The average American could need anywhere from $550,000 to $1 million dollars or more for retirement. If you’re trying to build your nest egg, every extra dollar might help. Good news: There’s a chance you’ve been leaving large amounts of unclaimed cash on the table, and it’s not too late to collect it.
According to a study by Capitalize, 29.2 million people may have left as much as $1.65 trillion in money behind in forgotten 401(k) funds. And that number grows by $2.8 million per year, CNBC reported. If you have a forgotten 401(k), perhaps from a previous employer, you could be missing out on an average of $700,000 for your retirement, the study discovered.
Here’s how to find out if you’ve got hidden retirement cash — and how to collect it.
Start With Your Employers
CNBC offered advice to find that lost money. First, search any old or current email accounts for old 401(k) plan statements. Then, go through your records and paperwork to find any old 401(k) plan statements or related documents. These can be valuable clues in locating your forgotten retirement account.
If you don’t find anything, contact your past employer’s human resources, benefits or accounting department. They can check old 401(k) records. You may need to provide your full name, Social Security number and your dates of employment with the company.
The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
If you can’t find your old 401(k) account through your records or your former employer, search the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, located here, to see if you have missing funds. You can also check the FreeERISA website for unclaimed accounts.
The Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plans Program
Does an old employer no longer exist? The Department of Labor may be managing their retirement plan. Its free Abandoned Plan Search, which you’ll find here, allows you to search by either company name or plan name.
Rescuing orphaned plans ensures you get retirement benefits you earned — don’t leave that money on the table. Your choices for receiving your benefits will vary based on the specific type of retirement plan you are reclaiming.
If You Worked for the Federal Government
Working for the federal government often entails unique retirement benefits. If you’ve held a federal government position, here are steps to identify potential unclaimed retirement benefits:
- Contact the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for information and assistance in locating any unclaimed funds related to your federal retirement benefits.
- Ensure that you’ve accessed all your contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and haven’t left any behind.
- Explore online resources, such as the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s website, for details regarding your TSP account and other federal retirement benefits.
If You Served in the Military
Military service often entails its own unique retirement benefits. To ensure you haven’t left any unclaimed retirement funds from your military service, follow these simple steps:
- If you’ve served in the U.S. military, get in touch with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), as they can assist you in locating and accessing any unclaimed military retirement benefits.
- Visit Vets.gov, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, which offers resources and information pertaining to veterans’ benefits, including retirement benefits.
- Carefully review your military records and documentation to identify any retirement accounts or benefits you may have overlooked.
What To Do If You Discover Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
Congratulations! You’ve found the funds. Your next steps to secure them are important. First, you must contact the administrator of the retirement account or fund to confirm the balance and discuss available options. Then, consider whether it is advisable to roll over the funds into an existing Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or open a new one, seeking guidance from a financial advisor if necessary to make an informed decision.
Next, review any potential tax implications associated with accessing these funds, and consult with a tax professional to fully understand the tax consequences of your choices.
To wrap it up, you want to ensure that your beneficiary information is current to safeguard your loved ones’ financial interests in the event of your passing.
If you’re sensing a theme, it’s because there is one: A trusted financial advisor can make sure you handle the money properly.
Always bear in mind that the discovery of unclaimed retirement benefits can have a significant impact on your financial security during retirement, and proactively managing these funds is a wise step toward achieving your retirement objectives.
Dawn Allcot contributed to the reporting for this article.
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