And now let’s talk about our find yours topic for today: how to find your lost 401k plan from a former job.
If your old employer is still in business, chances are you can find your plan by contacting the company. But if the firm is no longer around, the Employee Benefits Security Administration —part of the Department of Labor— can help you with this. EBSA calls them “abandoned plans” and says there are several reasons why an employer might abandon its pension or 401k plan. In some cases, the employer goes bankrupt. In others, the plan sponsor has been jailed, fled the country, or died. Bad for them and for you!
EBSA has developed an Abandoned Plan searchable database to help participants and beneficiaries find out if a particular plan is in the process, or has been, terminated. The site is searchable by plan name or employer name. If you find something, then EBSA will direct you to the Qualified Termination Administrator or QTA administering the plan. Gotta love the government and it’s acronyms. A QTA is usually a bank, insurance company or investment firm that has agreed to get the 401k money to the account holders.
The QTA will provide you with something called a “notice of plan termination.” This document will tell you the different ways you can receive your money. If you don’t choose a preferred method within a month, the QTA may well roll your 401k money into an IRA for you. That’s common.
When you search EBSA’s database of abandoned plans, you may find that your former employer is in there but that the process for getting you your money back has already passed. In that case, you should call the QTA —again that’s the Termination Administrator— for help.
If you go to EBSA’s searchable database and don’t find your old 401k, then you can actually call EBSA and speak to a real live human to get further help. The phone number is 1-866-444-EBSA, but I will post it at EasyMoneySHow.com/35 so you don’t have to memorize that.
It’s important to get on this before fees eat up your 401k money. So if you’ve ever contributed to a 401k at an old job and can’t recall if you took it with you by rolling it over, just do a quick search. I tried it and it takes about 2 minutes. Literally!