Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Unsure how to recover a past job’s 401(k) benefits? Learn how to track down old retirement accounts.

Have you paid into a 401(k) with a past employer, but forgot about it after you switched jobs? You may be leaving money on the table.

People often forget about or are unsure of how to get started tracking down that money. Unfortunately, that’s because it can involve a lot of phone calls and internet searches. Below are a few places to check when hunting down lost retirement accounts. 

Your Tax Records

Before you start calling banks and financial firms, it’s a good idea to double-check you paid into a 401(k) plan. You can do that by looking at your past tax return. Once you confirm that you did pay into the account but did not cash it out, hold on to those records. They may come in handy later. 

Your Past Employer

If your previous employer is still in business, give them a call to see if they know where your money went. 

Tip: When talking with past employers, have copies of past tax returns just in case they try to claim you cashed out your account. 

You can contact the U.S. Department of Labor (866-444-3272) or the Pension Rights Center for free help locating your funds with employers. 

Your Plan Administrator

If you see the name of your plan administrator on any old statements, try contacting them to find out what happened to your account. You could also try to find your plan administrator by searching for the retirement plan’s tax return, or Form 5500. Search your former employer’s name at

The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits 

If your past employer and plan administrator can’t help, or you can’t contact them, try checking the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits.

Financial Firms for Small Accounts

If you only worked for your past employer for a short time, you may have an account with under $5,000 and eligible for a forced IRA transfer. This means your money could be waiting for you at a financial organization accepting small firms.

If you suspect your plan was closed at under $5,000, your money could be in an IRA, a bank account, or a state escheat office. Check for state escheat offices, but you may need help searching for an IRA or bank account.

Tracking down these old accounts is a challenge, but it recovers pay you earned and deserve. 

For more information on employment rights and finances, visit

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