The Case of the Missing 401(k) Plan: How to Retrieve “Lost” 401(k)s

American workers rely on their employer-sponsored retirement plan to build their nest eggs. They also change jobs more than ever, almost once every four years. Over a lifetime of working, this might lead to an increasingly-common question: what to do with old 401(k) accounts from former employers?

How does this happen? Quite easily, actually. You had a job. You saved into your 401(k). You get a new job. You save into your new 401(k). You get busy. You forget to roll over your old 401(k). This happens quite often. In fact, there are an estimated 24.3 million forgotten 401(k)s holding approximately $1.35 trillion in assets.[1]

Do forgotten 401(k)s disappear at some point? No, because that money is legally yours. But leaving your old 401(k)s unattended create unnecessary headaches. Your old plan might have higher fees than your new plan. You might have old portfolio allocations that are no longer suitable for your goals. Even receiving multiple statements from various 401(k) plan recordkeepers can be very annoying.

So, what should you do? Consider rolling over any old 401(k)s into your current 401(k). To do this you will need to find any lost 401(k) accounts you left with former employers. Start by scouring your email or laptop for any old 401(k) plan statements that you may have saved in the past. If that doesn’t suffice, your best bet is to contact your former employer’s HR or accounting department. By providing your full name, Social Security number, and dates of employment with that company, you can have them check their 401(k) plan records to see if you were once a participant. If you still can’t get a clear answer, try this database that tracks any unpaid retirement benefits.

Once you’ve identified your old accounts, you have the option to roll over the old accounts into your current 401(k) account or, if you do not have a current 401(k), into a rollover IRA. To start the rollover process, the current 401(k) or IRA recordkeeper will provide you with instructions on how to receive assets from the old accounts.

Bottom line: over the course of a long, hard-working career, you might have left some retirement savings in a plan you have long-forgotten about. But it’s still your money. Locating and consolidating any and all retirement assets doesn’t just make financial sense; it also makes your financial life more straightforward—and who doesn’t want that?



Multnomah Group is a registered investment adviser, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any information contained herein or on Multnomah Group’s website is provided for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Multnomah Group does not provide legal or tax advice.

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