How to Find Old Retirement Accounts

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

General Strategies For All Types Of Retirement Accounts

Gather Your Old Employment Information

Start by compiling a list of all your previous employers where you might have set up a retirement account. Include the company name, any company that took over the business, your employment dates, and contact information if you have it. This information will be crucial as you reach out to these organizations.

Check with Previous Employers

Your first step should be to contact the human resources or employee benefits department of your former employers. Ask them about any retirement plans you were enrolled in, the provider of those plans, and whether the accounts are still active. Sometimes, if you leave the employment with a low balance in the account, it might have been cashed out, so it’s important to confirm the current status.

Use the National Registry

The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits can be a helpful resource. This registry maintains information about unclaimed retirement benefits that companies have reported. You can search using your Social Security number to find if there are any retirement benefits in your name that you haven’t claimed.

Tips To Find Old 401(k) Plans

401(k) plans are employer-sponsored retirement savings plans. Here are steps to find an old 401(k):

  • Contact Previous Employers: Start by reaching out to the human resources or benefits department of any former employers where you may have had a 401(k). They can provide details on the plan provider and whether the account still exists.
  • Check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits: This website allows you to search for unclaimed 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plan benefits using your Social Security number. It’s an excellent resource if you think you might have forgotten about an old account.
  • Search for Abandoned Plan Databases: The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a database of abandoned 401(k) plans. This can be useful if your former employer has gone out of business or terminated the plan.
  • Use Your Annual Statements: If you have saved any old financial documents, review them. 401(k) plan providers send annual statements that should list the provider’s contact information and your account details.

Tips For Finding Old Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

IRAs are personal retirement savings plans that offer tax advantages. To locate old IRA accounts, you can:

  • Contact Financial Institutions: If you remember where you might have opened an IRA, reach out to those financial institutions. They can search their records for any accounts under your name, especially if you provide them with details like previous addresses or your Social Security number.
  • Review IRS Forms: Look for IRS Form 5498, which IRA custodians send to both the IRS and the account holder to report contributions, including rollovers. Form 1099-R reports distributions from retirement accounts and may help trace where the money was moved if you consolidated or rolled over the IRA funds.
  • Check State Unclaimed Property Websites: Similar to 401(k) plans, IRAs that have been inactive for several years may turn into unclaimed property under state law. Visit your state’s treasury or unclaimed property website to search for any accounts in your name.
  • Consult with a Financial Advisor: A financial advisor can help streamline the process of finding and managing old IRAs and other retirement accounts, especially if you’ve moved multiple times or have accounts in various states.

Tips For Finding Old 403(b) Plans

403(b) plans are typically offered by public schools and certain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. To locate an old 403(b) account, you should:

  • Contact Previous Employers: Reach out to the human resources or benefits department at any educational institutions or non-profits where you have worked.
  • Check with Common 403(b) Providers: Providers like TIAA, Fidelity, and Vanguard commonly manage 403(b) plans. If you’ve worked in sectors that use these plans, contacting these institutions can be fruitful.

Tips For Finding Old 401(a) Plans

401(a) plans are usually governmental, non-profit, or institutional retirement plans that are often mandatory for employees. To find a 401(a) account:

  • Contact the Employer or Plan Administrator: Since 401(a) plans are employer-sponsored and often customized, your former employer is your best resource.
  • Review Previous Employment Records: Any documentation related to employment contracts or retirement benefits could hold clues about your participation in a 401(a) plan.

Tips For Finding Old 457 Plans

457 plans are available to state and local public employees, as well as employees of some tax-exempt organizations. To locate old 457 plans:

  • Contact Government or Non-Profit Employers: If you worked for a government entity or a qualifying non-profit, get in touch with their human resources or payroll department.
  • Search through State Retirement Systems: Many 457 plans are administered through state retirement systems, so it’s worth checking with the state’s public retirement system.

Tips For Finding Old Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

The TSP is a federal retirement plan for government employees and members of the uniformed services. To track down an old TSP account:

  • Contact the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board: They manage TSP accounts and can provide information on your account status.
  • Access Your Account Online: If you previously registered for online access, you might be able to log into your TSP account directly.
  • Review Your Federal Employment Records: Any documentation from your time in federal service could help identify contributions to a TSP.

Tips For Finding Old Pensions

Finding old pension plans can be a bit more challenging than locating other types of retirement accounts because pensions are typically tied to long-term employment with a specific company.

  • Contact Former Employers: Reach out to the human resources or benefits department of any previous employers where you might have been eligible for a pension. They can provide information on whether you have accrued pension benefits and how you can claim them.
  • Search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: The PBGC is a U.S. government agency that insures many private-sector defined benefit pension plans. If your former employer went out of business or ended their pension plan, the PBGC might have taken over the responsibility for paying the pensions. They offer a searchable database of unclaimed pensions.


Don’t let forgotten retirement funds go unclaimed—these assets can be a crucial part of ensuring a comfortable retirement. Diligently tracking down these accounts by contacting previous employers, utilizing national databases, and reviewing personal financial records can uncover significant funds that might otherwise remain unclaimed. Contact us if you have any questions.

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Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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