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Free Money Is Out There – Here’s How to Claim Retirement Funds That Belong to You


There’s good news for folks out there who like free money: the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has more than $2.4 billion in unclaimed retirement funds — and there’s a chance that some of if might belong to you. 

The EBSA is responsible for monitoring and ensuring the integrity of private employee benefit plans including retirement plans, health plans and insurance programs. Part of this includes finding money that has been left in abandoned accounts and recovered from various enforcement actions — and getting it back to the people it belongs to.

A financial advisor can help you organize your retirement savings.

Where Do These Funds Come From?

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The EBSA closed more than 1,000 civil investigations in the 2021 fiscal year, and 69% of those resulted in some sort of corrective action, including monetary compensation. A major reason for these rewards were vested participants who had been terminated and not gotten the money they were owed. In total, investigations by the EBSA found $1.9 billion in funds.

Other money recovered by the EBSA include $34 million in voluntary fiduciary correction programs, $50.8 million in abandoned plan programs and $499.5 million in monetary benefit recoveries from informal complaint resolutions.

All together, that means there is a pool of $2.4 billion available for distribution through the EBSA.

5 Ways to Recover Unclaimed Retirement Money

When you learn that there is $2.4 billion out there in unclaimed funds, the most obvious question is this: how do I find out if any of it is mine, and how do I get it back? There are a few ways you can go about this.

One way is to use the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The National Associationis of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) allows you to search your state for various types of unclaimed property, including but not limited to recovered retirement accounts. If you find that you have money that is unclaimed, the site will have instructions on what you need to do to claim it.

There is also a National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Funds. This site allows you to search for any funds that belong to you by Social Security number. The registry will also help you contact your former employer to take steps to get your money back.

You should also note that the Department of Labor also has a tool to search for 5500 series returns or reports that have been filed since 2010. And the U.S. government agency, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, has a trusted plan search tool that could help you locate funds.

Finally, you may also locate lost pension money through the NAUPA, which helps individuals find unclaimed property and ensures businesses comply with state laws in annual reporting.

Bottom Line

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There is more than $2.4 billion in money out there available to be claimed that the Employee Benefits Security Administration has located through enforcement actions and in abandoned plans. You can take steps to find out if any of it is yours, and from there you can take action to get your money back.

Financial Planning Tips

  • You can get a handle on your finances with the help of a professional. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • It’s never too late or too early to start saving for retirement. If you have access to a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k), make sure you use it — and take advantage of any employer match offered.

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