How to find your lost 401k plan

A "Lost" 401k Retirement Plan

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Where Do I Begin?

I have a friend that left a company after 20 years. The company changed hands and financial organizations. She has lost track of her 401K and could really use the money. Can you help direct us where to go to begin looking?

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The woman who lost track of her 401K should contact the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

Search Prior Account Statements for Lost 401k Information

Contact information can be found on retirement account statements. Even though a company may change hands, quite often the actual retirement accounts are still managed through the same company. If you call the number on the statement, they can help you locate the account and obtain any forms needed for transfer if desired.

Try this Five-Step Approach to Find Your Lost 401k

  1. Check all mailings received from the old or new company owner or financial organization to see if these give any contact or plan transfer information.

  2. Contact the Human Resources or Benefits department of the new company owner.

  3. Contact the new financial organization directly.

  4. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has a program to help people with abandoned plans. If that is what happened here, call 1-866-444-EBSA.

  5. And as a long shot, contact the Unclaimed Property office of any relevant state in case a distribution was done and they could not locate you to send you the money at


Contact Current 401k Administrator

The reader should call the Human Resources department of the current company and ask for the name of the Plan Administrator. They will want to know what it is regarding, etc. Then write a letter to the named Plan Administrator and send it certified mail with return receipt requested. Include in the letter where you worked, your start and finish dates, the last address you had while working for them, your Supervisor's name, your division, etc. Also, provide a current address and phone number as they will probably want your social security number, but I don't recommend sending this in the mail. Explain you are searching for information on the promised retirement benefits, and if you have any old literature about the plan, send a copy.
Cindy in NJ.

State Treasurer's Office May Help Find 401k

Check with your State Treasurer's office. Ours publishes a list semi-annually of accounts, etc. that are looking for their owners. So they must be able to help you track a business in reverse. Give it a try. They'll pass you on to other state regulators who might know if they don't.

Visit Your Local Library

I search for "lost" companies all the time in my job. It can be a challenge. She can try looking in the library for a reference book called Corporate Affiliations, which lists all the subsidiaries, branches and divisions of large corporations.

I also have pretty good luck using Google. I type in the name of the lost company in quotes, and then try different phrases like "now called," "acquired by," "merged with," and "formerly." You have to dig through all the hits, but I often find good information.

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Another good source is an online business directory, Hoovers, They archive records for companies that no longer exist, and explain what happened to them. However, the company must have been fairly large to be covered by Hoovers. Parts of Hoovers are free, and parts require a subscription, but if you have a business library in your area, you can probably get access to the full service.

Another source I haven't yet used, but I'm interested in finding, is the EFIS Corporate Name Change Guide. Once again, try a business library.

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