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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Thomas

You Think Lost And Forgotten Retirement Accounts Amount To Chump Change? Think Again.

Some statistics and facts why it is best to rollover your old retirement account this April during Financial Literacy Month Have you worked for a company and left, however your retirement account is still there?

Many workers have done it, but it is not always the best way to properly plan for retirement or leave your financial legacy.  Sometimes people die without a will which may result in the court assigning assets. Or either people get married or divorced and did a name change,  people move and don't update their new address with old companies or no forwarding address, and unplanned illness can cause forgetfulness and/or negligence and the account gets lost and goes unclaimed. Workers are encouraged to roll their money into a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA account to have assets kept together, have a streamlined retirement plan, minimize or cease account fees, control how their assets are invested, and control their financial legacy to their heirs. There is $79.63 Million that is due to be paid out to 4,129 residents of Illinois because of unclaimed pensions that have been lost and forgotten.   

If you’re looking for ways to increase your retirement savings, you just may want to look for lost or forgotten retirement accounts, along with consolidating the retirement accounts you are aware of immediately. There isn't any reason to delay. No time is better than now. So far no one keeps data on how much retirement money gets lost or forgotten, in an interview with Bloomberg, Terry Dunne of Millennium Trust Co., made " an educated guess based on government and industry data that 900,000 workers lose track of 401k-style, defined contribution plans each YEAR. " That figure does not include pension plans. Across the country, there are more than 38,000 people who haven't claimed pension benefits they are owed. Those unclaimed pensions equal an excess of $300 million dollars, with benefits ranging from twelve cents to almost a million dollars for an individual. 

The states with the most missing pension participants and money to be claimed are: 

  • Illinois $79.63 million owed to 4,129 people 

  • New York $42.38 million owed to 7,031 people 

  • Ohio $15.22 million owed to 2,109 people 

  • New Jersey $12.84 million owed to 2,288 people 

  • Texas $12.32 million owed to 2,487 people 

  • California $8.52 million owed to 3,082 people 

Here are a few ways to track down a lost 401k or pension: 

1-Provide your full name, social security number, and dates you worked to the HR or accounting department to ALL of your former employers for them to check to see if you ever participated in the 401(k) plan or pension plan.  

2-Many plans are required to file an annual tax return, Form 5500, with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor (DOL) this will allow you to track down the plan administrator.  You can search for these 5500s by the name of your former employer at Contact the plan administrator and give them your name, social security number and dates you worked at the company to check if you participated and have an account there. 

3-You may be able to locate your retirement account funds on the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits This registry is a secure search website designed to help both employers and former employees. Employees can perform a free database search to determine if they may be entitled to any unpaid retirement account money. Employers can register names of former employees who left money with them. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, but no additional information is required. 

4-FreeERISA website requires a registration to perform a search of 401(k) that were rolled into Default IRA accounts that were worth more that $1,000 but less than $5,000 and left at a former employer. 

5-Search the database of the Qualified Termination Administrator (QTA) responsible for directing the shutdown of the plan. The Department of Labor maintains records for abandoned and terminated plans.


6-Search the database with the participant or beneficiary’s last name, or by company or state to locate a missing pension. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation keeps a listing of unclaimed pension assets.

Today many workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to another. In January 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average employee tenure was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in January 2014. This means a worker can have 7 jobs in a 30year career.  

Since this is happening and many of our lives are increasingly complex it may be best to simplify your retirement financial plan and consolidate your old retirement accounts.  

As your financial statements are rolling in this month because the 1st quarter of the year has ended, ask yourself if you have a compelling reason NOT to roll your orphaned 401(k) or other retirement accounts from former employers into a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA?  Do you have a fantastic Financial Advisor who takes great care of you and manages your assets well? Are you a first- time home buyer who might want to withdraw $10,000 for a down payment? (In an IRA, you can pull those funds penalty free) Do you have college bound children and might want to make a taxable (but penalty-free) withdrawal from an IRA fund to pay for tuition or books instead of a loan from a 401(k)? Do you want to minimize or cease annual fees? At your death, do you want to control who gets your account and how they get it?  

These are some of the benefits to rolling your old retirement account over, however there are many more. If you answered yes to any or all of these questions it is time to take some action and not leave yourself open to having your retirement account forgotten and unclaimed.

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