It happens to the best of us. You’re having a conversation with an old colleague, or a friend is venting about the lack of a 401(k) match at her new company when you suddenly realize, “Wait a second, there was a 401(k) when I worked at <insert first job after college, now a distant, very blurry memory>. How much was there? Did I move it? What ever happened to that money, anyway?”
A lot of us don’t know where to start when it comes to unpleasant financial fact-finding tasks like this. So how do you actually find old retirement accounts?
Your first goal is to find the retirement plan administrator. That’s who will be able to provide information about any remaining balances. Here’s a step-by-step guide to tracking down the plan administrator for your forgotten accounts.
If you keep a file of old tax returns and forms, you finally have an opportunity to pat yourself on the back for your enviable organizational prowess. Check the W-2s from your old employers. Box 12 is where you’ll find amounts of any contributions you made to an employer-sponsored retirement plan in that particular year.
Got contributions? Then you know you’re on the right track and there is an account somewhere holding those funds.
The HR department of any former employer will probably have access to the record of your retirement plan account. If it’s a smaller company and you’re unsure who to contact, the Office Manager or your former supervisor is the best place to start.
Once your former employer finds your plan, you can ask them to provide you with the forms you’ll need to roll over the old account into your 401(k) with your current employer or to an IRA.
In some cases, your company may not have much information about the plan. But if that’s the case, they should be able to refer you to an outside financial institution overseeing the retirement plan on their behalf. When your account is located, they should be able to provide the forms you need to roll over the funds.
If your former employer no longer exists, you can search the US Dept of Labor’s Abandoned Plan database. It provides contact information for employer-sponsored retirement plans that have been or will be terminated soon.
Doing a search by company name or EIN will give you the updated contact information for the current administrator of the retirement plan.
Hopefully you have that old W-2, because that’s the easy answer. It may also appear in the supplemental reports alongside your tax returns.
Still no luck? Here’s one more option. Unfortunately, it involves wading through IRS filings.
There’s an annual requirement that retirement plans file a Form 5500 with the IRS. That means you can search for the most recent filing of your former employer’s retirement plan which will contain up-to-date contact information for the plan administrator.
Using the name of the former employer (“sponsor”) or EIN, search Form 5500 filings to get contact information. The Department of Labor offers a Form 5500 Filing Search that may help.
Good news for any procrastination champs among us. If you’re a habitual last-minute filer of your annual income tax returns or extensions, you’ll get a few extra days this year. April 15th falls on a Sunday and Monday, April 16th is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, DC. That means your filing deadline is Monday, April 17th, 2018.
Speaking of taxes, Smart Tax Filing from CNBC explains why it’s a really good idea to stop waiting until the last minute to file your income taxes [CNBC]. As someone who got her professional start in a tax planning firm, I can attest to seeing real people affected by each of these points. Put an alert on your calendar for next year.
If you want to be proactive in adjusting your 2018 tax withholding rate, the IRS has released its new 2018 Withholding Calculator [IRS.gov].
Also in the news, you may have heard that the Fed announced an increase in the benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. It’s not unexpected, but what does this mean for your finances? [Penny Hoarder]
And for a few deeper thoughts, here’s a longer read– Some Thoughts on Parenting and Personal Financial Success from an Experienced Parent [The Simple Dollar].
To borrow a few words from Oprah’s inspiring Golden Globes speech, “a new day is on the horizon!” and I hope she’s right that 2018 will bring renewed positivity for so many of us who’ve been a little trampled by 2017.
For me, 2018 means that Planning in Motion is embarking on its first full year. After so many months of ramp up, I couldn’t be more excited to continue the work of helping clients make smarter financial decisions. Since I tend to stay far away from any spotlight, it’s taken a little extra grit to start shouting from the rooftops, “Hey, I’m doing this now!” But here I am: CFP®, Fee-Only Financial Planner, and Fiduciary helping clients make smarter financial decisions that make sense for them.
The blog is another beginning. Now that I’ve completed the first awkward post, I’ll continue highlighting interesting money stories from across the web. I realize not everyone is as much of a finance blog junkie as I am, but there’s just so much good content getting published– it’s worth reading whether you’re ready to work with a financial planner or not.
And whatever your own goals/resolutions/intentions for 2018 may be, my hope is that you continue progress toward them. As always, if you’re looking to get your financial life in order and would like some professional guidance, I’m happy to chat.