Learn How to Locate Them
Losing track of retirement funds is a common and concerning trend that has worsened in recent years. As of May 2023, there were approximately 29.2 million forgotten 401k accounts in the United States that held approximately $1.65 trillion in assets. And, due to recent increases in job switching, the number of forgotten 401ks has grown by more than 20% since May 2021.1
Missing out on these retirement funds can put your retirement at risk, as you may end up losing significant assets. Fortunately, there are ways to locate and reclaim lost retirement accounts. The following tips can help.
1. Check with past employers.
If you’ve changed jobs throughout your career, it’s important to follow up with past employers to make sure you didn’t leave any money behind. Retirement plan administrators have several options for how to handle abandoned funds in an employer-sponsored account, based on the amount left in it.
- $1,000 or less – The employer can issue a check and mail it to your last known address. If you’ve moved since leaving a job, you may need to request a new check.
- Between $1,000 and $5,000 – Employers can move funds to an IRA without your consent. You’ll need to ask your past employer how to access the account.
More than $5,000 – There’s a good chance your funds are still in the employer’s plan. It may be wise to roll over the account balance to an IRA that you control.
2. Search unclaimed property databases.
Sometimes people lose track of their retirement savings when they move and forget to notify past employers of their new address. When an employer or financial institution is unable to reach an accountholder, it may turn over the account to the state’s unclaimed property office.
Fortunately, you can search for your name on the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) website or your state-specific unclaimed property office to find any unclaimed retirement funds that may be waiting for you.
3. Check the Department of Labor (DOL) abandoned plan database.
If your past employer’s plan was terminated, the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration consolidates information about unclaimed retirement benefits and makes it easy to track down missing funds.
4. Contact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
The PBGC can be a great resource if you lost track of a defined benefit pension plan at a previous employer. This organization is a government agency that insures the value of pension benefits and helps individuals locate lost pension plans. Visit pbgc.gov for more information.
5. Track down forgotten IRAs.
If you think you may have abandoned an IRA along the way, take inventory of past bank and investment account statements for any evidence of the account. You can also reach out directly to any financial institutions you’ve worked with in the past to inquire about any inactive or dormant IRAs associated with your name.
If you think you left behind retirement assets at some point, it may be work the effort of tracking them down. Even if you haven’t contributed to the accounts in many years, the power of compounding has the potential to significantly grow your retirement assets over time.
Could you use some help tracking down lost retirement plan assets? Creative Planning is here for you. Our experienced professionals help maximize clients’ financial potential in order to help them achieve their dreams. To learn more about how we can help optimize your financial life, schedule a call with a member of our team.