People might change jobs and relocate several times over their lifetime. Unfortunately, if a person had a retirement plan or 401(k) with a company, he or she might have neglected to roll over the fund into a new employer's 401(k) plan or individual retirement arrangement (IRA). The money in a 401(k) account doesn't disappear; it will be waiting for you to claim it. But if it's been awhile and you no longer have information on the 401(k), a little detective work might be needed to find the money.
How to Find 401(k) Money Owed to You
Go through old pay stubs and tax records. If you contributed to a 401(k) for each paycheck, the amount deducted will be recorded on the pay stub. Go over the pay stubs carefully, since the name or policy number might also be recorded. Don't forget to check old tax records, because they might have information on the investment company that handled the 401(k).
Call the human resources department at your former place of employment. It will have records of your 401(k) or information on how to contact the investment firm that handles the company's 401(k) plan. If the company changed hands, check to see if the new company has contact information for the previous owners or whether it is using the same investment firm.
Find out if the company filed for bankruptcy. If you run into dead ends looking for a company that went out of business, check with the National Archives, because it might have bankruptcy records dating back decades. If you do find out that the company filed for bankruptcy, check to see if a fiduciary (a partner or firm that handles investments for a company or individual) was listed in the bankruptcy records. This most likely is the firm used for retirement plans.
Check with the U.S. Department of Labor. It has a database of terminated and abandoned 401(k) plans that is searchable by employer name, plan name and location. Ideally, the employer or investment firm contacted employers or former employers when the plan was terminated. If you were not contacted about the plan's termination, the plan will automatically roll over into an IRA until you claim it.
Search for funds owed to you at your state treasurer's unclaimed property website. If a 401(k) appears to be abandoned, the firm that handles it will try to find the person to whom it belongs. If the company cannot find the person, it may turn over the money to the state treasurer's office for disbursement. The money will stay there until claimed by the rightful owner.
Contact former co-workers to find out if they remember any information on 401(k) programs with the company.
Check into agencies that offer to find missing 401(k) or retirement plans for a fee, before signing with them.
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