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How to Find Your IRA With Your Social Security Number?

If you’ve lost your IRA, you can find it with your social security number. There are a few ways to locate an old IRA, but which ones are most effective?

3 min read

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are a great retirement savings alternative to the traditional 401(k). If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), an IRA is another excellent tax-advantaged alternative to build your retirement wealth. However, if you’ve lost track of an old IRA, it may be challenging to find it.

You can find your IRA using your social security number, either by searching for the entity you opened the account with, navigating your state’s treasury database, or hiring a company like Beagle to do the work for you.

With a bit of personal information and your social security number, you can find past IRAs that have slipped through your grasp and consolidate them into one account.

How is an IRA Different From a 401(k)?

A 401(k) is a tax-deferred retirement savings account. Typically provided by an employer, contributions are made directly from your paychecks before taxes are taken out. An employer or outside firm manages the 401(k) plan and determines the plan’s rules like vesting schedules and eligibility.

Conversely, an IRA is a different retirement savings account. Although not provided by an employer, IRAs are relatively easy to set up. Large institutions like Fidelity or Vanguard are the main places to open an IRA. However, more tech-forward companies called robo-advisors are entering this space and provide IRAs as options to invest.

A traditional IRA works in the same way as a 401(k) for the most part. Contributions are made using pre-tax dollars, and distributions are taxed.

Alternatively, a Roth IRA uses after-tax dollars. Distributions during retirement, then, are tax-free.

How to Find Old IRAs

With how easy it is to open an IRA, it can be just as easy to lose track of past accounts. With the growing number of institutions competing for investors to open new accounts or rollover their existing funds to their institutions, a person could have a few IRAs scattered across the investing landscape.

Luckily, forgetful investors can find old IRAs using information they already know. The tricky part is knowing where to look.

Check Your Past Dealings

Chances are, you have a vague memory of the institutions with whom you’ve opened accounts. Even that student savings account you opened after you got your first job at 15 should have a cloudy memory attached to it.

If you’ve recently opened an IRA, say within the past five years, you may be able to call them directly; they should still have your account on file.

Be ready to provide them your social security number and other information to verify you are the account holder.

If you still can’t locate your old account and know it was pretty recently, use trial and error. Contact the major investment institutions—chances are you used one of them—and ask if there is an account associated with your name and social security number.

If you can find your old IRAs be sure to get information on how to consolidate them into an IRA you’re actively managing. This will help you keep track of your accounts and manage them more effectively.

Your IRA May Be With the State

If it’s been longer than five years and you haven’t been in contact with your IRA’s custodian, it could be a little more difficult finding your IRA.

IRA custodians require your up-to-date contact information to send you pertinent information about your account, like statements and tax documents. However, it’s up to you to keep this information current. Fail to do so, and the institution goes about their business as if you’ve been in the loop.

If their calls go unanswered and mail and email attempts are returned, by law, they must give up. This prevents your information from getting into the wrong hands accidentally.

When this happens, IRAs get handed off to the treasurer of the state where you opened the account and may have incurred a 10% tax penalty by the IRS.

Your state’s treasurer is where you can search for any unclaimed money that’s owed to you. Unclaimed.org can help you locate your state’s appropriate department. 

Depending on the state, you’ll enter your name and social security number, and the database will pull up and money belonging to that information.

It’s not always guaranteed, but it may turn up lost IRAs

Prevent Misplacing Future IRAs

As mentioned above, consolidating your old IRAs into one is the best way you don’t lose track of them in the future.

By rolling over your accounts, you can manage your investment performance, reallocate your funds to match your goals, and make sure you’re not paying high fees.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to find your old 401(k)s and roll them over into either your current 401(k) or an IRA. This prevents losing track of your 401(k) accounts you held at former employers.

Additionally, make a plan to monitor your retirement account at once per year. By doing this annual—or more—your account stays fresh in your mind.