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.
Just head to the website and enter your Social Security number, and it will search for any retirement plans associated with that SSN. If one is found, the site will contact the plan administrator on your behalf, or you can do so yourself. Youll then receive a benefit election form that allows you to specify how you would like to handle the funds.
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.
How Do I Find My Lost Ira
Back in my 20s, I opened an IRA. I remember doing it because it was my first exposure to index funds. And I know this sounds crazy, butafter a career change and a couple of movesI lost track of the account entirely. Now Im 45. The other day I was checking my 401 balance when it hit me: What happened to that IRA? Id love to have it back, but I dont know where to start. Help!
Victor S., New York, N.Y.
Individual Retirement Accounts , tax-favored accounts that are particularly important if you dont have access to a work-sponsored 401, can be a bit of a paradox. When you set one up during your early working years, you do so expecting your investments to grow on autopilot for decades it falls into the category of set it and forget it. But truly forgetting about an IRA can cost you. Heres what happens to lost IRAs, and what you need to do to find them.
Free Ways To Find Unclaimed Money
If you think you have unclaimed money or that a relative does, one of the best steps is running through old financial statements to see if you can find evidence of it. That could be useful if the relative has passed on and you dont know where to begin. If you discover an account such as a 401 or IRA, you can contact the plans administrator and go from there.
But many times, the process is more complicated. Here are the places to go next.
Recommended Reading: How To Make A 401k Account
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.
The Takeaway On Finding Lost 401 Money
If you suspect that you’ve left a 401 behind somewhere and don’t attempt to locate it, you’re risking losing the plan — and the money — for good.
But if you don’t respond, a company holding an old 401 account has no obligation to pursue the issue further, and eventually will relinquish your old account to the state, and all of the funds held, as well.
Don’t let that happen to you. Use the tips listed above to make every effort to find your lost 401 account and get the money back for yourself, and don’t let “free” retirement slip out of your control.
Also Check: Can You Take A Loan From 401k For Home Purchase
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 .
You’ve Found Your Old 401s Now What
Once you’ve located your old 401s, you have a few options. Some come with penalties, some require taxes to be paid, and some don’t require either.
You have the option to cash out all of the funds in your old 401s. However, the IRS will charge you a 10% early withdrawal penalty. In very few cases, can this penalty be waived, so it’s best to leave it saved until you’re at least 59Â½.
Secondly, you can rollover your old 401s into your current employer-sponsored plan. This comes with no penalty or taxes. Because you are rolling it over into another retirement account, you won’t incur any additional costs in doing so.
Lastly, you can consolidate your 401s into an IRA. Like a 401, an IRA is a retirement account, so it’s free from any penalties and taxes. These are held outside of your employer’s 401 plan, but they’re easy to set up and come with many more investment options.
Don’t Miss: Can You Invest In 401k And Roth Ira
Determine If Your 401 Account Was Rolled Over To A Default Ira Or Missing Participant Ira
One possibility is your employer rolled the funds over into a Default IRA.
If your employer tried to contact you for instructions as to what to do with your account balance, and you fail to respond, you may be deemed a non-responsive participant.
If they are unable to locate you altogether, you may be deemed a Missing Participant.
In either scenario, if the plan is being terminated, your employer may have put the funds in a Missing Participant Auto Rollover IRA.
This is an IRA account set up on your behalf to preserve your retirement assets until they are claimed by you or your beneficiaries under Department of Labor regulations.
To qualify for a Missing Participant or Default IRA, the account balance must be greater than $100 but less than $5,000 unless the funds are coming from a terminated plan, then the $5,000 ceiling is waived.
Finding a Missing Participant IRA
If your money has been transferred to a Missing Participant IRA, you should be able to find it by searching the FreeERISA website.
This search is slightly more time consuming than the national registry. Registration is required to search the database, which contains 2.6 million ERISA form 5500s, covering 1.3 million plans and 1 million plan sponsors.
If you know your money has been transferred to one of these default accounts, you should get it out into a standard IRA account.
Typically, these accounts must be interest-bearing, bear a reasonable rate of return, and be FDIC insured.
Here’s the bad part:
Roll Over Your Assets To An Ira
For more retirement investment options and to maintain the tax-advantaged status of the account, roll your old 401 into an individual retirement account . You will have greater flexibility over access to your savings .1 Before-tax assets can roll over to a Traditional IRA while Roth assets can roll directly to a Roth IRA. Review the differences in investment options and fees between an IRA and your old and new employers 401 plans.
You May Like: How To Look Up An Old 401k Account
How To Find An Old Retirement Account
The good news is, its never too late to find old 401 plans. They still belong to you, no matter the circumstances surrounding the end of your employment. But the first step is to track it down. You can first try looking through your paperwork or searching your email account, but if that doesnt work out, there are resources you can use.Search the National Registry
The easiest way to search for any outstanding retirement plans is through the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. This is a free searchable database of retirement funds that have been reported as unclaimed. Retirees and estate managers can search the databases, as can third parties who have the required information.
The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits 401 and pension search can be conducted using only your Social Security number. Its important to note that the site is set up for individuals wanting to find a 401 with a Social Security number, but anyone with that number can search for funds.
Recommended Reading: How To Make More Money With My 401k
Lost An Old 401 Here Are 6 Tips For Finding It
The days of working for a single employer for decades until you retire are over. Today, you are much more likely to change jobs multiple times during your career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, todays workers have held an average of 12 jobs by the time they reach their 50s.
Since people change jobs so frequently, it is easy to see you might lose track of an old 401 or retirement account, especially if you only worked in a position for a short time. In fact, forgetting plans is quite common: its estimated that roughly 900,000 workers lose track of their 401 plans each year. And when you forget to cash out your 401 upon leaving a job, your former employer might no longer have control of your account.
Even if the company you worked for is still up and running, businesses terminate 401 plans all the time, especially during economic downturns. The company is required by law to contact you if they terminate the plan, but if they cant locate you, the money can be transferred to a bank, rolled into an IRA, or even sent to the states unclaimed property fund.
If youre looking to increase your retirement savings, one way to start is to make sure you havent lost or forgotten about any old accounts. Here are 6 tips for tracking down a missing 401.
The plan administrators contact information should be included on the 5500. From there, call the administrator, and ask for him or her to check on your account.
You May Like: Can I Rollover 401k To Ira While Still Employed
Making A Hardship Withdrawal
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.
Also Check: How Do I Find My Old 401k Account
Use An Outside Company Like Beagle
If your search in the above databases doesnât provide any results, utilizing an outside company to find your old 401s and do the difficult work of consolidating them is a great option.
Beagle is the first company of its kind that will do the difficult work for you. We will track down your old 401s and find any hidden fees in your current 401 plan.
Then, they will provide you with options on how best to rollover your 401s into one convenient, low-cost investment option.
This is a great option for anyone who is not sure where to start or even where to begin looking.
How Does Money Get Left Behind
Very few people stay at one employer the entire length of their career.
But unlike your bank account which you may have from job to job, a 401 account is linked to your employer. It is up to you to do something about it.
When you leave your employer, the money may stay in the account for an indefinite amount of time.
However, if the company closes the 401 plan, files for bankruptcy, goes out of business or is acquired by another company, you may be forced to decide, within a short period of time.
Its possible that years will go by after you parted ways with your old job, and then youll get a letter notifying you that you need to move your 401 account, or take a distribution.
If this happens, youre much better off rolling the money into an IRA account, or transferring the money into your current companys 401 plan.
Also Check: Which Investments Should I Choose For My 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.
Roll It Over Into An Ira
If youre not moving to a new employer, or if your new employer doesnt offer a retirement plan, you still have a good option. You can roll your old 401 into an IRA. Youll be opening the account on your own, through the financial institution of your choice. The possibilities are pretty much limitless. That is, youre no longer restricted to the options made available by an employer.
The biggest advantage of rolling a 401 into an IRA is the freedom to invest how you want, where you want, and in what you want, says John J. Riley, AIF, founder, and chief investment strategist for Cornerstone Investment Services LLC in Providence, R.I. There are few limits on an IRA rollover.
One item you might want to consider is that in some states, such as California, if you are in the middle of a lawsuit or think there is the potential for a future claim against you, you may want to leave your money in a 401 instead of rolling it into an IRA, says financial advisor Jarrett B. Topel, CFP for Topel & DiStasi Wealth Management LLC in Berkeley, Calif. There is more creditor protection in California with 401s than there is with IRAs. In other words, it is harder for creditors/plaintiffs to get at the money in your 401 than it is to get at the money in your IRA.
If you have an outstanding loan from your 401 and leave your job, youll have to repay it within a specified time period. If you dont, the amount will be treated as a distribution for tax purposes.
You May Like: How Long Does It Take To Rollover 401k To Ira
Don’t Leave Your 401 Behind Here’s How To Reclaim Your Hard
Switching jobs pulls your mind in several directions at once, and it’s easy for your old 401 to get lost in the shuffle. But you can’t afford to forget about it for good. Building a nest egg to sustain you for decades is tough, so you can’t afford to leave any old retirement accounts behind. If you’ve lost track of your old 401, take these steps to find it and put that money to good use.
Call Your Old Employer
If you suspect you have missing 401 funds or even if you’re not sure, it’s still a good idea to contact old employers and ask them to check if they’re holding your old account. Your former company will have records of you actually participating in a 401 plan.
You’ll either need to provide or confirm your Social Security number and the dates of your employment, but if you can, you’ll have found the fastest way to dig up a missing 401.
Also Check: Why Cant I Take Money Out Of My 401k
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.