Retirement funds from Defined Benefits Plans are insured by the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation or PBGC. This is a government agency set up to protect employees’ pension money in case their companies go out of business or close their pension plans. Retirement funds from 401K plans are not guaranteed by PBGC. However, 401K funds are protected by law and maintained for the beneficiary. Money from pensions and 401K plans often get abandoned when employees change jobs, die or change names or address.
Find Unclaimed Pension Funds at pbgc.gov
The Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation maintains an online look up tool to find unclaimed money. According to the PBGC website there is approximately $133 billion in unclaimed pension money under custody. The money has come from terminated and under-funded pension plans, as well as missing beneficiaries from various industries and states.
Individuals who participated in an employer’s pension plan and are wondering if they are owed money should search the database. The tool can be searched by employee/employer names and by state. If a beneficiary name is located in the PBGC database, an application can be completed to claim the funds. Further identification and documents are required to get the money distribution.
The PBGC publishes a booklet with tips and ideas on searching for lost pension funds. The booklet “Finding a Lost Pension” can be requested by postal mail at: PBGC Communications Department, 1200 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.
Search for Missing 401K Accounts
There is no centralized government agency responsible to find participants of unclaimed 401K accounts. However, the commercial site National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits operates an online database to find missing plan participants. Former participants who changed jobs and didn’t roll over their 401K money into a new plan may have unclaimed funds. The search is free and is done by social security number only. Once a name is found on the database participants can view the results and may contact the employers directly.
Plan participants can also do their own research to find missing 401K money. To perform this search the individual need to locate old 401K statements and find the name of the company handling the plan. Having the name of the company, participants can contact the former employer or plan bookkeeper directly to inquire about unclaimed money. If the company has changed name or owners the new name and address can be located with a public record search.
Former pension plans and 401K participants should start a missing funds search in any of these situations:
- Individuals beneficiaries of a retiree that died
- The employee or the company changed names or locations
- The company went out of business, was sold or merged with another company
- The company terminated the pension plan or 401K plan
- The employee left the company without rolling over 401K funds
- The company pension plan was taken over by the PBGC