RetirementBudget & Finance

Receiving 401K Benefit Without Contributing

If I didn't contribute to the 401k at my last employer (almost 5 years), are there any funds in the company's 401k with my name on them? I have a friend that worked for a company 3 years, never contributed to the 401k program, yet she is getting $1,000 back from that program! I am confused, but looking forward to your response. Thank you.


By Marlene from TX

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January 24, 20110 found this helpful

I have worked for a company now for almost 7 years (part-time). After the third year they started putting monies in an account for me. I was to put monies in the account also, but working part-time it was not conducive to do so, but they put the money in anyway. I now have about $10,000 that is building some interest and I will have some, although a small amount, of money when I retire. That being said you should check with HR. If they did something like this, they would have had to have you sign some type of paper work to set up the account, so I do not know how your friend would have gotten money with out her signing papers.

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January 24, 20110 found this helpful

You should contact the company itself to see if that was a part of your benefit package because benefits (or non-benefits) vary from company to company.

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January 25, 20110 found this helpful

Yes, the company can put money in without you putting in any of your money (Guaranteed contribution plan). But, again, this is not typical. A match is much more common. A match requires you put in money before the company will put in any in addition. ("the match"). If the company did contribute and you didn't you would have received a notice at the end of the year with the amount in your account.


If you didn't receive a notice I doubt you have any cash in your former employers 401k program. They would also notify you of the amount in the 401k when you left your former employer. Buy it would not hurt to contact them and ask. Don't be surprised if there is no 401k in your name.

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January 25, 20110 found this helpful

The only way you can know that answer is to call the HR department of that company. We have no way of knowing what that company does.

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January 25, 20110 found this helpful

Your company may have had a plan whereby they contribute a percentage for everybody, and then an additional match percentage if you contributed. After a certain number of years you become vested a little bit each year and the money is yours no matter what. When you left, they should have provided you with details on how to claim a distribution from the plan.


Balances under $1000 can be forced out to the owner, usually quarterly without your consent. There will be a penalty and taxes. Balances over $1000 but less than $5000 are usually turned over into IRA's. Balances over $5000 cannot be moved.

Find out the details of your plan. You most likely do have funds with your name on them and if you are no longer employed there, the plan administrator will appreciate you taking them. The worst thing is when people leave, change addresses, and are never heard from again, but their money is still sitting there.

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