How To Find 401k From Previous Employers – Written by Brian Baker, CFA Written by Brian Baker, CFAArrow Right Investing Reporter Brian Baker . He is a CFA Charterholder and previously worked as an industry analyst at a buy-side investment firm. Baker is passionate about helping people understand complex financial topics to better plan for their financial future. Connect with Brian Baker, CFA on Twitter Brian Baker, CFA on Twitter
Edited by Brian Beers Edited by Brian Beers Right Managing Editor Brian Beers is the Managing Editor of the Wealth team. It oversees editorial coverage of banking, investment, economics and all things money. Connect with Brian Beers on Twitter Twitter Twitter Connect with Brian Beers LinkedIn Linkedin Brian Beers
How To Find 401k From Previous Employers
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Rolling Over An Old 401(k)
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Things To Know About Your 401(k) When Changing Jobs
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Most people hold several different jobs over the course of their careers, and research shows that younger generations are switching jobs more frequently than their older counterparts. Millennials spend an average of two years and nine months in a role, compared to an average of eight years and three months for baby boomers, according to CareerBuilder.
Meanwhile, more than half of Americans say they will look for a new job in the coming year, according to a 2022 survey, as more people prioritize flexibility, the ability to work remotely and higher pay in their jobs.
With all of this going from job to job, it can be difficult to keep track of your retirement accounts. As of May 2023, there are about 29.2 million forgotten 401(k) accounts, according to estimates from the platform Capitalize. These forgotten accounts accounted for $1.65 trillion in assets in May 2023, or about 25 percent of all 401(k) assets.
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So how can you make sure you don’t lose track of the assets in those forgotten 401(k) accounts? Here’s what you need to do.
The first thing you can do to find money saved in forgotten 401(k) accounts is to review any old plan statements you may have. Notices may have arrived by post or you may have received them electronically by email.
Finding these statements can make it easier to find out which employers you worked with while you had a 401(k) plan and help you determine who to contact to access your account. You can also contact former colleagues at the company to see who you should contact.
If you don’t have old plan statements, the next best option is to contact your former employers directly through your human resources department or someone who handles benefits, such as retirement accounts.
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By providing personal information such as your name and Social Security number, they can verify that you participate in a 401(k) plan at the time of employment.
Another option is to find plan information through the Department of Labor’s website. By finding a company’s Form 5500, the annual report that must be filed for employee benefit plans, you can find contact information and who the plan administrator was during your employment.
You can also find information on lost accounts through FreeERISA. You must register to use the site, but searching is free once you set up your account.
If you still can’t find information on your lost 401(k) plans, try searching one of the publicly available databases for unclaimed assets. The National Register of Unclaimed Pension Benefits is a good place to start. By entering your Social Security number, you can quickly see if you have any unclaimed retirement funds. The money may still be in your employer’s plan, or the company may have set up a special IRA account in your name to hold the funds.
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You can also search using the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators site, which can help you track down any unclaimed money you may be owed, not just retirement assets. Check each state where you live or work. The site processes tens of millions of claims each year and has helped recover more than $3 billion in unclaimed assets annually.
By adding the old account to your current employer’s plan, you can keep all 401(k) accounts in one place and make them easier to track. However, most 401(k) plans have a limited number of investment options, so if you’re not happy with your current plan’s options, it’s best to roll the old account into an IRA.
This may be the best option for most people because the IRA is attached to you instead of your employer, making it less likely that you will lose the account again. IRAs also come with a wider selection of investments than most 401(k) plans. You can choose individual stocks as well as mutual funds, ETFs and more.
If you don’t have an IRA, you’ll need to set up an account before you can roll over your 401(k). The process is very simple and you can open an IRA through most online brokers.
Free 401k Rollover Request: Make & Download
Finding lost and forgotten 401(k) accounts is critical to maximizing your retirement savings. Every little bit helps, so you don’t want to let hundreds or thousands of dollars go unclaimed. While this amount may seem small today, the savings can add up over time as your investments compound and grow.
Consolidating your old accounts into your current plan or IRA can help you organize your financial life and give you a clearer sense of whether you’re on track to reach your financial goals.
Brian Baker covers investing and retirement. He is a CFA Charterholder and previously worked as an industry analyst at a buy-side investment firm. Baker is passionate about helping people understand complex financial topics
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