Where Is My 401(k)?
If you’ve ever left a job and wondered “Where is my 401(k)?”, you’re not alone. Transferring 401(k)’s is complicated. Thus, billions of dollars are left behind each year. Beagle can help track down your money.
Contributing to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan is a great way to build wealth for retirement; especially if you’re receiving a match from your company. The problem is they are tied to an individual employer. We forget about them, leave that company, and one day we realize “Oh yeah! Where is my 401(k)?”
A 401(k) can be in a few different places. Most commonly it could be with your previous employers, an IRA they transferred your funds to after you left, or mailed to the address they had on file.
Believe it or not, Americans leave behind billions of dollars in unclaimed 401(k) accounts. According to a US Labor Department study, the average worker will have had about 12 different jobs before they turn 40. So it’s easy to see how we can lose track of so much 401(k) money.
How To Find My 401(k)?
When you leave your employer you have three options for the money you’ve accumulated in your 401(k) account. You can either:
- Leave it alone and keep it in the same account;
- Roll over the funds to your new employer’s 401(k) plan; or
- Roll over the funds to an IRA.
Most people leave their 401(k)’s alone, either from neglect or they don’t bother with facilitating the transfer.
You can rollover your 401(k) funds to an IRA as soon as you’d like. If your IRA is already set up then it can accept the funds immediately.
However, if your new employer implements a waiting period before you can participate in their 401(k) program, then you have no choice but to leave it alone until you’re eligible.
This is where things fall through the cracks.
Unattended 401(k)’s can end up in one of three different places:
- The same place you left it, in the account you set up with your former employer;
- In a new account set up by your old plan’s administrator;
- In your state’s unclaimed property department.
Contact Your Former Employer
The first place you should look is your prior employer. Contact their human resources department. There, they should have all of the information as to the whereabouts of the 401(k) account you had with them.
They should send you the proper paperwork and be able to facilitate the transfer of your funds to whatever account you choose.
If they are unable to locate any information on your account, they should be able to provide you the contact information of the administrator who handled your 401(k) on their behalf.
Let the administrator know your situation, and just like the HR department, should be able to assist you in moving your money properly.
Locate An Old 401(k) Statement
If you’re having trouble getting a hold of your former employer’s HR department, refer to an account statement of your old 401(k).
If you’re still living at the same address, you should have yearly or quarterly statements mailed to you. Check your statement for information on where your account is held and any contact information.
The information on your statements will come in handy in identifying how much money you’ll be transferring over to make sure nothing is left behind.
Search Unclaimed Assets Databases
If your search is still coming up empty, your former employer has folded or was bought by another company, you’re not out of luck yet.
It may take a little more effort and research but there are many national databases that can help you track down your old 401(k) accounts:
- The Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan database can help you identify what happened to your old plan and the contact information of the current administrator;
- The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits allows you to do a free search for any unclaimed retirement money using just your Social Security number;
- FreeERISA is another free resource to search for any old account information that has been filed with the federal government;
- The Securities and Exchange Commission’s website or your state’s Secretary of State can provide more information on your previous employer
Too Complicated? Get Some Help
If this process seems like a lot of work, you’re not alone. Locating your old 401(k) accounts and finding the proper place to transfer them to can get confusing.
Fortunately, Beagle can do all of the difficult work for you. The tasks of finding your accounts and facilitating their transfers are all done for you. Getting started is free and only takes a few minutes.
How To Find Out If I Have A 401(k)
The best way to make sure you don’t lose track of your 401(k) is to periodically keep tabs on it. Although, checking your retirement accounts too frequently can lead to overkill and alarm if the market takes a dive. Aim for quarterly or semi-annual checks of your funds to make sure everything is in order.
Actively managing your 401(k) is a good habit to get into. Making sure your retirement accounts are being properly funded and you’re on track to meet your retirement goals should be etched into your overall personal finance plan.
However, if you’ve let it slip for the past couple of years, no need to worry. Contact your human resources department to get information on how you can monitor your account.
You may be given access to an online portal for you to log in and manage your account.
Verify your statements are being sent to the correct address. Bookmark the account information so you always know where to log into your account from. Also, consider updating your login and password to make sure your account is more secure.
Don’t Lose Out
Looking for multiple accounts, from multiple employers and where they’ve moved your money can seem like a nightmare.
However, if tracking down old 401(k)’s from past employers, some you may not have worked for in decades seems like too much, there are resources to handle the forensics for you.
As mentioned, Beagle will take all of the aforementioned steps and do the heavy lifting for you. We will find all of your outstanding 401(k) accounts, any hidden fees they may have accrued, and rollover everything into one simple IRA account. It’s free and takes only minutes to get started.
You can rest assured all of your money is brought back from the far corners of the retirement account universe into your orbit. Then you can move forward with managing your retirement accounts to make sure you hit your goals.
Locating lost 401(k)’s can feel like an endless maze. However, knowing where to look and who to talk to can make all the difference.