Find 401(k)s

How to Find Your 401(k) with Your Social Security Number?

Knowing how to find your old 401(k)s with your social security number can save a lot of time and headache. There are tools you can use to find your 401(k) and roll them over.

4 min read

If you're like most, you've changed jobs quite a bit during your career. According to a Department of Labor study, the average American will have had about 12 jobs during their career. All of that moving around is bound to cause some things to get lost in the shuffle. And if you've participated in any company-sponsored 401(k) plan, your retirement money may have been left behind. Luckily, there are ways to find your 401(k)s using your social security number.

The sad fact is billions in retirement funds are left behind in 401(k) plans where the participant no longer works for that company.

401(k)s that have been left behind with former employers can be cumbersome at best to find. However, it's vital in building your retirement to locate your old funds and bring them back into your active portfolio.

The first step would be to contact your former employer's human resources department. If you can get in touch with them, they should have the best route to getting a hold of your old 401(k)s.

Next would be to reference your old 401(k)s summary plan description. In that, you should be able to find your plan administrator's contact information and what they do with former employees' 401(k)s.

You can also find your olds 401(k)s using your social security number. Either search official databases like a national registry or the Department of Labor, or you can have a company like Beagle do the work for you. Sign up takes only minutes and using the information you provide, they can find your old 401(k)s, identify any hidden fees, and roll them over to your current 401(k).

What Happens to Old 401(k)s

401(k) administrators have different procedures for what to do with left behind accounts. Depending on the amount, they could be distributed directly to you, transferred to an IRA on your behalf, or sent to a separate holding account until you claim them.

Unwilling to bear the burden of maintaining vast amounts of accounts from former employees, 401(k) plans prefer to unload them any way possible. This can make it challenging to find your old 401(k)s.

Find Your 401(k)s with Your Social Security Number

If you don't have any of the information mentioned above, you're not out of luck just yet. You can use your social security number to search for and find old 401(k)s.

When you join a 401(k) at work, you'll provide your social security number. This ties your 401(k) to any tax responsibilities you may have but also permanently stamps your 401(k) to your identity.

There are a couple of places to search for your old 401(k)s using your social security number. 

National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits helps employers connect with their former employees to returned unclaimed retirement accounts.

Using your social security number, they will search their database for any accounts associated with you. If one is found, they will provide you with the contact information for the plan's administrator. Or if you'd like, they will contact your plan for you.

Then, you'll receive information and a form to select how you want your 401(k) sent back to you.

This resource is only for unclaimed 401(k) reported by your former employers. If they haven’t reported your 401(k), it will not show up in the database.

US Department of Labor Abandoned Plan Search

If your former employer has filed for bankruptcy, gone out of business, or was purchased by another company, your 401(k) might be in limbo.

In these cases, employers are required to notify you so you can receive your funds. However, if your contact information has changed or you've moved, your plan may have been abandoned.

You can use the Department of Labor's Abandoned Plan Search tool to locate your old 401(k)s. You will need to enter basic information about your former employer; then, you can narrow your search using your social security number.

Like the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, the DOL’s Plan Search tool only located abandoned plan. There’s a good chance your old 401(k)s won’t show up in these results.

Use an Outside Company, Like Beagle

If your search in the above databases doesn’t provide any results, utilizing an outside company to find your old 401(k)s 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 401(k)s and find any hidden fees in your current 401(k) plan.

Then, they will provide you with options on how best to rollover your 401(k)s into one convenient, low-cost investment option.

The best part is signing up takes only minutes and is absolutely free.

This is a great option for anyone who is not sure where to start or even where to begin looking.

You've Found Your Old 401(k)s, Now What?

Once you've located your old 401(k)s, 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 401(k)s. 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 59½.

Secondly, you can rollover your old 401(k)s 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 401(k)s into an IRA. Like a 401(k), an IRA is a retirement account, so it's free from any penalties and taxes. These are held outside of your employer's 401(k) plan, but they're easy to set up and come with many more investment options.

Prevent Losing Your 401(k)s in the Future

Having a plan is the best way to prevent you from losing your 401(k)s in the future. You should actively manage a 401(k) plan to ensure you're on pace to meet your retirement goals.

Yearly or semi-yearly checkups are best. It'll prevent you from analyzing your account's performance and help you keep tabs on your account.

Having your 401(k) in the back of your mind, you more likely to remember to bring it with you when you leave your job.