What Are Your Options For Old Retirement Plans
You generally have four options for dealing with money thats in an employer-sponsored retirement account when youre no longer working at the company:
- Leave the money where it is: Although you might not be able to contribute to the account any longer, you may be able to leave the money in your former employers plan. Sometimes, you may need to meet a minimum account balance to qualify, such as $200 for a TSP or $5,000 for some 401s.
- Transfer funds to a new employer-sponsored plan: If you have a new job with a company that sponsors a retirement plan, you may be able to roll over the money into your new employers plan. When this is an option, compare the previous and new plans fees, terms, and investment options to see which is best.
- Roll over to an individual retirement account: You can also move the money into an individual retirement account . An IRA may give you more control as you can choose where to open the account and invest in a wider range of funds. Its also fairly easy to move from one IRA to another as the account isnt tied to your employer. However, IRAs could have more fees, especially if you dont have a lot of assets and dont qualify for lower-cost investment funds.
- Cash out: You can also take the money out of retirement accounts completely. But unless youre 59½ or older , you may need to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty in addition to income taxes on the money.
What Are The Best Retirement Plans For You
If you have a 401 or other workplace retirement plan: First you may want to contribute enough to get any free money offered by your employer via the company match. For more on the pros and cons of these plans, jump to our section on employer-sponsored retirement plans, including 401s, 403s, 457s, defined benefit plans and TSPs.
If youve maxed out your 401 or you dont have a retirement plan at work: Consider an IRA. Jump to our section on the pros and cons of four types of IRAs, including traditional and Roth IRAs. If you already know you want an IRA, check out our round-up of the best IRA providers.
Weâll walk you through the various types of retirement plans below. Bear in mind, these are the retirement plans or accounts available to you depending on your situation. For more information on which investments to choose inside your retirement account, connect to our guide on retirement investments here.
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How Does Money Get Left Behind
Very few people stay at one employer the entire length of their career.
But unlike your bank account which you may have from job to job, a 401 account is linked to your employer. It is up to you to do something about it.
When you leave your employer, the money may stay in the account for an indefinite amount of time.
However, if the company closes the 401 plan, files for bankruptcy, goes out of business or is acquired by another company, you may be forced to decide, within a short period of time.
Its possible that years will go by after you parted ways with your old job, and then youll get a letter notifying you that you need to move your 401 account, or take a distribution.
If this happens, youre much better off rolling the money into an IRA account, or transferring the money into your current companys 401 plan.
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How To Find My Retirement Accounts
How to find my retirement accounts? Contacting your former employer is the fastest way to find your old 401. The companys HR department should have records of your retirement account and can advise you on how to access it or roll it over if thats what you decide to do.
How do you find out what retirement accounts you have? The simplest and most direct way to check up on an old 401 plan is to contact the human resources department or the 401 administrator at the company where you used to work. Be prepared to state your dates of employment and Social Security number so that plan records can be checked.
Can I find my 401k with my Social Security number? Just head to the website and enter your Social Security number, and it will search for any retirement plans associated with that SSN. If one is found, the site will contact the plan administrator on your behalf, or you can do so yourself.
Is there a way to find all 401k accounts? The first and best method of locating a 401k is to contact your old employers. Ask them to check their plan records to see if you ever participated in their 401k plan. Be sure to have ready your full name, social security number and the dates you worked for them.
Leverage The National Registry
The National Registry, run by Pen Check, a retirement plan distribution firm, is a nationwide, secure database listing of retirement plan account balances that have been left unclaimed by former participants of retirement plans.
The site offers an easy, free-of-charge way to locate lost or forgotten employee retirement accounts. You can conduct as many searches as you want, using just your Social Security number. The site is safe, encrypting any information you input on a secure server.
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You Found Your 401 Plan Now What
If find your lost 401, congratulations! However, its not time to celebrate by blowing it all on a fancy vacation or a shopping spree. You invested that money with the purpose of building a retirement nest egg and thats exactly where those funds should stay.
To invest your old 401, you can do whats known as a rollover to avoid early withdrawal penalties. You can roll over the funds into an individual retirement account or into another retirement plan, such as your current employers 401.
Rolling over your 401 into an IRA is a relatively simple process. First, you need to open an IRA, which you can do though most banks, brokerage firms and robo-advisors. The funds from your old 401 then can be sent directly to your new IRA. If you prefer to keep all your investments in one place and your current employer offers a decent 401, then you may want to consider rolling over the funds into that account .
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.
Investment Choice And Fee Transparency
With our open architecture platform, you can choose from thousands of investment options with no proprietary requirements. Fee transparency means you know exactly what youre paying for, and our return of mutual fund revenue share policy gives revenue share payments from mutual funds back to participants.
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Us Department Of Labor
Even if your former employer abandoned its retirement plan, your money isnt lost forever. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains records for plans that have been abandoned or are in the process of being terminated. Search their database to find the Qualified Termination Administrator responsible for directing the shutdown of the plan.
Use Resources To Discover Unclaimed Assets
Once you use these resources to locate your funds, you can use the following resources to get access to your unclaimed assets.
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What Should I Do With My Lost Retirement Account
Once youve tracked down your lost retirement funds, you have some decisions you need to make. You can, of course, withdraw the funds and spend them, but there are a few reasons that might be a bad idea. If youre withdrawing funds from a forgotten 401 or other savings plan, take some time to research the taxes or penalties youll have to pay on any money you take out. Unless you put after-tax funds in, youll be taxed on the funds as you would with any type of income.
If youre 72 years old, though, youll need to pay attention to the Required Minimum Distributions to avoid a penalty. The amount youre required to take each year is based on a calculation that divides your account balance by your life expectancy factor. You can use the IRS Required Minimum Distribution Worksheet to help with that.
For the remainder of the amount, you may choose to leave it alone, withdraw it, or roll it into an IRA. You may find you can save on fees by rolling the amount over, but after retirement, the fees involved in doing that may eat into any cost savings. Weigh your options, including calculating the income taxes youll owe on any amount you withdraw, before making any decisions.
How To Find A Locked
Every defined benefit pension plan and locked-in retirement account is regulated according to either a provincial or a federal pension standard regulator. In Sandras case, she worked in Ontario and the pension plan was regulated by the Ontario regulator.
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is the government body that looks after pensions in Ontario. They have records of every pension regulated by Ontario, even if the pension plan no longer exists, as was the case with Sandras. If you have any information about the original company, they should be able to tell you who was responsible for that pension plan and can provide contact information for the pension administrator or custodian.
I called the FSCO at 1-800-668-0128 and asked if they knew who the pension administrators for Company A were. They were able to tell me the company name of the current administrators of the pension and gave me the name and phone number of the administrator.
I called the pension administrators number and left a message which was returned the same day. The pension administrator I talked to was able to confirm that Sandra was in their system and gave me the name and phone number of the financial institution where her LIRA was being held.
I gave the financial institution information to Sandra and she was able to call and regain access to the retirement account which had a value of approximately $24,000.
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Follow The Paper Trail
If you think you may have money in a company-sponsored retirement plan floating around somewhere, you should take all necessary measures to track it down. You worked hard for those dollars, and you want to make sure theyre working as hard as possible for you and your future.
The Find a Financial Advisor links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor . After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMAs referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.
How To Find Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
Many employers offer retirement benefits, and some will even match their employees contributions. However, most people leave employers several times throughout their careers. In leaving one job and taking on another, some employees forget to take their 401 or other retirement accounts with them. If theres a chance you have unclaimed retirement benefits but arent sure how to access them, heres how to find your unclaimed retirement benefits. Keep in mind that getting help from a financial advisor might save you a great deal of time in finding that money.
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Looked For Unclaimed Money
“Ghosted” 401 money certainly qualifies as missing money, and it could be uncovered on digital money-funder platforms like missingmoney.com.
The site, run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, runs free searches for not just retirement funds, but for money in old bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, escrow accounts, and insurance policies. According to the website’s directions, if you get a “hit” on the site, just claim the property and fill out the requested details, then submit and you will receive instructions on the next steps from the state where you made the claim.
What To Do With A Lost Retirement Account When You Find It
Once youve found a lost retirement account, what you do with it depends on what type of plan it is and where its located.
Old 401k balances can be rolled into your current employers plan or rolled into an IRA in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. You can also request a payout of the plan balance, but if you are under the age of 59.5, the payout will be subject to income taxes and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
If you find an old pension through the PBGC, youll have to go through a process to verify your identity. Once the PBGC has established that you are owed the benefits, you can apply for them at any time once youve reached retirement age.
Its not uncommon for former employees to leave funds in a former employers retirement plan, believing theyll get around to dealing with it later. Years pass by, and maybe youve forgotten about a few old accounts. Even if they didnt amount to much at the time, a few hundred dollars here and there combined with some market growth over the years just might add up to a nice addition to your retirement savings. Its worth a look!
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Search The National Registry
Still not having any luck? Past employers may list you as a missing participant if you no longer work for the company but left your 401 behind. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a nationwide, secure database listing retirement plan account balances that have been left unclaimed .
What You Can Do Next
To keep track of your retirement accounts, you first must know where they all are. Once you gather all your old accounts in one place and make sure they are properly balanced, its about sticking to the same investment principlesensuring your money is in diversified, low-cost fundsthat you would follow for your current company retirement plan.
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Locate An Old 401 Statement
If youâre having trouble getting a hold of your former employerâs HR department, refer to an account statement of your old 401.
If youâre still living at the same address, you should have yearly or quarterly statements mailed to you. Check your statement for information on where your account is held and any contact information.
The information on your statements will come in handy in identifying how much money youâll be transferring over to make sure nothing is left behind.
Finding A 401 From A Previous Employer
The easiest way to find a lost 401 is to contact your previous employers human resources department. They are most likely to have the balance and other details of your 401 account. They can also help you with documentation if you are looking to transfer your existing balance to a new 401 account. If an external agency is managing the plan, you can get the agencys contact information from them.
While contacting your old employer, be sure to provide them with necessary details such as your complete name, Social Security number , and the exact period for which you worked for them.
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Take Your Assets With You
Probably the best way to keep track of your retirement funds is to take them with you when you change jobs. There are usually limited options with a defined benefit pension. You may be able to take the money as a lump sum if the vested balance is small. Be sure to ask. The lump sum payments are eligible for rollover to an IRA to avoid tax. Defined contribution plans like 401s and 403s can also be rolled over to an IRA and sometimes to your new employers plan.
Your goal should be to have all your retirement funds working together for you in the most efficient manner possible. Some people think having multiple accounts is a form of diversification. It is not. The investments within the account are what provides diversification. Having fewer accounts to monitor makes implementing your investment strategy easier and helps to avoid losing track of a plan in the future.
Check The National Registry Of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
The National Registry is a nationwide, secure database listing of retirement plan account balances that have been left unclaimed by former participants of retirement plans.
It is essentially a search engine of lost 401 plans.
The only thing you need to search the database is your social security number. No additional information is needed, and there is no cost to search the database.
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