Avoiding Lost Retirement Accounts
Keeping track of 401 and pension accounts is the best way to avoid the hassle of trying to find lost accounts. Financial advisers recommend rolling over your old 401 to a traditional IRA or to a new 401 account when you change jobs. You can maintain your tax benefits if you transfer the funds directly from an old 401 to a new one, while an IRA will require that you pay taxes when you deposit money from your old 401 but not when you withdraw it later. Cashing out your 401 when you leave a job is generally not advised since you will owe income tax and a 10 percent withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59 ½.
Contact Your Old 401 Provider
First, identify the provider of your old 401. If you aren’t sure who your old 401 provider is, the name should be on your account statements. If you have trouble finding this information, call your former employer.
Is your old 401 with Fidelity? If so, you can do the entire rollover through your NetBenefits®. account. You don’t need any additional paperwork, and the money can be directly transferred.
Is your old 401 with a different provider? If so, they will need to start the rollover process, so you’ll need to either call them or initiate the process online. They may need some paperwork, such as a Letter of Acceptance from Fidelity, or their own paperwork completed and signed by you or a Fidelity representative. If you have multiple accounts or employers, you may need more than one LOA.
Here are some questions to ask when you contact them. If you’d like to have a Fidelity rollover specialist on the line with you when you call, call us first at 800-343-3548.
Covington, KY 41015-0037
Do you own company stock?
If you have shares of company stock, it’s easiest to give us a call at 800-343-3548 and one of our rollover specialists can help you understand your options and take action.
Find Accounts From Failed Banks
You have a couple options if your bank failed and you have yet to claim your money:
- You can find unclaimed money from banks that have failed at this Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. website.
- If your unclaimed money was held at a failed credit union, you can track it down at this National Credit Union Administration website.
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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.
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.
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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.
Set Up Your New Account
If you don’t already have a rollover IRA, you’ll need to open onethis way, you can move money from your former employer’s plan into this account. If there are both pre-tax and post-tax contributions in your 401, you might need to open a Roth IRA too.* Which IRA should you consider for your rollover?
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Pros And Cons: 401 Vs Ira
How To Find An Old 401 And What To Do With It
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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.
Read Also: What’s The Most You Can Contribute To A 401k
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.
Automatic Ira Rollovers For Terminated And Abandoned 401k Plans
Mergers, acquisitions and business closures often result in the termination or abandonment of employer retirement plans. Custodians are left holding assets without the authority to terminate plans or distribute benefits of so-called ‘orphaned plans.’ In response, the Employee Benefits Security Administration has established rules to provide for winding up the affairs of abandoned retirement accounts and the distribution of benefits.
A plan is considered abandoned if no contributions to, or distributions from, have been made for a period of at least twelve consecutive months and efforts to locate the plan sponsor have been unsuccessful because the entity no longer exists, cannot be located or is unable to maintain the plan. EBSA regulations provide for the appointment of a QTA – Qualified Termination Administrator – to take custody of the dormant assets. The QTA is an eligible IRA custodian: bank, trust company, broker dealer or insurance company.
Read Also: How To Find 401k From Former Employer
Find 401s With Your Social Security Number
All your 401s are linkedin to your social security number when you enrolled. Theoretically you should be able to find all your 401s with your SSN. However, in practice it’s pretty hard for one to do so. As far as we know, Beagle is the only company that simplifies this process and can conduct a comprehensive 401 search using your SSN. Once they find your 401s, they also help you with the tedious rollover process.
Organize And Rebalance Your Accounts
After years of neglect, your forgotten retirement accounts may not be properly balanced. This means there may be too much emphasis on one type of investment, or not enough on another.
If you plan to keep the IRA or company plan open, you may want to consider diversification, so theres the right amount in stocks, bonds, U.S. investments or international exposure thats appropriate for your investment goals and risk tolerance.
Youll need to check each account individually at first. However, if you can list them all in one place, youll see how your combined investment diversification stands up. An online tracking service can continue to monitor your accounts, possibly flagging you if you need to consider rebalancing again.
Online tracking services cant do the rebalancing for you, however youll have to go to each individual account to manage the rebalancing. And if the diversification seems off but its not time for you to rebalance, youll have to look at each individual account to determine which one may be out of balance the most.
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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.
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.
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Option : Leave It Where It Is
You don’t have to move the money out of your old 401 if you don’t want to. You won’t ever lose the funds provided you don’t lose track of your old account again. But this option is usually the least desirable.
For one, it’s more difficult to manage your retirement savings when they’re spread out over many accounts. You also get stuck paying whatever your old 401’s fees were, and these can be higher than what you’d pay if you moved your money to an individual retirement account, for example.
But if you like your plan’s investment options and the fees aren’t too high, you could consider leaving your old 401 funds where they are. Just make careful note of how to access them again so you don’t forget.
The Forgotten : 5 Ways To Find Out If You Have A Lost Retirement Plan
NEW YORK Americans hold an average of 11 jobs by the time they are 46, according to a 2012 study of the youngest Baby Boomers. Many reports say Millennials are on track to raise that average even higher. Its not uncommon for exiting workers to leave the scraps of their company-sponsored retirement plan behind, believing theyll think about that later.
Now, years have passed and it occurs to you: what if those scraps have grown to be something a bit more than just spare change? A few bucks here and there combined with some market growth over the years and it may all add up to a nice addition to your now even-more-serious effort to save for retirement.
How do you find a forgotten 401?
Contact former employers
Youve tried Googling the company, right? Of course.
And its a good bet you cant find an old statement or check stub with any information that would be the first place to look. Over time, many of us toss out that information, thinking meager leftover retirement savings statements arent worth the paper theyre printed on.
In that case, your next move would be to call the HR department for your former employer. Have your Social Security number handy and try to remember the specific period of your employment.
Seek out former co-workers
Search the government database
Read Also: How To Convert 401k To A Roth Ira
How To Find Lost Pension Plans And 401k Accounts
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Keeping up with all of the benefits and perks you have received at your jobs over the years can be a paperwork hassle. You are constantly sorting out your account statements from your junk mail, hoping you dont miss one and send it to the shredder. Not to mention keeping all of this old paperwork straight if you have to move. All it takes is one box of important documents going misplaced to really make sorting out everything a big mess.
Yet leaving your 401k account or pension plan information behind can be financially devastating. Even if you intended to roll your old 401k in with your new employers plan but never did, leaving it unmanaged can leave you with an asset allocation that isnt aligned with your personal financial goals.
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.
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Tracking Down Your Plan
If you think youve lost track of a savings plan, search your files for old retirement account statements. These should provide some key data to help your search, such as your account number and contact information for the plan administrator. If you dont have any statements, contact your former employers human resources department.
If your employer filed for bankruptcy, your 401 balance is protected from creditors and is likely still held at the investment company that administered your plan. In the case of a pension, it was either taken over by an insurance company or the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which protects traditional pensions. You can track down your pension at pbgc.gov/search-all.
Its also possible that your employer turned over your 401 balance to your states unclaimed property fund. Your states treasury department should offer an online service that lets you search for your money. You can also check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits.