Lost Plans & Missing Participants

Lost plans & missing participants

Looking for lost retirement benefits?

Every year thousands of individuals arrive at retirement and are unable to find the pension, 401(k), or other benefits they have earned. Most often that is because the company they worked for years before has moved to a new location, changed its name, or merged with another company. The individuals are unable to find their old employers. The problem of “lost plans” has become more acute in recent years as business re-organizations have become more common.

A related problem arises when an employer is ready to pay retirement benefits to former employees who have reached retirement age and cannot find them. This typically happens because the former employees changed their names or addresses after leaving the retirement plans years before. When employers cannot find their former employees, they refer to them as “missing participants.”

Some help for the “lost plan” problem may be coming soon. For years, the Pension Rights Center has advocated for a plan registry that would enable people to locate former employers who are holding their benefits. Now, as part of the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022, Congress has directed the Department of Labor to develop a searchable plan registry. Although a registry may not help everyone searching for their benefits, it should be an important tool for finding lost plans.

Finding a “lost plan” requires detective work, it helps if you kept records containing information that could lead to your former employer

Where to look for a “lost plan” if you think your former employer may still be in business.
Where to look for a “lost plan” if you think your former employer may no longer be in business.
What you need to know about small account “forced transfers."
Where to look if you learn that your money was transferred out of your plan.

Think you need additional help? Here are some other resources:

  • The U.S. Administration on Community Living/Administration on Aging’s Pension Counseling and Information Program provides legal assistance in 30 states to persons with retirement plan issues: find help here.
  • The Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor has advisors available to help with retirement issues. You can call 1-866-444-3272 or submit a question on the EBSA website. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/ask-a-question/ask-ebsa.
  • In addition, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (https://www.pbgc.gov/) may be able to help find a traditional pension plan that has terminated.


Lost Plans & Missing Participants Highlights:

Legislation & Regulations

Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act of 2021

Legislation & Regulations

Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2020

The Latest on Lost Plans & Missing Participants:

Blogs & Newsletters

More Resources Now Available for Finding Lost Retirement Plan Benefits

By Jane Smith  There is a new resource for the many people who are entitled to retirement plan benefits but can’t locate their former employer to claim those benefits.   Those searching for benefits can start by checking out the “Find Unclaimed Retirement Benefits” search tool on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) website. This tool […]

Speeches & Statements

Speech by Karen Friedman at the ARA Retiree Security Symposium

Karen Friedman, Executive Director of the PRC, gave a speech to attendees at the 2023 ARA Retiree Security Symposium in Washington, D.C. on October 17th. You can read her comments here.

Blogs & Newsletters

PRC applauds passage of priority consumer protections in new retirement law

By Karen Friedman The Pension Rights Center (PRC) applauds the recent inclusion of several key consumer provisions in the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act (better known as SECURE 2.0), a retirement legislative package that was passed as part of the Omnibus spending legislation, which President Biden signed into law on December 29th.  […]

Comments & Letters

PRC Recommendations to IRS on Agenda Items for the 2022-2023 IRS Priority Guidance Plan

The  Pension Rights Center submitted comments to  the  IRS requesting the  agency  to include in  its Priority Guidance Plan several items to  better  protect consumers,  including: (a)  directing  plans to provide  former employees  who leave before retirement  with  a single  complete  statement  of  their earned benefits ; (b) asking the agency to rethink its position on allowing plans […]

PRC In the News
07/25/22|U.S. News & World Report

How to Find an Old 401(k) Account

During the frenzy of leaving behind an old job and getting acclimated to a new position, rolling over your 401(k) plan isn’t always your first priority. Some people even lose track of a 401(k) plan at a former employer. Here’s what to do if you’re trying to find funds held in a previous employer’s 401(k) […]

PRC In the News
05/31/22|Delaware State News

Commentary: Money maze, as retirees become detectives to find ‘lost’ pensions

When Sam Semilia toted up his retirement finances, he was pretty sure that he was due a pension from his time working as a steam engineer for the Diamond Crystal salt company four decades before.

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