How to find my retirement information from an old employer

by Grace Ferguson; Updated September 26, 2017

Employees enroll in retirement plans such as 401k to save for the future. If you have changed employers, your retirement plan can be rolled over to the new company. For varying reasons, such as better employer match or the reluctance to deal with rollover paperwork, some employees keep the plan they have with their old employer. To gain information about that plan, they may need to locate their former employer.

Finding your Retirement Information from your Former Employer

Step 1

Call your old employer. Ask to speak with the person who handles their retirement plans. Some companies have a plan administrator responsible for the company’s benefits, including pension plans. The plan administrator acts as a liaison between the employees and the plan sponsor. She helps to set up new enrollees, makes requested account changes and handles all the plan paperwork.

Step 2

Specify the retirement information you need. The plan administrator has access to all your retirement information, including statements—quarterly and annually. She may require you to submit your request in writing by email or fax. Some plan administrators may accept just a phone request.

Step 3

Check your W2 if you want to know the amount of your retirement funds for a certain year. At year-end, your former employer most likely gave you a W2 form, which outlines your earnings and taxes paid for the year. Your retirement information is listed under the Medicare Wages and Tips section.

Step 4

Call or email the third party administrator. Some companies hire a third party administrator to handle their retirement plan. This includes annual tax filings and ensuring that the plan sponsor is capably maintaining the retirement accounts. The third party administrator is generally an independent brokerage firm. If you are unable to locate your former employer, and you know who their third party administrator was, you can contact them for the information.

Step 5

Call the plan sponsor directly. Plan sponsors, such as Merrill Lynch and John Hancock, are the companies that your retirement monies are forwarded to. If you are making any type of withdrawal from or are terminating your plan, the plan administrator and/or third-party administrator has to submit the proper documentation to the plan sponsor, who is responsible for issuing the funds. If you explain to them that you are unable to locate your former employer, they can give you the information you need.

Step 6

Visit the plan sponsor’s website. Many plan sponsors allow members to access their accounts online. You can view your account, but you may have limited access to certain functions, such as investment changes. As long as your money is still with the plan sponsor, you should be able to access your account online.

About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.