Households urged to reclaim lost 401k retirement pots worth up to $5,000

August 26, 2021

HOUSEHOLDS are being urged to reclaim lost cash worth up to $5,000 sitting in 401k accounts.

401k is a type of retirement savings account - but the funds can be easy to lose track of when you move jobs.

Americans are being urged to reclaim lost cash worth up to $5,000 sitting in 401k accounts


Americans are being urged to reclaim lost cash worth up to $5,000 sitting in 401k accountsCredit: Getty

In fact, individuals born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 12 jobs until the age of 52, based on a study by the Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, between 2004 and 2013, more than 16million accounts worth $5,000 or less remained in workplace plans, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Employers are allowed to transfer pots of former workers if the balance is under $5,000, meaning these pots are even more likely to disappear.

To help locate the missing funds, a new proposal in Congress aims to create an online "lost and found" database.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Administration would also proactively reach out to owners who’ve lost more than $1,000.

Until then, there are other ways to track down the cash - and households are being urged to do so by experts.

Anna Tabor, director of the Pension Action Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told CNBC: "People assume the money will still be there when they need it.

"The problem is that there can be lots of changes - the employer could go out of business, go bankrupt or merge with another company, or the plan may be terminated."

For now, she urged people who've lost track of their accounts to contact their former employer, successor company and the financial institution.

We've explained more about how to do this below.

How to track down lost 401k money

Tracking down lost 401k money can be tricky, but below are a few tips from the Pension Action Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

1. Gather your documents

The first step involves collecting any statements, notices and other documents you have for the missing 401k account.

Should you still have access to them, collect old pay stubs as they may show that you contributed to a 401k.

Plus, if you have a "statement of potential private retirement benefit" from the Social Security Administration, this includes your employer identification number.

This is helpful when you're looking for a lost account with a former employer.

If you don't have the statement, you can contact the Social Security Administration and ask for one.

2. Contact your former employer and plan provider

Whether your documents resulted in anything or not, it's worth contacting your former employer next, if it still exists.

If it doesn't, track down the successor company, if there's one.

Another alternative is to call the financial services firm where the 401k was held, which could be Fidelity or Vanguard, for example.

3. Reach out the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation

The Pension benefit Guaranty Corporation (PFGC) is a federal agency with information on some lost 401k accounts.

The list doesn't include all of them though, so don't give up if your account isn't there.

You can reach PBGC by calling 800.400.7242.

4. Check state lost property databases

Another option is to check databases of lost and unclaimed property that's been handed over to the state.

Most of these lists are available to search in for free.

If you use them, make sure to search for each state where you've lived or worked and where your former employer's headquarters are located.

It's also important to search for any names that you've used in the past, such as a maiden name.

We've also revealed how to find $1,000s in unclaimed money, including unpaid wages and undelivered tax refunds.

We explain 14 ways to get free cash from the government, including help with bills.

Plus, check out our guide on how to find out if your state secretly owes you cash.

Most savers don’t start putting money away for retirement until they turn 50