General Question

VoodooLogic's avatar

How do I track down a 401k from a previous job?

Asked by VoodooLogic (724points) February 28th, 2008

I’m looking ahead at the recession on the horizon and need to do some accounting.

I’ve moved a lot and I haven’t seen my statements for a couple of years. I can dig out an old statement (hopefully), but what would I do next? Also, how can I take that account and merge/update/change it?

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6 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Contact the accounting department for your ex-company.

figbash's avatar

Actually, contact the old company’s Human Resources Dept. They’re the ones who provide the benefits package.

They can tell you whether or not it was a plan they managed, or to what vendor they may have outsourced it.

srmorgan's avatar

Does your former employer know where YOU are?
In some plans, dormant accounts under a certain limit, say $3,500 or $5,000 can be “cashed out” of the plan meaning that they will attempt to refund your balance to you because your account is small and therefore expensive to maintain.
With our 401k provider, I terminate any former employee from the plan 30 days after separation. The provider will contact the employee and offer him/her the opportunity to remain with the provider or to transfer the funds to another managed accounts like a 401k or an individual IRA.
Your employer should have given you a Summary Plan Document every year which enumerates the features of the plan and your rights upon separation.

If you have an old statement you can call the investment company, insurance company, bank, stock brokerage or third party administrator and request a copy of your current balance. I am not certain about this but most plans will leave your investment allocation as it was if you separate from the employer, That is to say if you were 50% in bonds and 50% in tech stocks, your allocations did not change. The funds will have different values over time but they don’t generally move your money around for you.

When you do locate the account, be careful about how you take possession of it in order to avoid accidentally causing a taxable event. If you are going to invest it with your new employer or a different money manager like Vanguard or Fidelity (just examples, no endorsement) you should make sure that your funds are transferred directly from the old investment company to the new one and that you do not touch the money. First, the old company is obligated to withhold 20 of your distribution and send it to the government as withholding. Second if you are reinvesting the whole amount in order to avoid paying income tax and penalty, then you have to come up with the 20% that has been withheld. For example if your balance is $4,000 the old company will send $4,000 to the new one but only send you $3,200. If you want to roll over the entire $4,000 you have to find the $800 somewhere. And you only have sixty calendar days to re-invest the funds without making the whole thing taxable and subject to a 10% penalty. I assume you are younger than 59 1/2 years old..

If you can not locate the money or are confused about my long winded answer send me a private message and I can give you some more advice.


dalia_barrientes's avatar

the company closed down and I never got to collect on my 401k or roll it over. so how can I find it dalia

ESMITH8090's avatar

i am going through the same thing i dont know what to do

VoodooLogic's avatar

I called HR of my previous company and gave them my latest address. It was funny, they assumed I was trying to withdraw my balance. I guess it’s the sign of the times.

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