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How To See Whats In Your 401k

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Requirements For A 401 Plan

What is a 401(k)?

The requirements for joining a workplace 401 plan depend on the employer and/or plan sponsor. Employers may require a worker to be with the company for a minimum amount of time before they can contribute to a company 401 savings plan.

Employees are often also required to be full-time employees, or to meet a minimum number of hours per year, in order to be eligible for 401 contributions. Employers can set minimum employee age requirements, only allowing those 21 and older to contribute to a plan.

Side note: Try Titanâs free 401 Calculatorto project how much your 401 will give you in retirement.

Search Databases For Unclaimed Assets

If you still cant find information on your lost 401 plans, you can also try searching one of the publicly available databases for unclaimed assets. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a good place to start. By entering your Social Security number, you can quickly see if there are any unclaimed retirement funds that belong to you. The money may still be held in the employers plan, or the company may have opened a special IRA account in your name to hold the funds.

You can also search using the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators site, which will help you track down unclaimed money you may be owed, not limited to retirement assets. Be sure to check in each state you have lived or worked. The site processes tens of millions of requests each year and has helped return more than $3 billion in unclaimed assets annually.

There Are Fees You Pay For Your 401

Unfortunately, 401 plans come with fees but many savers dont realize this. According to TDAmeritrades January 2018 Investor Pulse Survey, 37% of Americans dont know that they pay any 401 fees, 22% dont know if their plan has fees, and 14% dont know how to determine the fees. Typically larger plans will have lower fees but the number of enrollees and the plans provider can also affect the cost. Typically, fees will range from 0.5% to 2% of the plan assets.

Pay attention to each funds expense ratio, which is a measure of a funds operating expenses expressed as an annual percentage. The lower the expense ratio, the less youll pay to invest. A total expense ratio of 1% or less is reasonable. Look at your 401 plans website to find a funds expense ratio.

The good news is that your plan may give you access to lower-cost institutional shares, which are cheaper than different share classes of the same investment bought through an IRA. The average equity mutual fund expense ratio for stock funds in 401s was 0.50% in 2020, according to the Investment Company Institute. One way to cut costs: Look to see whether your plan offers index funds, which tend to be cheaper than actively managed funds.

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How To Post A 401 Journal Expense Entry

A 401k is a retirement plan in which an employee contributes a portion of her wages. A company often contributes its own money toward an employees 401k plan to add to the employees contribution as a benefit to the employee. While the employees contribution is part of the companys wages expense, the additional amount the company contributes is a 401k expense for the company. As the employer, you can record a journal entry for 401k expense to reflect the amount your company will contribute for a payroll period.

Determine the last date of your payroll period, which is the date on which you record a 401k expense journal entry. For example, record the entry on January 31.

Determine the amount of money you will contribute to your employees 401k plans. For example, assume you will contribute $500.

Write the date on which you are recording the journal entry in the date column of your accounting journal to designate a new journal entry. For example, write 01-31 in the date column.

Write 401k Expense in the accounts column of the journal entry and the amount you will contribute toward your employees 401k plans in the debit column on the first line of the entry. Debit means an increase for expense accounts. For example, write 401k Expense in the accounts column and $500 in the debit column.


  • You can combine your 401k expense in a journal entry with other payroll expense items, such as workers compensation expense.


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Average 401k Balance At Age 65+ $469702 Median $137468


The most common age to retire in the U.S. is 62, so its not surprising to see the average and median 401k balance figures start to decline after age 65. Once you reach age 65, there are still several considerations for your retirement, even if you are no longer working and accumulating wealth. Some of these include making decisions about Medicare, creating a plan around withdrawing money from your retirement accounts, and evaluating any additional insurance needs.

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How To Save For Retirement

The key to saving for retirement is focusing on the elements you can control. Develop a discipline of saving at your target savings rate, and then use cost-effective and diversified investment strategies to help those savings grow.

The best place to start saving for retirement is often your employer-sponsored retirement plan because it offers a streamlined way to save and often provides lower-cost options than you can get elsewhere.

With a 401 account, you set up automatic contributions that ensure a portion of every paycheck goes into your retirement savings.

Both Shamrell and Stinett say to save around 15% of your salary each year. If thats too much, at the very least, contribute enough to get your full employer matching contribution, if you have one. Otherwise, you could be leaving free money on the table.

You can increase your savings rate by 1% to 2% each year until you reach the target of 12% to 15% per year, Shamrell says.

And you neednt stop at 15%. If you can save more, do it. The more you put away for retirement today. The faster retirement can come.

Follow The Paper Trail

If you think you may have money in a company-sponsored retirement plan floating around somewhere, you should take all necessary measures to track it down. You worked hard for those dollars, and you want to make sure theyre working as hard as possible for you and your future.

The Find a Financial Advisor links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor . After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMAs referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.

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Check On Your 401 Periodically

As mentioned, it’s essential to check how much is in your 401 throughout the year. Ideally, more than once, however, annual checks are enough.

The reason to monitor your retirement savings is to keep up with your retirement goals. For instance, as you near retirement, you may want to move your money to safer investments like bonds. Or, if one area has over-performed others, you might decide to reallocate your money to limit your exposure to one category.

Typically these drastic swings in your portfolio won’t happen that quickly. But by scheduling an annual check of your 401 balance, you’ll get a good picture of your 401 portfolio.


Average Current Retirement Savings Balance

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Unfortunately, many people are woefully under-prepared for retirement from a financial standpoint.

Here are some statistics on the median current retirement savings balances of Americans based on their age.

Families Between
70+ 12.3%

Workers save more for retirement as they get older and pay off other debts like student loans and a home mortgage.

At a minimum, many experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income for retirement. Dave Ramseys Baby Steps recommend saving at least 15% into retirement accounts after getting out of debt and building an emergency fund.

You can use a retirement calculator like NewRetirement to review your personal progress and project how long your nest egg will last. This tool is free but paid plans are available too.

Read our NewRetirement review to learn more about this interactive retirement planner.

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Average 401k Balance At Age 45

When you hit your 50s, you become eligible to make larger contributions towards retirement accounts. These are called catch-up contributions. Make sure that you take advantage of them! Catch-up contributions are $6,500 in 2022. So if you contribute the annual limit of $20,500 plus your catch-up contribution of $6,500, thats a total of $27,000 tax-advantaged dollars you could be saving towards your retirement.

Taking 401 Distributions In Retirement

The 401 withdrawal rules require you to begin depleting your 401 savings when you reach age 72.

At this point, you must take a required minimum distribution each year until your account is depleted. If you are still working for the employer beyond age 72, you may be able to delay required minimum distribution until you stop working if your plan allows this delay. The delay option is not available to you if you own 5% or more of the business.

You have until April 1 of the year after you turn 72 to take your first required minimum distribution. After that, you must take a minimum amount by December 31 each year. Your 401 plan administrator will tell you how much you are required to take each year.

The amount is based on your life expectancy and your account balance. If you dont take your required minimum distribution each year, you will have to pay a tax of 50% of the amount that should have been taken but was not. If you participate in more than one employer plan, you must take a required minimum distribution from each plan.

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How To Find A Lost 401 Account

Think you may be one of the millions with forgotten 401 money floating around somewhere? Start by scouring your personal email or laptop for any old 401 plan statements that you may have saved in the past.

“Your statement will provide your account number and plan administrator’s contact information,” Corina Cavazos, managing director, advice and planning at Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management, tells Select. Your former coworkers may have old statements that you can reference, too.

If you don’t have any luck, Cavazos says that your best bet is to contact your former employer’s HR or accounting department. By providing your full name, Social Security number and dates of employment with that company, you can have them check their 401 plan records to see if you were once a participant.

If you’ve tried contacting your 401 plan administrator or former employer to no success, you may be able to find old retirement account funds on the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Upon entering your Social Security number, the secure website allows you to conduct a free database search to see if there’s any unpaid retirement money in your name.

Another search database is the FreeERISA website, which indicates if your former employer rolled your 401 funds into a default participant IRA account on your behalf. FreeERISA requires you to register before performing a search, but it is free to do so.

What Is The Actual Deferral Percentage Test

roth ira vs. roth 401(k) updated visual

The Actual Deferral Percentage test is a way to ensure employer 401 contributions are proportional and fair for all employees. Through this test, an employer can know if they meet the required actual deferral percentage of both nonhighly and highly compensated employees as stated by the IRS.

Another nondiscrimination test for 401 plans is the Actual Contribution Percentage test, which takes into account matching employer contributions and after-tax employee contributions.

For the purposes of the ADP and ACP tests, an HCE is considered to be an employee who:

  • Owned at least 5% of the company at any time during the year.

  • OR was paid more than $130,000 for the year 2020 or 2021 AND is elected by the employer to be in the top 20% of paid employees at the company.

Generally, companies must also pass one more test, the Top-Heavy test. This focuses on key employees rather than just highly compensated employees.

For the purposes of the Top-Heavy test, an employee is considered key if they:

  • Fulfill the above-mentioned considerations for HCE employees.

  • OR earned more than $150,000 during the year AND owned over 1% of the business.

All three of these tests compare plan benefits among the nonhighly and highly compensated employees.

The three benefits measured by these tests are:

  • Contributions: This measures matching company contributions and nonelective contributions to an employees 401.

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    Plan For Your Retirement Over Your Career

    Remember that retirement planning is not a singular event, but rather something you do over the course of your career.

    Keep this mindset and continually review your retirement planning progress and account balances. If you havent started to save for retirement, its never too late.

    Talk to your HR department about retirement planning options, or open up an IRA, or even basic savings account to get started putting money aside for your future.

    Thursday, 21 Oct 2021 11:13 PM

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    Taxes On Rolling Over A 401 Account

    There are a few instances where you may want to transfer funds from an employers 401 into another account. The most common situation is when you leave an employer and want to transfer funds from your previous employer into your new employers 401, or into your own individual retirement account .

    Whenever you withdraw money from a 401, you have 60 days to put the money into another tax-deferred retirement plan. If you transfer the money within 60 days, you will not have to pay any taxes or penalties on your withdrawals. You will need to say on your tax return that you made a transfer, but you wont pay anything. If you dont make the transfer within 60 days, the money you withdrew will add to your gross income and you will have to pay income tax on it. You will also pay any applicable penalties if you withdraw before age 59.5.

    If you dont want to worry about missing the 60-day deadline, you can make a direct 401 rollover. This means the money goes directly from one custodian provider) to another without ever being in your hands.

    Finally, note that if youre rolling over a 401 into a Roth IRA, youll need to pay the full income tax on the rolled-over amount. However, theres no 10% penalty for doing this before age 59.5.

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    Locate Where Your 401s Are

    Before you can check how much is in your 401 account, you need to know where your 401s are.

    The first place to look is the company with whom you’re currently working. Many companies have implemented auto-enrollment into their 401 plans, ensuring that most of their employees contribute to their retirement. Otherwise, participation may drop because they simply forgot or didn’t know it was available.

    Contact your human resources department to get information on if you’re contributing to their 401 and your account information.

    Additionally, if you’ve changed jobs a few times in your career, you may have old 401 outstanding in different places. Locating old 401s can be a tricky process as it requires much coordination and hunting down various entities and contacts.

    If you’re unsure if you have outstanding 401s with old companies, we can help. Beagle will find any old 401s you have, identify any hidden fees, and provide options to consolidate into one, easy-to-manage account. Sign-up only takes a couple of minutes and Beagle will help you find all your 401 accounts!

    Even misplacing one 401 from a previous employer could cost you thousands in potential retirement funds.

    Tax Rules: Withdrawals Deductions & More

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    If youre building your retirement saving, 401 plans are a great option. These employer-sponsored plans allow you to contribute up to $19,500 in pre-tax money in 2021. Some employers will also match some of your contributions, which means free money for you. Come retirement, though, your withdrawals are subject to income taxes and other rules. Heres what you need to know about how 401 contributions and withdrawals are taxed. For help with all retirement issues, consider working with a financial advisor.

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    Types Of Money That Might Vest

    Examples of money types that are most likely to have a vesting schedule include:

    • Employer matching: Any funds you receive as a result of your own contributions to the plan.
    • Employer profit-sharing: Money you might get regardless of whether or not you contribute.
    • Others, potentially

    Examples of contributions that would generally not require any wait for vesting:

    • Qualified non-elective contribution : An employer contribution thats typically used to fix mistakes or solve failed discrimination tests. For the contribution to work, it must be 100% immediately vested.
    • Qualified matching contribution : Similar to a QNEC, above, but handled differently.
    • Rollover: Funds that you roll into your plan from a previous employers 401, 403, your IRA, etc.

    IRA-based accounts, including SEPs and SIMPLEs, do not have vesting schedules. Once the money goes into your account, its yours to do with as you please. However, its critical to learn about potential tax consequences of moving or withdrawing funds from any retirement account.

    Important: Speak with your tax advisor and your plan administrator before making any decisions. The information here might not apply to your plan, it may be outdated, or there may be errors or omissions that you need to address with a professional.

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