Are you missing 401(k) funds?

October 11th, 2020

It’s actually more common than you think: people don’t even realize they’re missing 401(k) funds. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s common for adults to bounce around between jobs. In fact, by age 45, some have worked a dozen jobs, even if the experience didn’t last longer than a year or two. These days, this is even expected. 

However, it doesn’t make it easy to keep track of your 401(k). If you think you may have lost track of an old 401(k) account, here’s some good news. You may be able to recover your hard-earned money with just a little legwork.

The first step you need to take is to contact your former employer. The easiest version of this recovery process is if you remember the name of your former company and it still exists. If this is the case, get in touch with that company’s human resources department and ask them to search for a 401(k) account in your name. In a best case scenario, they’ll find your account and help you move those funds to a current account.

If that company no longer manages your pension plan directly, they should still be able to put you in touch with the bank or insurer who is.

Maybe you’re not so lucky, though, and your old company doesn’t exist anymore. You’re not entirely out of luck, but this will make it a little harder to find your account. Ideally, you would be able to track down what happened to that company, and who oversees its accounts now. Google is going to be your best friend in this route.

But if the company went bankrupt and shuttered its doors, it may be harder to find this information. Instead, you could try: 

  • Looking into the Missing Participants Program, which is under the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Someone there may be able to connect you with your forgotten retirement savings.
  • Checking the Abandoned Plan Database through the U.S. Department of Labor. This may be able to help you figure out exactly what happened to your account, plus contact information for its current administrator.
  • Checking the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. This is pretty much what it sounds like—employees can search unpaid retirement account money. (You will have to input your Social Security number, though.)

If any of these work, congrats! Your nest egg just got bigger and you can now work with your account’s administrator to add those funds to an existing account or simply withdraw them.

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