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.”

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:

Comments & Letters

PRC letter to the Committee on Ways and Means in support of specific provisions of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022

PRC sent a letter to Chairman Neal and Ranking Member Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee in support of specific provisions of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022, including those related to recoupment and the Retirement Savings Lost and Found.

Blogs & Newsletters

Congress gets closer to addressing the issue of lost retirement plans

By Emily Gilbert Here at PRC, we often hear from people who worked for a company that has since moved, been bought, or gone out of business, and they cannot find their retirement plan. The good news is that Congress seems to be getting closer to addressing this issue. In May of 2021, Senators Elizabeth […]

PRC In the News
06/28/21|Tribune Content Agency

The Savings Game: Congress needs to help pensioners find their money

For years, members of Congress have been trying to pass legislation that will allow the federal government to establish a centralized database to help retirees locate their pension and 401(k) plans.

PRC In the News
05/24/21|Pensions & Investments

Senators revisit bill to create retirement account lost-and-found

A bipartisan bill to create a national online lost-and-found database for retirement accounts has been reintroduced in the Senate.

Blogs & Newsletters

Retirement Plan Literacy—Answers to Common Questions: Part II

By David Brandolph In this, the second part of our April financial literacy month series, we answer two more of the top five questions that the Pension Rights Center commonly gets from people about their retirement benefits (Part I can be found here). Unless stated otherwise, answers relate to company or union sponsored private-sector retirement plans. Being […]

Blogs & Newsletters

Welcome Labor Department Guidance on Missing Participants

By Jane Smith Recently issued Department of Labor guidance is an important step toward resolving the “missing participants” problem. Following several years of investigating how plans do, or do not, stay in touch with former employees who are due benefits, in January 2021, the Labor Department published a best practices guide for pension and retirement […]

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