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by Center for Personal Finance editors



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Even a wise woman and her money can be parted if she switches jobs. During the transition to a new workplace, a 401(k) plan can be left behind.

Luckily, federal laws protect any money you've invested in a 401(k). But, actually tracking down your savings can require some sleuthing.

  • Contact your former employer's HR department. Staff there can check the plan's records and tell you if you ever participated. You'll need your full name, Social Security number, and the dates you worked for the company.
  • If your former employer is no longer in business, contact the plan's management firm directly. Find the firm's contact information on an old statement, or track down former co-workers who might know how to contact the firm.
  • Search federal filings for 401(k) plans. Most plans are required to file an annual Form 5500. You can search these 5500s for the name of your former employer at free websites such as www.freeERISA.com. An old Form 5500 will have contact information.
  • Check the National Registry. Your former employer may have listed you as a missing participant. If so, your name will be listed on the secure, nationwide database of unclaimed retirement benefit plans. The database is designed to match employees with their abandoned retirement account balances.
  • Find information at the Labor Department's Abandoned Plan Database. This database lists plans in the process of being, or those that have been, terminated. You can contact the listed Qualified Termination Administrator about your contact.

Source: 401(k) Help Center

Published September 2, 2013

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