Changed jobs? Don't forget to bring your 401(k) with you

Michael Finney Image
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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25 million 401(k) plans -- a fifth of all 401(k) plans -- have been lost or forgotten. Is one of them yours?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Twenty-five million 401(k) plans -- a fifth of all 401(k) plans -- have been lost or forgotten. Is one of them yours?

When Susan Coles left her employer, she not only kept track of her 401(k), she moved her account... twice.

"My company moved this division," Coles says. "I stayed here and didn't go with it, so I rolled over the 401(k) they had for me."

Then she rolled it over again.

"First thing they recommended is to buy $10,000 of Apple stock, and that was around $95 or $97 a share. Four, five, six years later -- I can't remember exactly -- but they sold 50 shares at over $600 apiece," she says.

Those rollovers worked for Coles, but not everyone keeps track of their plans. New jobs, with new responsibilities, taking some to new cities. Larry Pon is a CPA and financial planner in Redwood Shores.

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"People forget about the 401(k) plans because they don't see it," Pon says. "It's not that obvious to them, and a lot of people have multiple 401(k) plans."

So some get lost. He says old 401(k) plans can be tough to find and suggests starting by contacting former employers, checking an unclaimed property website like unclaimed.org and the U.S. Department of Labor's Abandoned Plan Search.

Still, even with that, many 401(k) plans go unfound.

Pon says that is being recognized and there is a bipartisan bill in congress that would put together a clearing house for lost 401(k) plans.

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"So what the legislation will do is to centralize it and make it easier, because right now it's really difficult, and basically they're directing the Department of Labor in in coordination with the Department of Treasury to set up this central location for accounts," says Pon.

Going even further, the senate plan wants lost funds to be invested.

But for now, Pon says you are pretty much on your own, so when changing jobs, remember your 401(k).

"You got to stay on top of this. If you're leaving your job right now, it's not on a lot of people's 'exit checklist' when they change jobs as, 'Oh, what should I do, have my existing retirement plan, should I roll over to the new employer's retirement plan?" Pon says.

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