Created: May 7, 2023
Modified: May 4, 2023

Episode 93: How do I Track Down my Old 401(k)?

Today’s question is, “how do I find my old 401(k)”? This is a very common question and there are three likely places where you’re going to find it.

Three Likely Places to Find your Old 401(k):

  1. Right where you left it: with your former employer, in the same account.
  2. Your former employer’s Claim Administrator could have created a new account for you and moved it there.
  3. The care of your state’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Reach out to Former Employers

The first step is to create a list of all your former employers. Then, you’ll want to start reaching out to the human resources department and asking them about the 401(k). If the account had $5,000 or more when you left, it is very likely in the same place. If it had $5,000 or less in the account when you left, it is very likely that they moved it over to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) without your consent. Now if they did this, the good news is that the account maintained its tax protected status, the bad news is that you still don’t know where it is. So again, starting with human resources is a great place to locate that.

Now if the balance was $1,000 or less, they likely just wrote a check and sent it to the address on file and moved on. If they sent a check and you did not receive it, or if the human resource department is not being helpful, there are publicly available databases that you can use to locate these accounts.

Publicly Available Databases:

  1. Start with the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
  2. The Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Database
  3. You can do a state-specific search for unclaimed property

If you happen to be looking for an old pension instead of 401(k), you can use the U.S Pension Guaranteed Corp Database for unclaimed pensions.

Thanks again for joining me. This is Matt Scott and this has been Money Wisdom Question Series.

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