Retirement Insights

News and information for current and future retirees.

Found Money: 3 Ways To Track Down ‘Lost’ 401(k) Accounts

Maybe “abandoned” is a better word. The bottom line is still the same. If the account is yours, the money still belongs to you and you can claim it. You just need to know how to search for it.

“The problem is most acute for people who leave behind small accounts,” writes Mark Miller in Retirement Revised. “Employers are permitted to transfer orphan accounts that hold less than $7,000 into IRAs that may earn low returns in money market funds and charge high fees—and most do so to trim plan administration costs. Over time, these accounts can simply waste away.”

“Increased job switching has accelerated the issue,” Miller notes. “The current tight labor market makes it easy for people to shift jobs more frequently as employers compete for talent.”

How do you track down abandoned retirement accounts? There are a number of ways, but it will require some patience and sleuthing on your part. According to , here are three key strategies:

  1. Contact Your Old Employer. They all keep records. Unless you moved your money out of their plan, it’s likely still there. “If you don’t have your old plan statements, the next best option is to reach out to your former employers directly, either through the Human Resources department or whoever handled benefits like retirement accounts,” bankrate advises. “By providing your personal information, such as your name and Social Security number, they should be able to look up whether you participated in the 401(k) plan during your employment.”
  2. Check With the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Every company that offers a plan needs to file paperwork with the government. Another option is to find plan information through the Department of Labor’s website . “By locating the company’s Form 5500, an annual report required to be filed for employee benefit plans, you should be able to find contact information and who the plan’s administrator was during your employment. You may also be able to find information on lost accounts through FreeERISA .”
  3. Check State Records. Nearly every state has an agency that tracks “unclaimed” assets. “You can also try searching one of the publicly available databases for unclaimed assets. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits is a good place to start. By entering your Social Security number, you can quickly see if there are any unclaimed 401(k) funds that belong to you. Also search using the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators site ,”

There’s no better feeling than tracking down money that has your name on it in an abandoned account. It’s found money that you can add to your retirement.


You're retired. Should you get a dog?

For some people, the most unimaginable thing about retirement is the idea of doing it alone.

Without a dog, that is.

What would retirement be, after all, without a pooch ever-willing to obediently walk by your side, occasionally lick your face, and bark every time the postman comes within nose-sniff of the mailbox?

To answer that question, we went to the experts—gerontology-savvy veterinarians, canine-sharp academics and the chief executive of the Humane Society of the U.S.—for some insights. Many issues that the experts raised circle back to what makes the dog owner tick.

So, what follows are eight questions that retirees should ask themselves before getting a dog.

1. What purpose will the dog serve?  

Is the purpose companionship, or, more specifically, are you looking for a hiking buddy? Is it to provide security for the home, or personal protection? Or do you simply need some attention when you enter and leave the house?

Ask yourself, “What do I want in this relationship?” says Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, associate professor of veterinary medicine and service chief for community practice at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It is something most people don’t try to figure out.

If simply having company during retirement years is a key consideration, a different sort of animal might be more helpful, says Ruch-Gallie. For example, if what you’re really looking for is a companion perched on your lap while reading, an older cat might be a better choice.

Dogs need a reasonable amount of attention, exercise and care, too, she says. If that is something you’re not interested in or capable of providing, guinea pigs, gerbils and bunnies can make good companions, she says, and may require less attention.

2. Can you bring the dog home for a trial run?

Perhaps the single savviest thing a retiree can do when shopping for dog is to spend some time at home with the dog first. Those who choose to adopt a dog from an animal shelter have the unique opportunity to do this, says Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., in Washington, D.C.

“This is particularly helpful if you’ve never had a dog before,” says Block. “Not only will you find out what the dog is like, but you’ll also see if you are ready for a dog.”

Block suggests at least several nights, or longer—particularly if the dog is a puppy. “Remember, if you get a younger dog, it can be a commitment of 12 years, or more.”

3. Can you afford a dog?

Like all successful relationships, this one will certainly work best if it comes without financial stress or strain—particularly for people on fixed incomes, says Dr. Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus of behavioral medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y.

Susan Kurowski, executive director of Pets for the Elderly in Cleveland, says most of the inquiries she receives are from elderly dog owners concerned about the high costs of upkeep. It typically costs about $1,500 a year to own a dog, she says, including primarily vet bills, training and food.

4. Is your home suitable?

Wherever you live, your home needs to accommodate your dog, says Kurowski. For renters, or those living in a condo or a senior community, there are likely rules about dog ownership—some which limit the size of a dog or ban them altogether, she says.

The home size and backyard should match the needs of your dog to exercise. Ideally, you should have a fenced-in backyard where your dog can get plenty of exercise, says Kurowski. If not, there should be parks or walking areas nearby that can be visited regularly.

5. Is your lifestyle suitable?

Think hard about your lifestyle and whether it is truly dog-friendly, says Ruch-Gallie. Will you travel a lot—and if so, will it likely be in a car where you can bring the dog along? If you like to fly, it is typically far more complicated—and costly—to bring a dog.

If there is a spouse or significant other, it is critical that they also feel invested in having a dog around the house. “If your partner isn’t committed, it’s probably not going to work,” says Kurowski.

One other consideration: If you have frequent medical issues, who will care for your dog when you’re not able to?

6. Puppy or an older dog?

For seniors, there are reasonable arguments for both.

If you are retired and have the time and stamina, a puppy may be your best bet so you can train the dog as you wish and bond while it is still young. “That’s much more likely to be successful than bringing home an older dog,” says Cornell’s Houpt.

Kurowski, however, says that “puppies are adorable, but are often the first to be returned to shelters because people don’t realize how much work they are.”

For seniors with a sedentary lifestyle, probably an older dog and less-active breed is best, she says. But if a puppy is a must, she suggests going to a dog shelter or rescue group, which can discuss your needs and help to match you up with the right dog. 

7. Is there a ‘best breed’ for an older person?

The short answer is no. But Kurowski cautions that as an older person, you might want to think hard before getting certain breeds—such as Australian shepherds, border collies, Jack Russell terriers and springer spaniels. These typically require lots of exercise or attention, she says.

But there can be tradeoffs no matter what you choose. Bigger dogs tend to get calmer as they get older, but typically have a shorter life expectancy, Kurowski says. Smaller dogs can be easier to handle—but can be more emotionally intense.

One breed older people should consider, says Ruch-Gallie, is the greyhound. Not a puppy, she adds, but an older greyhound. “In many cases, they need to run 10 minutes a day and then turn into couch potatoes for the rest of the day.”

8. If you die, who will take care of your dog?

If the worst happens, you need a go-to person who is willing to step in and care for your dog. The best-case scenario is when that person already knows and loves the dog—and the dog knows and loves them, too, Ruch-Gallie says.

“Most retirees don’t ask this question before getting a dog,” she says. “They should.”


3 reasons to claim social security early

Delaying provides a bigger monthly payment, but health, financial or family issues could force your hand.

When it comes to deciding when to claim Social Security, most people say they want the most money they can get.

AARP recently surveyed nearly 3,400 U.S. adults ages 25 to 66 for a study on Social Security knowledge. According to the November 2023 report, 71 percent said maximizing retirement income is “very important” to their benefit decision.

But when it actually comes to claiming Social Security, what people do is often different.

Less than 10 percent of the approximately 3.4 million people who started retirement benefits in 2022 were at least 70 years old, the age at which you can get your highest monthly payment, according to Social Security Administration (SSA) data. The average claiming age was about 65, and nearly a quarter of claimants were 62, the earliest age of eligibility.

Claim early: Your health is poor

At its most basic, the choice of when to claim boils down to “would you rather take less for longer or more for shorter?” Joyce says. At a certain point, generally around age 80, the total benefits you collect from starting a bigger payment later will catch up and pass your total from starting sooner but getting less per month.

But that break-even point matters only if you live long enough to reach it. If you don’t expect to — due to a chronic medical condition, for example — you’ll likely get more out of Social Security, cumulatively, by taking it early.

“If health is poor, an early claim can be the appropriate choice for both [providing an] income and to help offset higher medical outlays,” says Heather Schreiber, founder of HLS Retirement Consulting in Canton, Georgia, and the writer of Heather Schreiber’s Social Security Advisor, a newsletter for financial professionals.

That’s especially true for a single person “who doesn’t have to be concerned about the impact of an early claim to a surviving spouse,” she says (more on that below).

Claim late: You expect a long retirement

If, on the other hand, you’re in good health and have a family history of longevity, it makes sense to wait.

According to Census Bureau data, the average life expectancy in the U.S. for someone who reaches age 62 is another 21 years for a man, 24 years for a woman. By 2050, those averages are projected to increase by about 2½ years each.

“For many, Social Security is the only ‘pension-like’ income source” — a guaranteed payment every month — “they may expect to collect for as long as they live,” Schreiber says. “For an individual who expects to live beyond age 82 or 83, waiting to as late as age 70 will produce more cumulative lifetime benefits than had the claimant filed at age 62.”

Claim early: You want (or need) to stop working

May 2023 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that 1 in 2 U.S. workers over 50 have physically taxing jobs, and slightly more than half report working in hazardous or unhealthy conditions. Such circumstances may leave workers with little choice but to retire early and claim Social Security to pay the bills.

“For someone who is no longer willing or able to work with limited sources of retirement savings, it simply may be a necessary replacement for earnings,” Schreiber says.

If you do have a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) but worry about draining it to live the life you want in retirement, Social Security could help you stretch it — especially in a down market, when account withdrawals combined with low investment returns can put a double whammy on your savings.

“What I generally see people doing is taking a withdrawal percentage from their personal assets to make a lifestyle whole in order to defer Social Security,” Joyce says. “I’m not saying that’s bad or good, but I want people to understand where the market is before they start taking distributions from their assets in order to fixate on making Social Security deferred.”

Claim late: You have other income

That could be a healthy nest egg from which you can prudently make withdrawals. It could be a pension, an annuity, a rental property, or earnings from a side hustle or part-time job. If these sources provide a money stream you can live on in your first years of retirement, planners advise holding off on Social Security to maximize your guaranteed income in the later years.

Ditto if you hit your 60s with a job you like and can keep doing. In this situation, you have twin incentives to defer Social Security. First, it’s income to support you while your prospective benefit grows. Second, you avoid Social Security’s earnings test.

This rule reduces Social Security payments for beneficiaries who claim early but continue to work and earn over a certain threshold. Once you reach full retirement age, though, there’s no such withholding no matter how much you earn from work, and you can claim 100 percent (or more) of your calculated benefit amount.

Claim early: Maximize family benefits

For a married person, choosing when to claim retirement benefits isn’t an entirely personal decision. Your spouse’s work history, or lack thereof, may present strategic options to increase household benefits, some of which lend themselves to early claiming.

Say your mate is in line to get a far lesser retirement benefit than you, due to lower wages or long stretches off work for childcare, caregiving or health issues. In this situation, they may be eligible to receive a spousal benefit on your earnings record. Social Security would pay them between a third and a half of your benefit amount, but only once you’ve claimed it.

“By a strategic decision to have the higher wage earner in the married couple file as late as age 70, the lower wage earner might consider filing early to at least get some Social Security dollars flowing,” Schreiber says. Then, when the higher earner files, the lower earner could switch from their retirement benefit to a higher spousal benefit and collect it for the rest of their life.

Or, suppose you can no longer work, and your partner worked so little that they don’t qualify for a retirement benefit of their own. Claiming early would mean accepting a lower payment for yourself, but it could trigger spousal benefits for your partner, providing two incomes at a time when you need it.

Claim late: Maximize survivor benefits

When one spouse dies, the other may become eligible to receive the deceased’s entire Social Security payment if it exceeds their own. And unlike benefits for a living spouse, which are fixed as a percentage of the higher earner’s full-retirement-age benefit amount, payments to a surviving spouse will be lower or higher if the late partner started Social Security early or late.

“If there is a wide disparity in income, waiting as long as possible will preserve the highest survivor benefit to the survivor,” Schreiber says. “Waiting to [claim] as late as age 70 maximizes the survivor benefit to the widow/widower.”

So, claiming later doesn’t just increase your benefit in life — it could provide your spouse with a bigger payment, and greater financial security, after you’re gone. 


Things to Do When Retired and Bored

Here are 12 ways to prepare now for retirement so that you’ll be happy, active, fulfilled and never bored.

7,300 days.

175,200 hours.

10,512,000 minutes.

That is the amount of time you can expect to have in retirement, considering the average length of retirement is approximately 20 years.

1. Learn a new language

If you plan to visit foreign countries or retire abroad, take time now to learn the lingo. Becoming fluent will help you get around and immerse yourself in different cultures. All while boosting brain power.

Don’t fall for the myth that it is harder to learn a language as you age. Plenty of linguists say that’s not necessarily true. And several studies show that learning a new language can help improve cognitive skills and memory, regardless of when you start. Learning a second language has been found to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia by almost five years.

Get started: Purchasing educational software such as Rosetta Stone can help you learn a language on your own time. A cheaper option, though, is to check it out from your local library. There are also free apps or PC programs like Open Culture, which offers dozens of languages and downloadable courses, ranging from beginner to expert. The most downloaded language app, Duolingo, has gamified language learning to make it more social and entertaining. Duolingo is free for general access or carries a monthly fee for full access. The app offers 40 languages. Competitors include uTalk and Babbel.

2. Join a sports league

Physical activity with other people is a way to kill two birds with one stone: It helps you stay healthy and socialize. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. Staying socially active can help you maintain good emotional health and cognitive function.

So, if you plan to have a physically active retirement, join a sports league now to get into the game.

Get started: Choose a physical activity you may like to do into old age. One idea is to pick up pickleball, which is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Search online for groups or leagues in your area based on your age or skill level. Or simply ask your friends to join a community center or gym together. Don’t be afraid to try new sports. As you age, your physical abilities will change, so should your interests.

3. Nurture a hobby

In the bustle of a full-time job, family and other life commitments, it is hard to dedicate time to a hobby. Think things like cooking, woodworking, reading or fixing up old cars.

As you near retirement, consider reversing that trend as time allows. The benefits of hobbies go far beyond simple enjoyment. Leisure activities are associated with a variety of physical and psychological benefits, including lower blood pressure, better fitness and reduced stress. One study suggests that outdoor exposure and the physicality of gardening increase longevity.

Get started: For most of us, the challenge is finding time. So, consider trying a time-tracking app or planner to find dedicated time solely for your hobby. If you don’t have a hobby yet, here some questions to help you find one suited for you: What have you always wanted to try? What did you love doing in childhood? How do you like to spend your downtime? Once you have a hobby in mind, you may be able to find local classes and groups near you or online to help grow your interest.

4. ‘Make good art’

For some, retirement is for indulging those creative endeavors you’ve always wished you had more time for when working. Maybe you wanted to try making ceramics or writing the next great American novel. Exploring your artistic side is more than an activity, it is a form of therapy. The benefits of creating art include lower stress, improved memory and better overall mental health.

As author Neil Gaiman said during his inspiring commencement speech: “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art.”

Art encompasses everything from painting and photography to music, ballet and more. It need not be a solitary activity. You can paint with others in a studio or jam in a community band.

Get started: To learn or perfect your art, you have the option between in-person and virtual instruction. Check out a local library, community center, college or studio for classes or workshops. Online, you can connect with teachers around the world from the comfort of home. For example, organized virtual programs like Skillshare and Udemy offer courses in a variety of art styles for both beginning and advanced artists.

5. Work on a business plan

Running a business is notoriously challenging, with nearly half of new businesses failing within five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You, though, may be one of the many older adults who are up for the challenge. A 2021 study from SCORE found that people aged 55 and up own over half of U.S. small businesses, even though they only make up 21% of the U.S. population.

Your own business can provide a sense of purpose, the thrill of a challenge and, perhaps, some additional retirement income. If you’ve always wanted to be your own boss, you can do much of the preliminary preparations — such as conducting market research, writing a business plan and choosing a location — before you retire from your current career.

Get started: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a lot of resources on its website, including online courses and information about possible funding options. The same non-profit organization that studies entrepreneurs, SCORE, also partners with the SBA to provide free business mentoring and education programs.


According to SHRM, a 2021 Employee Benefits Survey conducted by XPertHR showed that roughly 82% of employers studied matched a portion of their employees’ contributions while the remaining 18% didn’t provide any matches at all.

Source:, 2021

Did you know?

Looking for the best beach of 2023?

According to Forbes, the best beach of 2023 was St. George Island State Park, the Florida Panhandle. This long barrier island, far from urban areas, is a favorite destination for crystal-clear water and white sand. 

Source:, May 2023

On the Bright Side

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