Use Resources To Discover Unclaimed Assets
Before you go any further, make sure you take the above steps to locate your funds. Once complete, you can use the following resources to gain access to your unclaimed assets:
- Unclaimed property search: To complete a search, you can use your name and location to find your assets.
- Search for Form 5500 filing: The Department of Labor makes it easy to search online for and file a Form 5500. Youll need to know your plan administrator, their EIN, the plan name or other essential information to use this tool.
- DOLs Abandoned Plan Search: Finally, you can also use the Department of Labors abandoned plan database to search for your unclaimed assets.
Find 401 Plan Information Through The Labor Department
Another option is to find plan information through the Department of Labors website. By locating the companys Form 5500, an annual report required to be filed for employee benefit plans, you should be able to find contact information and who the plans administrator was during your employment.
You may also be able to find information on lost accounts through FreeERISA. You must register to use the site, but it is free to search once youve set up your account.
You Found Your 401 Plan Now What
If find your lost 401, congratulations! However, its not time to celebrate by blowing it all on a fancy vacation or a shopping spree. You invested that money with the purpose of building a retirement nest egg and thats exactly where those funds should stay.
To invest your old 401, you can do whats known as a rollover to avoid early withdrawal penalties. You can roll over the funds into an individual retirement account or into another retirement plan, such as your current employers 401.
Rolling over your 401 into an IRA is a relatively simple process. First, you need to open an IRA, which you can do though most banks, brokerage firms and robo-advisors. The funds from your old 401 then can be sent directly to your new IRA. If you prefer to keep all your investments in one place and your current employer offers a decent 401, then you may want to consider rolling over the funds into that account .
In both cases, you can avoid withholding taxes if you roll over the funds directly via the plan administrator. If a distribution is made directly to you, you have 60 days to deposit it into your new retirement account in order to avoid taxes and penalties.
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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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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.
How Many Lost 401ks And Other Retirement Accounts Are Forgotten
Think lost and forgotten retirement accounts amount to chump change? Although no one keeps data on how much retirement money gets lost or forgotten, in an interview with Bloomberg, Terry Dunne of Millennium Trust Co., made an educated guess based on government and industry data that more than 900,000 workers lose track of 401k-style, defined-contribution plans each year.
That figure doesnt include pensions. According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, an independent agency of the U.S. government tasked with protecting pension benefits in private-sector defined benefit plans, there are more than 38,000 people in the U.S. who havent claimed pension benefits they are owed. Those unclaimed pensions total over $300 million dollars, with one individual being owed almost $1 million dollars!
Could that money belong to you?
Undertaking A Registry Overview
Operating under its parent company PenChecks Inc., the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits maintains a database of individuals with retirement funds to claim. As a processor of retirement distributions, PenChecks has access to a large list of people who have not come forward to claim their money. The registrys database is partly populated by those names and partly filled with information that other organizations provide. The list is searchable at UnclaimedRetirementBenefits.com.
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Contact Your Former Employer
Ask Your Former Employer
Most forgotten retirement accounts are linked to a former employer. Since accounts like 401s and 403s are employer-sponsored plans, the company chooses the administrator and keeps records of all the accounts. The first step is calling your benefits manager at your former company and asking if they have a history of your account.
If they do, you can reach out to the account administrator to direct your funds into a new account via rollover or cash out the account. However, this can trigger early withdrawal penalties and taxes depending on age.
What if your company went under? In this case, youll have to go straight to the source: the plan administrator. Some common account administrators are Fidelity, Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and TD Ameritrade. Suppose you dont remember your log-in or password. In that case, a customer service representative should be able to verify your identity using other authentication methods such as your Social Security number , mothers maiden name, or security questions.
If you dont remember the name of your plan administrator, you can find the information on the U.S. Department of Labor website. Every company must file a Form 5500 to report the companys plan administrator, its assets, and participants. You can navigate to the EFAST system through the DOL website, which will search by company name as long as your tenure there was after 2010.
To find the Form 5500, take these steps:
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Questions To Ask Yourself Before Retiring
As you plan, consider these important questions:
- At what age do you plan to retire?
- Can you participate in an employer’s retirement savings plan? This includes 401 plans and traditional pension plans.
- If you have a spouse or partner, will they retire when you do?
- Where do you plan to live when you retire? Will you downsize, rent, or own your home?
- Do you expect to work part-time?
- Will you have the same medical insurance you had while working? Will your insurance coverage change?
- Do you want to travel or pursue a costly, new hobby?
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How To Find Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
Many employers offer retirement accounts and benefits, and some will even match their employees contributions. However, most people leave employers several times throughout their careers. In leaving one job and taking on another, some employees forget to take their 401 or other retirement accounts with them. If theres a chance you have unclaimed retirement benefits but arent sure how to access them, knowing how to find your unclaimed retirement benefits can be extremely beneficial. Keep in mind that getting help from a financial advisor might save you a great deal of time in finding that money.
Lost And Abandoned Pension Resources
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is a U.S. government agency. It provides information on pension-related topics to help people understand and find their pensions. A few resources that you can use to find a lost or abandoned pension include:
- The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits: This website can help former government and non-government employees find their retirement plan account balances that are left unclaimed.
- Abandoned Plan Program: The Abandoned Plan Program helps terminate and distribute the benefits from pension plan accounts that have been terminated by their employers. You can search this database to help you find your abandoned plan.
- Department of Labor: The Department of Labor can help you find your lost or abandoned pension through its Form 5500 search.
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Reference An Old Statement
Because companies reorganize, merge, get acquired, or go out of business every day, its possible that your former employer is no longer around. In that case, try to locate a lost 401k plan statement and look for contact information for the plan administrator. If you dont have an old statement, reach out to former coworkers and ask if they have an old statement.
External Resources For Locating Benefits
Have you explored Finding a Lost Pension prior to visiting these external resources?
- The Pension Rights Center is a nonprofit consumer organization that provides information on pension-related topics and hosts PensionHelp America, an online resource for connecting individuals with counseling projects, government agencies, and legal service providers that offer free information and assistance.
- The Pension Action Center provides free legal counseling for workers and retirees who live or worked in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Illinois.
- The American Academy of Actuaries Pension Assistance List is intended to provide professional services to consumers who have questions about their pension plans.
Government and Military Pensions
- Information about federal and military pensions is available from the Office of Personnel Management, Thrift Savings Plan, and Department of Defense.
- For state and local pension plans, visit state government websites or municipality websites and contact the applicable personnel office.
Lost or Abandoned Pensions
Other Retirement Benefits
445 12th Street SW
Contact Your Old Employer About Your Old 401
Employers will try to track down a departed employee who left money behind in an old 401, but their efforts are only as good as the information they have on file. Beyond providing 30 to 60 days notice of their intentions, there are no laws that say how hard they have to look or for how long.
If its been a while since youve heard from your former company, or if youve moved or misplaced the notices they sent, start by contacting your former companys human resources department or find an old 401 account statement and contact the plan administrator, the financial firm that held the account and sent you updates.
If there was more than $5,000 in your retirement account when you left, theres a good chance that your money is still in your workplace account. You may be allowed to leave it there for as long as you like, until youre age 72, when the IRS requires you to start taking distributions, but you might not want to. Alternatively, you could do a 401 rollover to move that money into another retirement account.
The good news if a new IRA was opened for the rollover: Your money retains its tax-protected status. The bad: You have to find the new trustee.
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.
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Find Your 401 With Your Social Security Number
If the old plan administrator cannot tell you where your 401 funds went, there are several databases that can assist. You can use your Social Security number to find your lost 401 by popping it into some of the databases below.
National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits works like a missed connections service where companies register with the site to help facilitate a reunion between ex-employees and their retirement money. Not every company is registered with this site, so if none of these searches yields results, move on to the next step.
Department of Labor’s abandoned plan database
Another good place to start is with the Department of Labors abandoned plan database. It’s provided by the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The tool helps you find out if you have a plan that’s terminated, or is in the process of being terminated. You can also figure out who is doing the terminating in case you need to contact them directly.
U.S. Pension Guaranty Corp. database of unclaimed pensions
If you were covered under a traditional pension plan that was disbanded, search the U.S. Pension Guaranty Corp. database of unclaimed pensions. You’ll need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, the employers name, and the dates you worked for the company, as well as your contact phone number.
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.
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Other Ways To Find Lost Money
If you are hoping to find lost money, you might want to start by creating a comprehensive and detailed retirement plan. This enables you to:
- Document what you have right now.
- Take stock and think about what might be missing.
- Learning about what you need for a secure retirement is a great way organize your financial life.
- Discover opportunities to make more out of what you have. People who use the NewRetirement retirement planner typically improve their plans by thousands of dollars in their first session with the tool.
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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