How To Find An Old 401 And What To Do With It
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list ofour partnersandhere’s how we make money.
The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.
There are billions of dollars sitting unclaimed in ghosted workplace retirement plans. And some of it might be yours if youve ever left a job and forgotten to take your vested retirement savings with you.
But no matter how long the cobwebs have been forming on your old 401, that money is still yours. All you have to do is find it.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Withdrawal Vs A 401 Loan
A withdrawal is a permanent hit to your retirement savings. By pulling out money early, youll miss out on the long-term growth that a larger sum of money in your 401 would have yielded.
Though you wont have to pay the money back, you will have to pay the income taxes due, along with a 10% penalty if the money does not meet the IRS rules for a hardship or an exception.
A loan against your 401 has to be paid back. If it is paid back in a timely manner, you at least wont lose much of that long-term growth in your retirement account.
Are You Still Working
You can access funds from an old 401 plan after you reach age 59 1/2, even if you haven’t retired. The best idea for old 401 accounts is to roll them over when you leave a job. If you are 59 1/2 or older, you will not be hit with penalties if you withdraw from your old accounts. However, you need to check with your human resource department about the rules around withdrawing from your current 401 if you are still in the workplace.
Check with your 401 plan administrator to find out whether your plan allows what’s referred to as an in-service distribution at age 59 1/2. Some 401 plans allow this, but others don’t.
Also Check: What To Look For In A 401k
Withdrawing After Age 595
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.
Don’t Miss: Can You Invest 401k In Bitcoin
Option : Keep Your Savings With Your Previous Employers Plan
If your previous employers 401 allows you to maintain your account and you are happy with the plans investment options, you can leave it. This might be the most convenient choice, but you should still evaluate your options. Each year, American workers manage to lose track of billions of dollars in old retirement savings accounts, so you should make sure to track your account regularly, review your investments as part of your overall portfolio and keep the beneficiaries up to date.
Some things to think about if youre considering keeping your money in your previous employers plan:
What Do I Request On The Call
After your identity is verified, youll be able to tell the customer service representative that you want to do a direct rollover. A direct rollover is where your funds are directly transferred to your new IRA provider. It often means the check is made out in the name of that IRA provider but for the benefit of you. This is generally the simplest approach. Your 401 provider will usually ask you for the name and mailing address of your new IRA provider and your new IRA account number. We also recommend that you take this opportunity to update your mailing address since they may have an old address for you. Thats because youll be sent additional documents, including a tax-related document known as a 1099-R that tells the IRS youre doing a tax-free rollover.
An indirect rollover is where funds are first transferred to you, or a check is made out in your name. You deposit the funds in one of your own accounts, but then you have 60 days to send that money on to your IRA account if you want the rollover to be tax-free. This can create a little extra work for you which is why most people opt for a direct rollover.
Have a rollover expert on the call with you! Capitalize can handle your 401-to-IRA rollover for you and set up a call with your provider walking you through each step along the way. Get started
Don’t Miss: How To Transfer Your 401k From One Company To Another
Where Has My 401 Gone
There are a few scenarios in which someone might lose track of their 401.
If you did a bit of job-hopping early in your career, you may have moved on and forgotten about your 401 plan. Or perhaps your company merged with another, but your 401 plan didnt transfer over. In other cases, you may have automatically enrolled in your companys 401 plan without realizing it.
You know all the paperwork from human resources you ignored? The information youre looking for probably was in there.
Regardless of why you lost track of a 401 plan, the good news is that whatever contributions you made no matter how long ago that may have been are yours to keep and always will be. Heres what you need to know to track down your old 401 and make it work in your favor again.
Rollovers: Control Without The Hassle
Rolling over money doesn’t have to be hard. When choosing a new home for your money, look for:
- A streamlined rollover process
1 Special rules apply to Roth assets. Please consult your tax advisor.2 Taxes are deferred until withdrawal. State and local income taxes may also apply at withdrawal. A 10% penalty will be imposed for early withdrawal. Penalty may apply if you don’t meet age requirements.
Diversification does not assure a profit nor does it protect against loss of principal.
Generally, as interest rates rise, the value of the securities held in the fund will decline. The opposite is true when interest rates decline.
Investment return and principal value of security investments will fluctuate. The value at the time of redemption may be more or less than the original cost. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments’ portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.
Recommended Reading: How To Find My 401k Balance
What Should You Do With Your Old 401s
Employer-sponsored retirement plans dont travel with you when you switch jobs, meaning its on you to manage those plans during job changes. It can be hectic and confusing.
If you have at least $5,000 in your 401, you’ll generally be allowed to leave your money where it is even after you move on to a new job. . If you’re comfortable with your old plan’s fund selection and fees, it might make sense to leave your 401 alone as long as you don’t forget about it. That’s easier said than done as the decades pass and you accumulate more accounts.
You have a few options if youve lost track of your old accounts. While theres no federally run national database where you can look up all the retirement accounts that are associated with your name, the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, run by the retirement benefit processor PenChecks, has an extensive catalogue of retirement accounts thats updated weekly. You can also contact your old employer or 401 plan manager.
Once youve gotten a hold of your old accounts, youll want to check how much money they have and how your investments are doing. If youre paying low fees and getting returns that match the market, there may be no reason for you to move the account, at least not right away.
For ease of record-keeping, though, it might be best to roll over your old 401s into your individual retirement account . That way, your money will be in one place as you approach retirement, and it will be easier for you to manage.
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.
Also Check: Is It Good To Convert 401k To Roth Ira
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.
Withdrawing From A Roth 401k
Most 401k plans involve pre-tax contributions, but some allow for Roth contributions, meaning those made after taxes already have been paid.
The benefit of making a Roth contribution to your 401k plan is that you already have paid the taxes and, when you withdraw the money, there is no tax on the amount gained as long as you meet these two provisions:
- You withdraw the money at least five years after your first contribution to the Roth account
- You are older than 59 ½ or you became disabled or the money goes to someone who is the beneficiary after your death
Recommended Reading: Where To Put My 401k
Is There A Timeframe To Roll Over My 401
Yes, there is a timeframe in which you have to roll over your 401, which is important to consider when moving your money, although it depends on how much you have in there.
If you have more than $5,000 in your 401 with a previous employer, then there is no time limit in general.
However, you have 6o days to roll it over before you incur penalties. Thats why we recommend using a service like Capitalize or investment platforms like Acorns to get your rollover started without any of the stress.
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 May Like: How Much Tax On 401k Withdrawal
Next Steps To Consider
This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.
Recently enacted legislation made a number of changes to the rules regarding defined contribution, defined benefit, and/or individual retirement plans and 529 plans. Information herein may refer to or be based on certain rules in effect prior to this legislation and current rules may differ. As always, before making any decisions about your retirement planning or withdrawals, you should consult with your personal tax advisor.
The change in the RMD age requirement from 70½ to 72 only applies to individuals who turn 70½ on or after January 1, 2020. Please speak with your tax advisor regarding the impact of this change on future RMDs.
A qualified distribution from a Roth IRA is tax-free and penalty-free, provided the 5-year aging requirement has been satisfied and one of the following conditions is met: age 59½ or older, disability, qualified first-time home purchase, or death.
Be sure to consider all your available options and the applicable fees and features of each before moving your retirement assets.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917
Low Balance 401 Withdrawal
Participants in a 401 with less than $5,000 can be forced out of the plan. Simply put, staying in the current 401 plan may not be an option if your balance is too small. So, you should make a concerted effort to get the money rolled over to a new plan or an IRA.
How comfortable are you with managing your investments? Or do you have a fabulous financial advisor … to guide you? The answers to these questions can lead you to what is the best thing to do with your old 401k.
Read Also: Does A Solo 401k Need An Ein
What You Need To Know To Avoid Costly Mistakes
Andy Smith is a Certified Financial Planner , licensed realtor and educator with over 35 years of diverse financial management experience. He is an expert on personal finance, corporate finance and real estate and has assisted thousands of clients in meeting their financial goals over his career.
In an ideal world, everybody would leave their 401 funds alone until they need the money for retirement. That might mean rolling your account over to an Individual Retirement Account , but it also means not cashing out the funds prior to reaching retirement age, to allow the money to grow to its maximum potential amount. In investing, time truly is your best asset. At some point though, you will begin taking distributions, and here’s what you need to know.
The best way to take money out of your 401 plan depends on three things:
How Old 401 Funds Can Get You Out Of Debt Quicker
Are you one of those people who has changed employment and still has money sitting in an old 401? I want to give you options to think about in terms of how to use this money rather than just leaving it sitting there doing very little to benefit you.
Take a look at the following illustration. It shows an employee putting money into a 401 vault of sorts:
The reason I call the 401 a vault is because money in this type of account is sort of locked up. Its not liquid and cant be used very easily. Basically you have very little control over this money. As you examine this illustration further, youll see that there are cracks in the vault, which represent the expenses of keeping your money in the 401 vault. The vault does not offer protection from losing the money, as it is most likely invested in the market or mutual funds, which have volatility. And notice when you retire and start drawing down on this 401 Uncle Sam is there, positioned to take a share of everything that youve put into the fund, plus any amount it has grown.
Now take a look at a couple Ill call Mark and Joyce and their Get Out of Debt report, which is based onPower Down principles of quick debt elimination:
If Mark and Joyce will control spending so as not to keep getting into debt, they can have all debts paid off in less than 10 years. It demonstrates how Powering Down your debt will get you debt-free in about 9 years, including your mortgage.
Heres how it could work:
Read Also: How To Rollover My 401k To New Employer
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.