How to Find a Lost 401k And Potentially Recover $1,000’s of Dollars

Troy Sharpe: We recently had a client find $14,000 in an old 401k from a company that he used to work for. I’m going to show you how to do the same search and potentially find tens of thousands of dollars of your own money.

Hi, I’m Troy Sharpe, CEO of Oak Harvest Financial Group, certified financial planner professional, host of the Retirement Income Show, and also a certified tax specialist. Whenever you get a new job, you fill out the company paperwork. A lot of times what we find is when you’re younger, you don’t really know what you’re necessarily filling out, but oftentimes you’ve created a 401k account.

You may have even signed up to contribute a portion of your paycheck, accidentally or on purpose, into that 401k. When you leave that company, in my opinion, you shouldn’t leave that 401k behind. You should, the proper thing to do is either roll it into the new company’s 401k or into an IRA, your Individual Retirement Account where you have the entire world of investment options available to you. There are pros and cons for doing both, but the most important thing is that you don’t leave your money where you used to work.

We should bring that money with us, so we don’t have to go through this process later in life. Now, there’s a possibility that you have left money at an old 401k. I want to show you how to do a search to find that money. Oftentimes, we find that when prospective clients, when we’re onboarding them here to Oak Harvest Financial Group or even existing clients, when we’re doing a review with them and they say, “You know what, Troy, I think I might have left a 401k somewhere 25, 30 years ago.”

Now, the simple way, and hopefully this is true for you, is that your old company is still operating. It’s still in business. It hasn’t been sold. It hasn’t went out of business. Your 401k is at the same custodian that it was whenever you signed up. Maybe it’s a Fidelity or a Vanguard or a T. Rowe Price or maybe from an insurance company. Either way, if that company is still operating, there’s a pretty good chance your 401k is still at that company. Now, where it gets complicated is if you worked for a smaller company or a company that’s been bought, maybe once, maybe twice, maybe three or four times. It does become tricky to track this money down.

Sometimes it can take a very long time. I want to first show you logistically how the relationship between a Company And a 401k custodian works. Then, what happens when that company is bought or sold. Let’s say, you work for Company A. Company A, if it’s a 401k or maybe a 403b, it does not have your retirement funds. It never did. By law, they have to hold that money at a third party called a 401k custodian. If Company B comes along and buys your old Company A, your money inside your retirement account will go to the new company’s custodian that houses all of their employees’ 401k funds.

You may have went from a Fidelity to a Vanguard. It’s quite possible, though, that the custodian was a much smaller company, maybe a custodian that’s not even around anymore. First and foremost, I just want you to understand when your company is bought by another company, the custodians very likely are going to change where your money is held at.

Now, sometimes when we work with clients to help them find this money, we’ll find out doing the research that Company A was bought by Company B, which was bought by Company C, then D, maybe E or F. It can become complicated, and there are possibly a lot of phone calls you have to make. Then, keep in mind that the people answering these phone calls, maybe they don’t have all of the information or they’re not willing to dig deep and do the research for you.

This can become a complicated process. We’ve actually seen clients before, be unable to find or locate money from old 401ks. With that said, I do want to share with you some ways that you can use to help locate your money if it’s out there. Now, there’s also another option that could have taken place. Let’s say your company just went out of business. It wasn’t bought, it wasn’t sold, and now your plan is essentially abandoned.

The Department of Labor has certain procedures that are followed whenever this takes place. One of the places we can go to is it’s Abandoned Plan Search. We’re going to have links to all these websites and the description down below. This is where you can do a search for an abandoned plan. There’s a little scroll down over here as well. The second website we can come to is FreeERISA. FreeERISA is an acronym. It stands for Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

This is what created the 401k plan, and essentially shifted society from a defined benefit plan where companies contribute on your behalf to what we call a defined contribution plan. A little backstory there, but anyways, free Free ERISA. We’re going to have this link in the description. You can come here and you can enter your company’s name to search for the 5500, which is the annual form they must file with the Department of Labor. 401ks are regulated by the Department of Labor. All retirement plans are. You can do a search here. If your company has went out of business, or whatever’s happened, you can do the search here. It’s going to start to send you down that path to hopefully find your 401k. The third one here is the Pension Benefit Guaranteed Corporation.

The PBGC guarantees pensions in this country from defined benefit plans. If you had a pension or a defined benefit plan that you can’t find, you can go to the unclaimed property section of the PBGC website. We’ll have the link in the description down below. Here, are you owed a retirement plan from PBGC? This one you’ll have to call, but they put the phone number right here on the website, and they also tell you that across the country, there are more than 80,000 people that have not claimed their earned defined benefit pension.

Honestly, it may not be a bad idea to do a search for your parents if they’ve passed away, because defined benefit pensions were far more popular decades ago than they are today. They still are in existence. Now, the odds might be unlikely that your parents forgot about a defined benefit pension plan, but it’s possible if maybe they worked for one company for a year or two, then moved on to another company where they spent 30 years, 35 years at.
Then, they may not even have known they were in that original defined benefit plan from the first company. It’s probably worth the search. They have a phone number here. I’m sure there are some hoops and hurdles that you have to jump through, but might be worth the search for you if you’re looking for your old defined benefit plan, and also maybe your parents’.

The last website here is the National Registry for Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. We just simply come to the website, come down here a little bit and it says, ‘Find My Funds’. Again, hopefully, this gets you on the track to finding your old 401k fund, and potentially find tens of thousands of dollars. As always, share this video with a friend, a family member, maybe a coworker, and hopefully you can help them find their old 401k. Subscribe to the channel, comment down below. If you like this video, hit that thumbs up.