in a wider range of funds. Its also fairly easy to move from one IRA to another as the account isnt tied to your employer. However, IRAs could have more fees, especially if you dont have a lot of assets and dont qualify for lower-cost investment funds.
- Cash out: You can also take the money out of retirement accounts completely. But unless youre 59½ or older , you may need to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty in addition to income taxes on the money.
Recommended Reading: Can Business Owners Have A 401k