How to Find Old 401(k) Accounts - MagnifyMoney
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How to Find Old 401(k) Accounts

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Billions of dollars are left behind in forgotten 401(k) plans in the United States. That’s a massive amount of unclaimed property just waiting to be returned to its right fully owners. So if you’re looking to find old 401(k) accounts, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll help you track them down in four different ways.

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How to find your old 401(k) accounts

1. Contact your former employer

You can start your search for your missing retirement savings by contacting your former employer’s human resources department. Simply tell them you’re a former employee who wants to access a 401(k) plan you left behind. Then, they’ll likely ask you for identifying information and dates of employment to help search their record.

If the HR department can locate your 401(k) account, they’ll let you know what your options are for accessing the account. They can also give you steps to take to roll those assets over into your new employer’s 401(k) or to a rollover IRA account.

However, you might run into a hiccup if you’re previous employer has been acquired by another company. In this case, you can search online for news about the acquisition’s details, including the name and location of the purchasing company. If you’re still in touch with former colleagues from that job, they may be able to provide you with the information as well.

2. National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

If your online sleuthing doesn’t turn up the information you need to find your old 401(k), don’t despair. You can search the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, which helps employers connect with former employees who have left assets behind in a retirement plan.

Just head to the website and enter your Social Security number, and the registry will search for any retirement plans associated with that number. If one is found, the site will contact the plan administrator on your behalf, or you can do so yourself. You’ll then receive a benefit election form that allows you to specify how you would like to handle the funds.

Here’s an important caveat: If the registry doesn’t find a plan associated with your SSN, that doesn’t mean you don’t have an old 401(k) plan out there. It maymean that your former employer hasn’t added your records to the database yet. The site notes that employers add more participants to the database daily, so a future search could locate your plan.

3. U.S. Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Search

In certain cases, such as in bankruptcies, employers abandon the 401(k) plans they provided to employees. While that sounds harsh, it’s a fact of how defunct businesses often play out.

If you’re previous employer no longer exists, the company is required to notify you so you can receive the funds owed to you. If you weren’t notified or believe your plan may have been abandoned, you can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Search. On that site, you can search by employer or plan name. If a plan is located, you’ll receive the plan administrator’s contact information.

4. Use Beagle, the 401k super sleuths

If you know you have a former 401(k) plan out there and the above methods can’t locate your funds, you could try Beagle. This company is basically a super sleuth for 401(k) plans. They advertise that they can help you find old plans, review your plan’s fees and even help you roll over those left-behind plans into an IRA.

As of the time of this article, Beagle has a 4.8 rating on TrustPilot and many reviewers say that Beagle helped them find old 401(k) plans inside of two to three days.

However, Beagle isn’t a free service. You can search for your 401(k)s for free, but to see the accounts Beagle found, you’ll have to pay anywhere between $19-$99. The price depends on the additional services you choose, which can range from just seeing the plan info to meeting with a financial coach.

Beagle could be a good option if you’re short on time and want some help finding your old 401(k)s. If you’re having trouble locating your plans, Beagle might be worth the money for the helping hand. You might want to stop by TrustPilot and read the reviews first before making a purchase decision.

What to do when you find your old 401(k) plan

If find your lost 401(k), congratulations! However, it’s not time to celebrate by blowing it all on a fancy vacation or a shopping spree. You invested that money to build a retirement nest egg — and that’s exactly where those funds should stay.

To invest your old 401(k), you can do what’s known as a rollover to avoid early withdrawal penalties. You can roll over the funds into an individual retirement account (IRA) or into another retirement plan, such as your current employer’s 401(k).

In both cases, you can avoid withholding taxes if you roll over the funds directly via the plan administrator. If a distribution is made directly to you, you have 60 days to deposit it into your new retirement account in order to avoid taxes and penalties.

Frequently asked questions

You can. You can use your Social Security number to search databases such as the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Search to locate a 401(k) plan you might have left behind.

A great place to start your search for an old 401(k) plan is with your previous employer’s Human Resources department. You’ll likely need to provide your employment dates and other identifying information to help them locate your account. If they locate your plan account, they can also help you with your options for rolling the balance over to your current employer’s retirement plan or to a rollover IRA.

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