There may be more retirement money out there for you, if you have changed jobs during your lifetime and haven’t kept track of the accounts, according to the Albany Times Union in “Finding lost retirement benefits.” It may also be difficult to locate them, because sometimes companies change their names or are sold or people can’t find them.
There’s no exact number for how many unclaimed benefits there are, but a report released by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) reports that more than 25 million people left at least one retirement plan behind when they left a job in the years between 2004-2013. Could one of those people, be you?
Here’s what you need to know to start looking for lost retirement accounts:
Start digging through your old files. Depending on how you keep your records, that may mean cracking open the filing cabinets that have been stored in the basement for the last 20 years, or the stack of the stuff you’ve been meaning to file that just keep growing. You might find some clues in old tax paperwork, employment related documents or the folders you received when you started working in a new job, filed and forgot about. If the company has been bought and sold a few times, this may take a while, even if you do finally locate the original paperwork.
Contact your old employer. If you cannot find the company, then try the Department of Labor website for Form 5500 filings. This form would have contact information for the plan. The DOL also has the EBSA — Employee Benefit Security Administration — that offers help over the phone. On the website, you’ll find a searchable database for abandoned pension plans.
There is a federal agency in charge of insuring private-sector pension benefits–the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The PBGC has reported that more than 80,000 people who earned a pension have not yet claimed it, and more than $400 million is waiting for them. The pension amounts range from twelve cents to almost a $1 million.
Check your state’s Unclaimed Property division. Each state has its own database, and there’s also a website called missingmoney.com that was created by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
Contact the Social Security Administration. The SSA might provide a notice alerting you to potential benefits, when you are ready to claim your Social Security benefits. However, this is only a notice, and does not guarantee that the funds are still there.
Another source to contact is the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Pension Counseling and Information Program, which provides legal assistance at no cost.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: Albany Times Union (March 30, 2019) “Finding lost retirement benefits”