I switched jobs about 7 months ago and am afraid I put the rollover steps off for too long. I checked my old employers 401k website to see that my 401k account now shows $0.00, and does not show the old account history.

I did receive a letter from the 401k company that mentions "Custodian Rollover IRA" with an acct # and some other details, so I'm * hoping * that the money was just rolled over somewhere else by default because of my laziness of not moving the money to my new employers plan.

Is this normal for a 401k managing company to do? I'm planning on calling their support during the week so I can track down where my money went off too, but I am really just looking for some assurance that nothing fishy is going on with my old 401k plan considering how it was moved without a great way of being communicated to me.

1 Answer 1


Legally, they can't take your money, so there is little to worry about that.

Generally, when you leave an employer, you can always roll your 401(k) into an IRA; although many employers offer you to keep it in their 401(k), or roll it into the new employer's respective plan.
If they don't offer to stay in the plan, and you don't act, they would automatically roll it into an IRA they make for you - that's probably what happened.

Once it is an IRA, you can roll it into another IRA at a custodian of your choice, but if you want it back into a 401(k), your new 401(k) plan has to allow incoming rollovers.

You should follow up with them to know where your money exactly is, and what the fees are - twenty years from now, if the company is gone, it could be a nightmare to find it; and maybe the custodian they chose is expensive.

  • 3
    "once it is an IRA, you can roll it into another IRA at a custodian of your choice, but not back into a 401(k)" is not correct. And having it in an IRA is not just an annoying paperwork issue if you plan backdoor Roth contributions, it will actually affect the amount of tax owed.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:12
  • (It is true that a reverse rollover from Roth IRA into Roth 401(k) is not permitted. But Roth IRA balances don't affect backdoor contributions so this is not a problem.)
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:14
  • 1
    I took the step of editing the above answer since it was incorrect on two points. Also employers are only able to automatically roll 401(k) balances over to IRAs when the balance is less than $5000. If the balance is less than $1,000 they can pay it to you without your consent and withhold 20%. irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/…
    – T. M.
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:55
  • Thanks for the answer, it's reassuring to hear this seems to be a common thing for 401ks and old employers (and the balance was in fact less than $5k, so that checks out as well.) I'm hoping once I call in a few days they will be able to easily to put what they moved to the IRA into my new employers 401k since both are managed by Fidelity. I'll be sure to hash out my options with whoever I end up speaking with. Thanks again!
    – NBlaine
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 1:28
  • @NBlaine: You need to do the reverse rollover (from IRA into the new 401(k)) only if you plan to do backdoor Roth contributions. If you are under the Roth income limits, having it in the IRA is probably better (certainly many more investment choices, probably lower fees)
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 5:34

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