How to Keep Track of Your Retirement Investments

If you’re like most people you’ve taken the opportunity offered by your employer to begin investing in a retirement account. If you haven’t, there are many reasons to do so. Since the money is taken out of your paycheck before you get it, you don’t even notice it’s missing. The dollars put into a retirement account are pre-taxable, so you’re sending less of your earnings to the government. And many businesses provide some percentage of matching funds so that you’re putting even more away for your future. In short, contributing to a 401K or other retirement account is a fantastic idea. But with all the job-hopping that most adults engage in these days you can easily lose track of the many retirement accounts you’ve accumulated over the years. So here are a few tips to track them so that you get all the money you have coming to you when you leave the working world for good.

One of the easiest ways to track your many accounts is to consolidate them. Although nearly every plan will be subject to its own particular rules and restrictions, all can be rolled into new accounts when you are no longer employed by the company that holds them in trust for you. So any time you switch jobs you should think about merging your old 401K funds with your current account. Of course, if you’re interested in earning the most money on your money, you might want to look into the amount of interest being earned on each account. In many cases you can leave retirement funds sitting in their original account for several months or years (or even indefinitely) after your employment with a company has ended. And if those funds are earning more than your current account you should certainly keep them where they are. But that does mean you have to track multiple accounts.

Luckily, companies that manage investment accounts are required by law to keep you apprised of progress and changes to your account, and they generally do this through monthly or quarterly statements, along with an end-of-year report for tax purposes. Some send paper statements and some do this electronically. Either way you should keep dedicated files for each account (in your physical file drawer or on your personal computer). Do not store these files at work or in work accounts as you could lose them when you leave a company. Make sure that correspondence is sent to your home or your personal email account.

Unfortunately, things can get lost in the shuffle anyway, what with switching jobs, moving to new homes and new cities, and so forth. So if you have lost track of any of your accounts you may despair of ever seeing that money again. But there are ways hunt it down and move it over even after years. One option is to call the companies you formerly worked for and get their accounting department to locate and send you the information. If that doesn’t work out you can use government resources like the Abandoned Plan search provided by the Department of Labor or services provided by the Pension Rights Center. It may not be quite as simple as ordering inexpensive checks online, but you don’t have to give up on finding your retirement funds just because they’ve gotten lost in the shuffle. You worked hard for that money, so don’t let complacency get the best of you now.

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