Smart Money Podcast: Sudden Retirement and Finding Lost Money

Liz Weston, Sean PylesOct 19, 2020

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.

This week’s episode starts with a discussion of “sudden retirements,” or older people getting pushed out of the job market during the pandemic, and whether radical downsizing might be an option to cope.

Then we pivot to this week’s question from Denali. They write, "I got a letter stating that I had a 401(k) that was still with an employer that I worked for about 10 months over 20 years ago. I've tried searching in lost money sites, and tried to contact the company itself with no luck. Would you know of a way for me to locate this lost money?"

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Finding a lost retirement account can be a little trickier than finding other unclaimed property, such as forgotten security deposits, uncashed paychecks or old bank accounts. While companies are required to turn most unclaimed assets over to the states, money in 401(k)s isn’t necessarily relinquished in the same way.

If you’ve lost track of an old 401(k) retirement account, your first step should be to contact your previous employer or the company that administered the plan. Next, check , or the Labor Department's.

If that doesn’t work, or if you’re looking for other funds that might have gone astray, check out the two sites that connect you with state unclaimed property offices: and . Both are sponsored by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ website. Unclaimed.org links to agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other territories. MissingMoney.com lets users search multiple states at once, but not every state participates.

There are companies that comb these sites and send notices to people, hoping to collect a fee. But you don’t need to pay someone to reconnect you with your missing money if you use one of these sites.

Contact your employer or plan administrator to find lost 401(k)s. If that doesn't work, you can check Unclaimedretirementbenefits.com, or the Labor Department's abandoned plans database.

Check out Unclaimed.org and Missingmoney.com. These sites connect you to a state’s unclaimed property office.

You don't need to pay someone to find your missing money. These sites are all free.

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