How You Can Put Those Unclaimed Retirement Benefits in Your Bank Account

If you have changed jobs over the years like most people, it is not unusual to realize that you may have unclaimed retirement benefits that may have become lost in the shuffle. Unclaimed retirement benefits are the account balances that have been left by workers who used to participate in the organization's retirement plans. Losing access to these benefits is not uncommon, particularly if you have held jobs at different companies throughout your working years. However, even if the balance seems relatively insignificant, every bit counts when you are looking to pad your retirement account in your golden years.

As you get closer to retirement age, you are going to want to track down all of these retirement accounts, regardless of if they are pension plans or 401(k) balances. The good news is that even if you have lost track of the benefits, you still have a legal right to the money. The key is knowing how to find these lost retirement balances so that you can gain access and transfer the money to your personal account.

Here are a few good tips to help you to do this.

Start With Your Former Employer

Your first step in tracking down this money should be to reach out to your former employer. Human resource departments are used to fielding requests from former employees checking on the status of their old retirement accounts. The benefits person will be the best contact for you to locate any money that you have owed to you. If they cannot help you, be sure to ask for an alternative contact to try to find out more information. Your job in tracking down these funds will be much more difficult if you do not have a benefits expert in your corner.

Conduct a Search for Unclaimed Benefits

If you run into a roadblock trying to reach out to a former employer, you can take matters into your own hands and conduct a personal search for the unclaimed benefits. The internet is a valuable tool in your list of resources to find a missing account.

The Department of Labor's database of abandoned plans is a good place to begin your internet search. This federal department also includes a Form 5500 search that may be of assistance.

Additional resources include the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's trusteed plan, the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits, and the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrator.

In addition, most states also operate their own unclaimed property websites. However, rules vary from state to state making it important that you know the specific regulations for your home state. For example, some states run everything through a controller's office charged with managing unclaimed property.

Experts also claim that it is important to be aware of scam sites. These scammers are only trying to get your personal information to use for other purposes.

Work With a Financial Advisor

If you are striking out locating these missing funds on your own, you may need to turn to the experts to help you to recover the money. A financial advisor can help you to track down retirement accounts. It may be that you did not even know you had missing accounts until a professional walks you through the possibilities and past employment history. Even if the help of an advisor costs you money, it will be worth it in the long run if you uncover lost retirement funds. This makes a financial advisor a worthy investment.

For example, some employers automatically enroll you in a company sponsored 401(k) program upon hiring. You could have been put into a plan even without actively signing up. A professional can assist in sorting through these potential plans so that you can consolidate them into one one account.

Many people discover lost accounts if a spouse passes away and they were not informed of the plan. This is why it is always a good idea to keep a ledger of your accounts and update it as needed.

It may take time and effort to exhaust all of these options but it will be worth it if you uncover your lost benefits.