Maybe it should go without saying, but losing track of a 401(k) – or any other form of retirement account – makes it more difficult to understand all your assets and options when planning for retirement.
Given the changes to retirement plans over the last 30 years and the increased frequency of job change among workers, losing track of an employer-sponsored retirement plan can be more common than you might think. A quick series of job changes early in a career, a cross-country move, a former employer changing its name or going out of business all can lead to a forgotten retirement account.
Doing a search is the first step to finding a missing retirement account. Begin by contacting your former employer and requesting information about your retirement benefits. Human resources departments often have that information – a letter, email or phone call would all be appropriate – or, if not, can direct you to resource that does.
If you’re looking to track down a previous employer that went out of business or changed its name, a good place to start is the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). You’ll be looking for the plan’s most recent Form 5500 – it will contain the plan’s contact information and the employer’s identification number, which can be used to locate any plan that inherited the assets in a merger, acquisition or sale. You can perform a search of the DOL’s Form 5500 records here.
Part of the mission of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), a federal agency, is to assure the security of the retirement benefits of America's workers and their families. As such, they offer assistance in locating retirement accounts. EBSA maintains a toll free participant assistance line, 1-866-444-3272 and online consumer assistance at askebsa.dol.gov.
If you suspect you should be the recipient of a pension, but don’t know how to claim it or who to talk to, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, another federal agency, offers tools – and even publishes a guide titled “Finding a Lost Pension"
The Pension Rights Center is a nonprofit organization “committed to protecting and promoting the retirement security of American workers, retirees, and their families.” It offers a number of free resources – including free legal assistance to individuals experiencing problems with their pensions, profit sharing or retirement savings plans.
A Waddell & Reed financial advisor can also help you track down retirement accounts you may have lost – and then help you incorporate those accounts into your retirement planning strategy. Contact one today!
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