July 24


Retirement Accounts: How to Track Them Down Properly

By Harrison O'Reill

July 24, 2023

If you’re approaching retirement, it’s important to get a clear picture of your retirement accounts. Knowing where your money is can help you make informed decisions about your future. Fortunately, finding your retirement accounts is easier than you might think.

With a clear picture of your retirement accounts, you can start making plans for the future and ensure that you’re on track for a comfortable retirement.

Gather Important Information

Before you can start tracking down your retirement accounts, you need to gather some important information. This will help you to be better prepared when you start your search.

Social Security Number

The first thing you should do is locate your Social Security number. This number is unique to you and will be required when you start your search. You can find your Social Security number on your Social Security card, your tax returns, or any other official documents that you have received from the government.

Previous Employers

Next, you should gather information about your previous employers. This includes the names and addresses of any companies that you have worked for in the past. You should also try to locate any old pay stubs, W-2 forms, or other documents that you may have received from these employers.

It’s also important to note that retirement accounts are often tied to specific employers. This means that you may have multiple retirement accounts if you have worked for several different companies over the years.

Other Information

In addition to your Social Security number and information about your previous employers, there are a few other pieces of information that can be helpful when searching for retirement accounts. These include:

By gathering this information ahead of time, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle when you start your search for your retirement accounts.

Contact Your Previous Employers

If you have worked for multiple employers throughout your career, it’s possible that you have multiple retirement accounts. One way to locate these accounts is to contact your previous employers.

HR Department

Start by contacting the HR department of your previous employers. They should have records of your employment and any retirement accounts you may have had with them. Be prepared to provide your full name, Social Security number, and dates of employment to help them locate your records.

Pension Plan Administrator

If your previous employer had a pension plan, you may need to contact the plan administrator directly. The plan administrator should have information on the status of your pension plan and any benefits you may be entitled to. Be prepared to provide your full name, Social Security number, and any other identifying information they may need.

It’s important to note that some employers may have changed their name or merged with another company since you worked there. If you’re having trouble locating your previous employer, try searching for them online or contacting the state labor department for assistance.


Once you have located your retirement accounts, be sure to review the details of each account, including the fees, investment options, and any restrictions on withdrawals. Consolidating your accounts may be a good option to simplify your retirement planning and potentially save on fees.

Remember, it’s never too late to start planning for your retirement. Contacting your previous employers is just one step in the process of organizing your retirement accounts.

Check with the Social Security Administration

If you’re unsure whether you have a retirement account, one of the first places to check is with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA manages Social Security benefits, which can include retirement benefits, and they keep records of your earnings history. Here’s how you can check with the SSA:

Create an Account on SSA.gov

The first step is to create an account on SSA.gov. This will allow you to access your earnings record and other important information.

To create an account, you’ll need to provide some personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, and mailing address. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be able to view your earnings record and other important information.

Review Your Earnings Record

Once you’ve created an account on SSA.gov, you can review your earnings record. Your earnings record shows how much money you’ve earned each year, and it’s used to calculate your Social Security benefits. It’s important to review your earnings record to make sure it’s accurate. If there are any errors, you’ll need to contact the SSA to get them corrected.

In addition to checking your earnings record, you can also use the SSA’s Retirement Estimator tool to get an estimate of your retirement benefits. This tool uses your earnings record to estimate how much you’ll receive in Social Security benefits when you retire.

Search for Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

If you have lost track of your retirement accounts, you may have unclaimed retirement benefits waiting for you. Here are two ways to search for them:

National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a free service that helps individuals find unclaimed retirement benefits. To use the service, you will need to provide your personal information, including your name, date of birth, and social security number.

The registry will then search for any unclaimed retirement benefits that may belong to you. If the search is successful, the registry will provide you with information on how to claim your benefits.

Missing Participants Program

The Missing Participants Program is a service provided by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The program helps individuals find retirement benefits from terminated defined benefit pension plans.

To use the program, you will need to provide your personal information and the name of the plan sponsor. The PBGC will then search for any unclaimed benefits that may belong to you. If the search is successful, the PBGC will provide you with information on how to claim your benefits.

Consider Hiring a Professional


If you’re having trouble finding your retirement accounts, it may be worth considering hiring a professional to help you. Here are a few options to consider:

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can help you locate your retirement accounts by reviewing your financial history and records. They can also provide guidance on how to manage your retirement accounts and ensure that you are on track to meet your retirement goals. However, keep in mind that financial advisors typically charge a fee for their services.

Private Investigator

If you have exhausted all other options and still can’t find your retirement accounts, you may want to consider hiring a private investigator. They have access to resources and databases that can help them locate your accounts. However, this option can be expensive and may not be necessary in most cases.

Overall, hiring a professional can be a great option if you’re having trouble locating your retirement accounts. Just be sure to weigh the costs and benefits before making a decision.


In conclusion, finding your retirement accounts may seem daunting at first, but with the right resources and guidance, it can be a straightforward process. Remember to take advantage of the various tools available to you, such as online account portals and retirement plan statements.

Additionally, it’s crucial to keep track of any changes in your employment and retirement plans, as they can impact your retirement savings. Make sure to update your contact information with your retirement plan provider to stay informed of any updates or changes to your account.

Finally, consider seeking the advice of a financial advisor or retirement specialist to help you navigate the complexities of retirement planning. With the right knowledge and support, you can take control of your retirement savings and ensure a comfortable future for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions you might have about finding your retirement accounts:

How can I find out if I have a retirement account?

The first step is to check with your current and past employers to see if you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan through them. You can also check with any financial institutions you have worked with to see if you have an IRA or other retirement account. Additionally, you can check your credit report to see if any retirement accounts are listed.

What if I can’t find any information about my retirement accounts?

If you’re having trouble finding information about your retirement accounts, you can try contacting the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) for assistance. They can help you locate any retirement accounts you may have and provide guidance on how to claim them.

What should I do if I find multiple retirement accounts?

If you find multiple retirement accounts, it’s important to consolidate them to make it easier to manage your retirement savings. You can roll over your 401(k) accounts into an IRA or transfer them to your current employer’s plan. Be sure to check with your financial advisor to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Can I access my retirement accounts before I retire?

In most cases, you can’t access your retirement accounts before you reach retirement age without incurring penalties. However, there are some exceptions, such as if you experience financial hardship or become disabled. Be sure to check with your plan administrator or financial advisor to determine your options.

How can I ensure I have enough saved for retirement?

To ensure you have enough saved for retirement, it’s important to regularly contribute to your retirement accounts and adjust your contributions as needed. You should also consider working with a financial advisor to develop a retirement plan that takes into account your specific goals and needs.

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